pondering the UK riots

This post begins, yet again, with an apology for the silence in the past days. But, I have a good excuse. This week, we welcomed the first grand-child into our clan. She is healthy, beautiful, and blessed with loving and caring parents. Our son`s face absolutely bursts with joy and pride every time he says her name! We know that she will not only be loved and cared for – she will be raised to love and care for others. We know this, because we know her Mommy and Daddy!

Meanwhile, we`ve been following the riots in the U.K. with horror and sadness. Prime Minister David Cameron has not minced his words in response to the escalating criminal activity. He has vowed to prosecute all who are guilty of the violence, destruction and theft. He told the nation that if you are old enough to commit these crimes, you are old enough to be prosecuted. There are “pockets of our society that are not just broken, but frankly sick.” When you see 12 and 13 year olds looting and laughing, you know that there is something “badly wrong with our society.” There is “a complete lack of responsibility, a lack of proper parenting, a lack of proper upbringing, a lack of proper ethics, a lack of proper morals.”

Who is to blame…parents, society, politicians? There is no denying that the growing gap between rich and poor has left a large, disenfranchised underclass. Poor, uneducated and unemployed, they have lost all hope of reaping the benefits of our consumer society.  Mark Easton, BBC Home Editor wrote a thought-provoking editorial that describes the fine line between recognizing societal issues and using them to excuse criminal behavior.

Can the root causes of the violence be pinned on bad politics as opposed to simply bad kids, bad parents and bad morals – “criminality – pure and simple”? 

When the Home Affairs Select Committee completes its inquiry it will find itself treading that narrow line between condemning and contextualizing the unrest, but it would be hard to imagine any such investigation not wanting to consider what policies will be most effective in ensuring England’s social landscape does not have parts left tinder-dry and combustible. 

The bewildering events of the past few days are a reminder of why, however difficult, no country can afford to ignore any strata of its society. 

These are hard questions, and there are no easy answers. Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, stated that all of us have a responsibility. This I believe.  What we do, for good or ill, affects those around us and affects society. The UK riots show how strong the ripple effect can be when bad choices are made. One manic moment of torching and looting can ruin lives and livelihoods. But, I have to also believe that the good we do has an equally strong effect. I have to believe that ordinary goodness can balance out extraordinary evil.

As we continue to bask in the glow of our new grand-daughter, I’m filled with gratitude for the love that surrounds her. She won the baby lottery, but so many don’t. When I was in the midst of parenting wee ones, I often complained that I was “only a Mother.” As I watch our son and daughter-in-law embrace their little girl, I now know that being a loving parent and raising compassionate, caring children can be one of the greatest gifts you can give to the world.

sick of the sexual abuse

It seems that not a day goes by without updates and new reports on the sexual abuse scandal and subsequent cover-ups in our church. In the USA, new allegations keep appearing from yet another diocese. The sexual abuse of children by clergy and religious became national news in Canada with the 1988 reports from the Mount Cashel Orphanage in Newfoundland. Reports of other abuses spread like wild-fire. Our government and churches have been dealing for decades with the aftermath of the Residential School abuses.  In 2009, Antigonish Bishop Raymond Lahey made head-lines when his lap-top was seized at the Ottawa airport and found to be filled with child pornography. Ireland, Belgium and Germany have joined the countries reeling from allegations.

The heart says, “enough…I don’t want to hear anymore!” But the mind knows that we need to keep our eyes and ears open to this gruesome and unthinkable reality. Rape of any kind belongs in the category of the gravest and most disgusting of sins. It is a violent act of power and control. When children are raped or molested, then I hope there is a special seat in a very hot place for the perpetrators. (I am sure that God is more forgiving and compassionate than I am.) And, when the violence is committed by those who claim spiritual authority over us, then it is all the more inexcusable and disgusting.

We must keep airing this dirty laundry for all to see. We must ensure that the perpetrators and those who knowingly protected them be brought to justice. And we must ensure that necessary support and compassion is given to all victims.

As a lay woman in the Church, this is what I refuse to do…

  • I refuse to defend my Church in light of this scandal.
  • I refuse to defend or stand by guilty priests and bishops.
  • I refuse to give my money to support the legal costs incurred by this criminal and immoral behaviour.

The fall-out of this evil is that all Catholics are tarnished and affected. If we are all, together, the Body of Christ…then our rotting limbs are making us all sick. Mistrust of the clergy and religious hurts priests, bishops, sisters and brothers of integrity. The legal consequences are bankrupting dioceses and religious orders, draining money from good works done by faithful women and men. Clouds of suspicion hang over any adult who works closely with children and young people, making it difficult to form healthy relationships.

And the good news of our faith has been buried under the corruption and sin.

wanted – leaders of integrity…weiners need not apply

Check out this little snippet about Congressman Anthony Weiner at Lorette Lavine`s blog. She posted an excerpt from Weiner`s own web-site promoting his participation in passing the “KIDS (Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators) Act of 2007, a bill to require sex offenders to register their e-mail and instant message addresses with the National Sex Offender Registry.” It’s a laudable act. It also shows the glaring disconnect between his public work and his private life. Lavine challenges Weiner to explain his recent actions to those closest to him.

The indiscretions of yet another politician are reason enough to be disgusted. But the ongoing debate over whether the indiscretions are sufficient reason to suggest his resignation shows the continued lowering of moral standards for our leaders. Do we have the right to judge the behaviour between two consenting adults? In an age of chat-rooms and twitter accounts Clinton’s famous line, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” takes on a life of its own. This line of defense is now used in evermore creative situations. And there is the argument that our society has changed and our leaders are only human. We should not expect them to live up to some ideal, unattainable standards.

It is imperative that we do not continue lowering our moral standards. To do so is to take away from the dignity of each human being. We can either believe that we are inherently good, yet struggle with evil. Or we can believe that we are inherently evil, struggling to be good. The former acknowledges that we are capable of living a life of integrity, despite our human weakness and failures. The latter believes that human weakness is the norm, therefore we shouldn’t expect too much from ourselves or others. This will result in the bar getting lower and lower. Eventually it will be poetically sitting in the dirt.

Is it too much to expect our leaders to live an honest and good life? Is it too much to expect from anyone?

I married a good man. He is obsessively honest in both his personal and professional life. The dental world is bombarded with marketing experts promoting strategies to convince patients that they need high-end treatments. He refuses to use his profession as a money making machine. He believes the only marketing needed in healthcare is prevention focused. He has never tried to defraud patients, insurance companies, or the government. (He will not even bring home a roll of paper towels from the office unless he replaces it.) He is a faithful and loving father and husband.

Why is he like this? His answer…at the end of the day, I have to be able to sleep at night.

Credibility must be earned. Our morals and ethics must form a seamless garment in all that we do – both publically and privately. There are many good and honest women and men in this world. Our leaders should be looking up to them for an example of how to live a life of integrity.