Poor but Not Yet Dead

Note: Any Catholic who cares about the Church today has to be aware of many and varied threats, internal and external, to the Faith. And all coming at once. David Warren warns this morning about a situation in Canada that could very well spread elsewhere. These situations need to be stopped before they even get started. And the best way to do that is to publicize them and expose them for what they are. We have many responsibilities here at The Catholic Thing and we depend on your support to help us to fulfill them. We’re within just several thousand dollars now of our goal in our midyear fundraising campaign. Let’s get this done so that we can get back to our main business. – Robert Royal

At the root of modern judicial theory, or at least in its vicinity, is the question of Money. The theory is seldom philosophically articulated, because it looks bad however it is put, but there is broad agreement “in principle.”

An injustice can be corrected by throwing money at it, including unbelievably huge sums of money, if the injustice is grave. That is the first part of the theory.

Of course, what is grave and what isn’t belongs to another section of modern theory, or of the “transvaluation of values” that Christians are now enduring. Things considered mild or commonplace by our ancestors (the existence of racism is an example, or of a perceived trend in the weather) may suddenly become towering outrages.

Billions and trillions of money must be gathered for “justice,” over decades of years. The courts will be involved in who should pay it, and to whom.

The second part of modern judicial theory deals with this question of who pays. This might be called the “deep pocket” part of the theory, in which responsibility for the injustice may be assigned to whoever can pay the damages, rather than to those guilty of the crime.

Mount Cashel, an orphanage of the Irish Brothers that once existed in Newfoundland, is an example of a grave crime. The courts, finally confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, decided in favor of complainants, who though now fully grown were once orphans in this Catholic environment.

They were sexually abused, and otherwise ill-used, and they must be paid for their grim experience. They have thrilled us with their grievous stories, and some hundreds of them qualify to collect. Legal agreements govern how the prospective moneys will be shared out among them, and naturally, among their lawyers.

Mount Cashel Orphanage

Indeed, anyone who once attended a Catholic school, or an orphanage, or other Catholic institution (having no other friends in the world), may now qualify for payment.

For according to “deep pocket” thinking, the Church (which has over a billion members) has many properties – more than anyone can count – and all may be sold off by court order. Sufficient cash might be raised to astound the victims, though as we know from experience, it won’t keep them happy for long.

It is at this point in my budding, controversial column, that I stand accused of terrible insensitivity. For after all, courts have ruled, and sins were identified. People actually suffered, at some point in the past.

Perhaps I could also line up with my claim, for I once attended a Catholic private school (in Pakistan). While I was never sexually abused, or bludgeoned, so far as I can remember, I was roughly disciplined by the Patrician Brothers (from Ireland!), who seemed to run the place, and to a lesser extent by the teachers they employed. My ears were sometimes boxed, and I was given the strap, and various rhetorical figures were hurled against me; to say nothing of detentions.

I thought at the time it was an unforgiving school, though I generally believed that I deserved to be punished; for I fell somewhat short of the perfectly obedient child. It had high standards.

Verily, one of my sufferings was the development of my insensitive species of humor. It involves skepticism about self-serving claims, although I acknowledge that some may be true.

There are cynical components. For instance, I am especially skeptical of all claims that are made for money; and when (usually embarrassingly amateur) theater is used to make cases, my contempt actually rises to the surface. I am sadly capable of laughter and guffaw when judicial decisions are handed down, together with extravagant awards.

But back to those “deep pockets.” In Newfoundland, for instance, the Archdiocese of St. John’s must sell ALL its properties, including the magnificent Basilica of St. John the Baptist, and a few dozen other chapels steeped in history to various degrees.

Basilica of St. John the Baptist

The joke, if the reader can endure my quaint sense of humor, is that the Catholic Church didn’t really pay for any of these assets. Parishioners generally found the money, under the impression that they would own what was built, though formal appropriation by a church corporation has preceded the final sales.

For the time being, only the cemeteries will remain in Catholic hands. No mercy is to be shown even to the food banks, and other charities that occupy Church assets that can be identified.

Now, Catholic parishioners were not in fact accused of any acts of abuse. They lose the churches they once paid for, because that is the only way the parent Church can pay up. They are trying to find the money to buy these institutions back from the lawyers, but alas, if they succeed, they could be impounded again, and again. Some other complainants may appear from the long annals of the Catholic past, demanding their trillions and zillions.

Yes, from what we know, individuals were abused in the past; and some died in Catholic custody. They were “buried in mass graves” according to survivors, who are distant relatives. Vast amounts of money must be found in compensation for these people who were not killed, but bear some, mostly racial, relationship to those who were.

When the pope comes to visit Canada, he will deliver an obsequious apology to the radical native Indian groups who have pushed the allegations, and deliver the elaborate mea culpa of the Catholic Church. This will have the effect of endorsing the claims, even before they are established in law.

The Church is, at her most essential, a spiritual and not a material entity. Heaven and earth will pass away, along with all the sums that are forcibly discharged from our guilty membership. The Church will have no choice but to go “underground,” once every material good has been surrendered, and its own hierarchy has leaped aboard the progressive chariot.

But the Word mysteriously remains; immortally His Word.

You may also enjoy:

Robert Royal’s A Week of Big Changes

Fr. Timothy V. Vaverek’s Mixed Messages from the Vatican and Bishops

David Warren is a former editor of the Idler magazine and columnist in Canadian newspapers. He has extensive experience in the Near and Far East. His blog, Essays in Idleness, is now to be found at: davidwarrenonline.com.