People At Their Best

Yesterday, April 29th, I witnessed people being great.

Returning along Highway 50 from Jefferson City Missouri, I was passing through Osage County when I spotted a dumped motorcycle to my left.  The bike—a newish gold something-or-other—lay on its side, trailing a scatter of broken parts back to a man who was on knees and elbows, clearly hurt.

A FedEx truck was ahead of me.  I pulled over just behind it.  A house was directly across the two-lane from us.  People were in the yard.  The FedEx driver sprinted to the house to tell the folks about the accident.  I ran toward the man.

By the time I reached him two more cars had stopped and a group of people converged on him.  He had gotten to the grass and rolled over.  A bloody mess, at first glance he looked in very bad shape.  He was still wearing his helmet, moaning and trying, ineffectively, to take it off.  He kept saying  “I can’t breathe…”

An older man had his cell phone out, dialing 911.  A woman, who seemed to have some training, possibly a nurse, helped him unstrap the helmet and pull it gently off, whereupon he lay on his back, legs pulled up, arms sort of help up, covered in blood.  The “nurse” cautioned him not to move.  Someone else had brought a plastic sheet, which she directed a couple people to hold above him to shield his head from the sun.

I started asking questions—“Can you feel everything?”

“Oh, yeah,” he said,  “everything hurts.”

“No tingling?”  No.  “Open your eyes and look at me.”  His pupils looked normal, but that’s not always a reliable telltale.

“Oh, I didn’t hit my head,” he said.  “Everything else, but not my head.”

I looked at his helmet.  “Your helmet says otherwise,” I told him.  Half of it was badly dented and scraped all along the faceplate.

“What happened?” someone else asked.

“I think a blow-out,” he said.  “I tried to hang onto it and slow it down…”

I went over to the bike.  By now about eight people were there, two semis parked along the highway.  One man was doing a good job of directing traffic through the momentarily constricted access.  More cell phones were out.

The debris appeared to be all peripherals—mirrors, plastic molding, packs of cigarettes, a cassette tape, mangled sunglasses.  The rear tire was missing a long chunk of tread where it had blown.  He was lucky in that it was the rear tire.  If the front had blown he would have lost it immediately, at sixty-plus miles per hour, but there were no skid marks.  He’d managed to slow it down a lot before it dumped and he’d dumped it on the shoulder.

When I returned to tell him this, ambulances were on the way.  He was laying on a rock and wanted to move off of it, but everyone kept him in place, not knowing what else might be broken.  He was coherent.  He was a good rider, evidently, and had controlled the spill marvelously from what I could see.

The ambulance arrived, along with a truck from the local fire department.  The crow began to disperse.  As one of the trucks started rolling, the driver tossed the man directing traffic one of those bright orange and yellow safety vests.

With nothing more to do (and having done almost nothing anyway) I took my leave.  Traffic was slowed and obeying what I now saw were two men, one on each side of the slight hill where all this was occurring, directing.  Those who had done whatever they could have and no longer needed to be there were starting their vehicles and moving out in an orderly manner.

All those people had seemed to appear out of nowhere, and very fast, and just did this thing.  They helped, if only by being willing to stop.  It felt very good to be a human just then.

Assorted Updates

It’s Tuesday.

I spent a good deal of yesterday cleaning house, catching up on necessary but boring details, and talking to someone about photography.  Check this out.  Very nice work and Jennifer is very knowledgeable.  I put a permanent link to her site on the sidebar over there on the right.

Digital.  It has changed more than the way we write, get news, or play.

In the midst of all this, I may have neglected to report here that I am once more president on the Missouri Center for the Book.  I suspect there is a bit of masochism involved in this, although on whose part I’m not prepared to speculate.  Tomorrow I head back to the state capitol, Jefferson City, to participate in the Letters About Literature Awards.  This year is an especially good one for Missouri because…

…we have a national winner in this year.  Imani Jackson, a 6th grader at Lewis and Clark Middle School in Jefferson City, was chosen as a National Honor Winner in Level I, for her letter to Maya Angelou about the poem Phenomenal Woman.  This is a big deal.  This program is now in all 50 states and often the number of letters tops a thousand in a given state, sometime going to two thousand or more.  Nationally, two Winners and four National Honor Winners are chosen at each level, in addition to the state awards. Imani will receive a $100 Target gift card and a $1,000 grant for the library of her choice as a prize.

In the last couple of years some of the data coming out of studies concerning reading has been startling and encouraging.  Sharp rises, even among those demographics often seen as “troublesome.”  People in general are reading for pleasure more, and a lot of young people are.  One might jokingly quip about Twilight and Harry Potter being the main cause of the jump, but I don’t think so.  Those books may be “gateway” books.  The thing is, these levels are sustained.

So I’m entering this last year of my participation in the Center with some optimism that the work we do, collectively, is having an effect.  (Yes, this is my last year—our by-laws require board members to leave after nine years, and for me that’s next spring.)  What I’m hoping to achieve this year is to get into place all the things I’d wanted to do last time.  Independent funding, the new website, maybe begin a new membership program, and solidly establish the annual Celebrations so they can grow into a state book fair.  We’ll see.

It would be helpful if I could get a book sold in the meantime…

Bumps In The Road

No, nothing bad has happened.  In fact, quite the opposite.  I just wanted to say a few words about things that get in our way.

Like worrying.

Worrying about money, worrying about friends, worrying about health.

This past week I checked into the hospital to have a couple of tests.  The sort of things people over a certain age ought to do if they’re smart, screenings.  I’m 55, so certain matters should now concern me more than they used to.

My grandmother was a world class hypochondriac.  Not that there weren’t things wrong with her—she had medical problems, but she tended to compound them in her imagination and play them up into gargantuan malaises to which even Job might have succumbed and given up hope.  I’m fairly certain that at one time she suffered a condition known as trigeminal neuralgia, which is a horrible nerve disorder that manifests as the mother of all migraines.  Once people thought it had to do with their teeth and would, suffering from the problem, have all their teeth removed.  That’s what my grandmother did, but it didn’t stop the pain, which gradually just went away, as is also common with the condition.

But she was a drama queen with her health issues, most of which I am fairly certain were minor things blown up into mega-concerns.

I have fought becoming like this.  I do just the opposite.  I ignore aches, pains, little things that could be symptoms of larger problems, determined by force of will to yield nothing to imaginary sickness.  It occurs to me from time to time that I might be successfully ignoring real things.

So I took Donna’s advice and had the tests done.

Well.  My cholesterol is out of whack, but everything else is normal, bloodwise.  And I seem to have a hiatus hernia and a minor ulcer in my esophagus, perfectly treatable.  I’ve got pills for both problems.  I had to wait a couple days for the biopsy from the ulcer to come back to make sure there were no cancer cells.

I’m fine.  My only real problem is…I’m 55.

And I don’t like that particularly.

But, I have more energy today and expect this to continue.  I’d been worrying without actually acknowledging that I was worrying.  And that has a really detrimental effect on work and play.  Somehow, back down in my unconscious, I probably had begun to think something was really wrong.  And, with the perversity of the psychological, something was wrong—my unacknowledged imagination.

Of all the other things that can get in the way, this is one of the most annoying and subversive, the way your own mind can, without your permission, screw you up and hamper creativity and follow-through.  Embarrassing, really.  One likes to believe one has a better handle on one’s own psyche.

I have become the president of the Missouri Center for the Book again.  As before, I’m throwing myself into the effort.  I’ve got a year this time before per our by-laws I must absent myself from the board.  Getting these little potential hypochondriacal inconveniences  taken care of now before they really grow into roadblocks was just what I needed to do.

So, I am fine.  I am going to live.  If anyone is disappointed by that, too bad.

See you around.

Reading Lists

I started keeping lists of the books I’d read when I was fifteen.  I don’t know how many people used to do this, it may be a habit peculiar to myself, but the list has come to comprise a catalogue of sorts as time has passed and hundreds of titles become thousands and memory runs into itself.  I stopped doing this between eighteen and twenty-three for reasons forgotten and probably never very clear.  Now, of course, there are reading list websites, like Shelfari and Goodreads, so I suppose it’s more common than I once imagined.

That first list, though, held surprises, one in particular that has become part of an on-going internal debate.  It concerns Robert A Heinlein.

The name can’t be spoken anymore without certain responses, either pro or con, among avid science fiction readers.  Even a few people I have known who read very little SF have read Heinlein and have an opinion.  Interestingly enough, the non-SF readers with opinions about Heinlein echo my second opinion about him, which is not—at least, not directly—political.

I didn’t like Heinlein when I was fifteen.  (That is not the opinion, but bears directly upon it.)  I was by then acquiring tastes in reading which I would carry with me for the rest of my life, for good or bad, and when I made that first list it was partly with the view to determine who represented those tastes.  Of course, I didn’t really think about that clearly then, but in an intuitive fashion that lay behind the project.  Who had I read a lot of and secondly why had I read a lot of them?

I’d read a lot of Edgar Rice Burroughs.  To this day, though, I can’t read the Tarzan novels.  I first encountered ERB in the Mars novels, the John Carter series, and I had read most of them by then.  Loved John Carter.  (Not so much Carson.)  And, of course, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne represented a substantial portion of the list.  I had also read a lot of Doc Smith, someone I adored then and can’t get through now.  Among the rest of what I then consciously thought of as a separate genre, the other science fiction writers I’d read made up a mixed bag.  I had read Piers Anthony—the earliest one of his I had found was Sos the Rope—and I had read Isaac Asimov, by then all his Foundation novels, I, Robot, Pebble In The Sky, and a couple of the “Lucky Starr” books.  Among the others of whom I’d read more than one title were Ray Bradbury, Gordon R. Dickson, Keith Laumer, Alan E. Nourse, Roger Zelazny, and Poul Anderson.  Others, I’m sure, most especially Andre Norton, who, it seemed, had written more books than god, but for the most part my list consisted of single authors.  Bob Shaw, Robert Silverberg, John Brunner, Avram Davidson, Martin Caidin, Robert Sheckley, and so on.  It was quite a list, actually, with quite a few titles destined to become, if they weren’t already, classics.

But I had read more Robert A. Heinlein than any other single author.

This puzzled me, because I remember at the time not liking his stuff very much.  Not being overly disciplined, I tended to avoid things that I disliked, and since no one was holding a gun to my head to make me read SF—or anything else for that matter—it baffled me that I’d worked my way through so much of this guy’s stuff that really put me off.

I hadn’t read many of his so-called Juveniles—Have Space Suit, Will Travel sticks most clearly in my mind, as well as The Rolling Stones.  No, mostly I’d read his earlier novels, like Beyond This Horizon, Sixth Column, Methusaleh’s Children, Orphans In The Sky, The Door Into Summer, Citizen of the Galaxy, The Puppet Masters, and Revolt In 2100.  I’d read a lot of what he’d published in the Sixties and when I was fifteen I read Stranger In A Strange Land.  (I’d tried to read that one even earlier, when I was eleven or so, because it, like all the rest of science fiction in the library, was shelved in the Children’s Section, no kidding.  But it was, truly, out of my ability.) Each time I picked one up, though, I remembered it being a struggle to get through.  My head felt caught in a vice, my throat burned, and I couldn’t wait to get from chapter end to chapter end so I could put it down.  Until then, if anyone had asked, I would have declared Heinlein at the bottom of my list of favorites.

Part of the problem—a problem I have to this day, although it is no longer an impediment like it was then—was the number of Heinlein novels written in first person.  I didn’t like first person.  I still prefer third person.  First person puts me off.  I like to imagine myself in the title roles and every time I encountered that declarative “I” it let me know that it was someone else’s story.  For me, despite what so many wide heads claim, it is not “more intimate” but less.  Still, Heinlein didn’t write in first person all the time, not even, I think, most of the time.

No, something else annoyed me about Heinlein then.  With perfect hindsight I can tell you what it was.

He made me think.

Critical thinking is not natural.  Look around you.  I’ll risk sounding like Heinlein here, but all one need do is look at the proliferation of pseudoscience and mystical nonsense to recognize this fact.  Everyone thinks, certainly, but critical thinking is a particular form and not easily learned, nor natural.  This is a paradox when it comes to reading, because all manner of interpretive mechanism in the mind comes into play and thinking, critical thinking, is on some level essential, but very few novels take the time to show you the process.  Most novels bury that part and concentrate on just telling a good story and letting all the gears and such remain hidden.
Heinlein didn’t let a reader off the hook so easily.  Heinlein’s characters, for good or ill, were almost all consciously engaged in the processes of their stories.  Most of them were dynamically self-reflective.  They confronted problems and, step by step, thought their way through it on the page, so that you, trapped in the momentum of the story, had to think right along with them to the conclusion of the problem.

It gave me headaches.  I didn’t like that.

But I read more of them by the time I was fifteen than any other single author.

The irony, of course, is that this didactic approach offered in itself the very tools one could later use to realize how flawed Heinlein’s own works became.  To my mind, whatever else Heinlein may have been or what he has been labeled since, he was a true subversive.


I don’t talk a great deal about my grandparents.  I never knew my paternal grandfather—he was estranged from the grandmother before my dad even met my mother—but the rest I knew.  Grandma Tiedemann was a tiny woman who was a dynamo, very proper and yet indulgent of her descendants.

My maternal grandparents I knew very well—we lived downstairs from them for many years.  Here’s a photograph I made of Grandpa, some time in the mid Seventies.


He was A Character.  Folks knew him as The Colonel.  He gardened.  He was shamelessly curious.  Often he would say exactly what was on his mind, regardless of the situation or the company.  Around this time he took to walking three blocks to the local butcher shop, where he would take up a chair by the meat counter and regale people as they came in to buy their lunch meat, steaks, chicken, and sausages, just striking up conversations out of the blue, and managing never, to my knowledge, to offend anyone.

Whatever I may have learned in growing up of tolerance and respect, Grandpa was a large part of the lesson.  Not in anything he ever said, but just that fact that in his daily actions he really did see no distinctions between people.  Everyone was the same, everyone was unique, everyone had a story.  I never once heard him utter a racial epithet of any kind, categorize people according political, religious, or ethnic characteristics, or refuse to be friendly and kind to anyone.  He was garrulous, decent, almost always smiling, and he adored my mother.  He was a cool old man.  (When I was very small I called him Potter, apparently, though I don’t personally recall.  Later he was “Grampa.”)

Grandma, on the other hand, was almost exactly the opposite.  She was very “Southron” in attitude, quick to put people down (and then forget she’d done it), judge, and complain.  There are many things about her that were not admirable.

But Grandpa was devoted to her.  I didn’t realize that for a long time, but in retrospect I recall all the telltales of what must have been a blazingly passionate love that had settled into the kind of reliable, ever-present support and trust and care we often hear about but rarely see.

Just wanted to share that.

Outgrowing Illusions

I met my first real live, honest-to-goodness science fiction writer when I was twelve.  It was a sobering experience.  Several illusions dissipated in a cloud of reality and it has contoured my thinking about writers in general ever since—unjustly, since the illusions banished had really little to do with writing.

Children tend to take things at face value, approaching life with a literalness that is too often confused with naivete.  Perhaps this is due to the way in which a child’s expectations—often of the most sophisticated construction, like fiction—collide so painfully with reality.

Whatever the cause, I went to Carpenter Branch Public Library with a head full of expectations, most of which were based with tortuous logic on the artifacts singularly important to me up to that point—television and books.  My father had seen the notice in the newspaper a week earlier and told me about it, knowing full well my love of science fiction and my complete disregard for newspapers.  (To me, then, the only useful part of a paper was the movie section or, on the weekend, the tv guide.  Oh, yes, the comics, but even these failed to hold my attention.  I had comic books in genres absent from the daily comics page.  At the profoundly serious age of twelve I believed that comics intended only to be laughed at were for kids.)

The evening of The Event, a week night, saw me being dropped off at the library by my mother.  I was to wait when it was over if she hadn’t returned from the supermarket.

Carpenter Branch Library is, still, a rather Gothic structure of granite resembling slightly a English castle or some American architect’s idea of one.  It’s blocky and solid and very serious-looking.  There were then two sections.  (It has since undergone a major reconstruction and while it has the same basic idea, the two sections have been combined into a single space and some of the charm has been lost.)  The main building housed the “adult” library.  A smaller annex, reached by way of a short hallway with stained glass windows, was the childrens section.  Interestingly, all the science fiction in the library was shelved here, right along with Winnie-the-Pooh, Encyclopedia Brown, and others.  There was fantasy elsewhere, but I knew next to nothing about that.  Lin Carter hadn’t even begun his Adult Fantasy series for Ballantine.

About a dozen, maybe fifteen of us gathered for The Event.  I knew none of the other kids.  No one from my school had come, which was just as well as far as I was concerned.  It was obvious several of the others knew each other.  I was asked a couple of times about favorite books and authors and had I read much of tonight’s speaker, but I was inordinately shy and my responses did not invite further conversation.

Chairs had been set out and a librarian asked us to take seats, our guest would be out shortly.  We settled down and waited and finally he came out of an office to one side.

My expectations of the world…well, I certainly expected to grow up to be very different than I saw myself then.  I was small, rather puny, and had been an easy, perpetual target for class bullies since I’d been in school.  I took comfort in the fables of empowerment in which I immersed myself.  One of the reasons I loved science fiction then, though I did not consciously understand this, was that much of it depicted worlds in which physical prowess was all but superfluous.  I did, however, read plenty that had to do with just such prowess.  I watched a lot of it on tv, loved movies about such characters, and had unfortunately built an image of the creators that conformed to their characters.  Even then I had stirrings of desire to one day be a Writer and of course I would be a writer like one of these, my idols, who were the Gray Lensman, Lazarus Long, Ned Land, the Dorsai, the Legionnaires of Space.

Out stepped the first writer I had ever seen “in the flesh” and all my illusions died.

I asked no questions that night.  I spent most of the session trying not to let my disappointment show.  Thick glasses, portly, no chin to speak of, and wearing an ordinary suit and tie.  I don’t remember a single thing he said.

What I do remember was his enthusiasm.  It was familiar.  I understood it.  He loved science fiction.

Over the next several weeks I rewrote him in my imagination.  He received a make-over.  But more important, it sank in past all the other nonessentials that here was an adult—a grown-up, dull, boring, responsible—who loved science fiction.  Loved it!  All the other adults I knew either didn’t understand it or thought it was a waste of time.  One of my teachers actually opined that it was somehow blasphemous because it suggested that we weren’t Jehovah’s one and only single most important creation.  In fact, most of my peers thought I was weird for reading the stuff.  Oh, they liked the movies and the tv shows, but books?  (To be fair, many of them would have found reading for pleasure regardless of genre a singularly bizarre idea—these were largely blue-collar kids who pretty much regarded school as something they had to “get through” before they could do what they wanted, and reading was for sissies.  The fact that I read was bad no matter what.  That it was science fiction was just sauce for the goose.)

As time passed I stripped away everything else about that night and kept the one thing of value gripped tightly.  It was a validating experience.  I wasn’t weird or broken or from another planet.  And I could look forward to an adulthood in which I could still love science fiction.  It was possible.  After all, I’d met an adult who loved it.

Beginnings of a Lifelong (Addiction) Love

When I became infected by literary influenza (a longterm, chronic condition treatable
by a steady diet of words) I had four sources of books.  The library, of course, both the one at school and the public one; the books my mother had bought through the Doubleday Book Club and had stored in boxes in the basement; the Scholastic Book Club at school; and Leukens’ Pharmacy around the corner from my house.

At first my reading tended to be omnivorous, with strong leanings toward books upon
which favorite films had been based.  But these weren’t that easily obtainable then.  Jules
Verne and H.G. Wells were the most prominent examples—they along with many other
writers whose works comprise the category Classics.  My mother’s collection contained
mostly contemporary mainstream—contemporary to her youth and late adolescence, writers we seldom hear of these days.  Sometimes I wonder if any of them will be read in centuries to come and which, if any, will become the basis of new canonical debates.  Some were prominent writers at one time: Paul Gallico, Frank Yerby, Kathleen Winsor, Mildred Savage, Paul Horgan, Edison Marshall, Norah Lofts.  I haven’t seen their names on anything, reprint or otherwise, for a long time.  I went to a parochial school, so the books in that library were limited by the strictures of religious sensibilities.  As to the Scholastic Book Club, it seems to me now that they consistently underestimated the sophistication of its customers.  Still, I made considerable use of it.  Flyers were passed around in class periodically with an order form attached.  After a couple years, it got so the orders came in two boxes.  One contained the books everyone else ordered, the other box was all mine.

There was very little science fiction available through these sources.  Even the public
library I went to had little at first.

But Mr. Leukens stocked the stuff.

Summer days soon entailed almost daily walks down the block, around the corner, up
to the next intersection, and across the street to the pharmacy.  This was the real thing.  He even had a soda jerk and you could buy honest-to-goodness Cherry Cokes and hand-dipped malts, served by a high school student in a paper apron and cap.  Along one wall—to the left as you entered—stood the magazine rack.  This one was made of wood, but the design hasn’t changed fundamentally since.  Leukens’ stocked a lot of science fiction magazines, which you could read there if you bought something at the fountain.  I pored over the pages of Worlds of IF, Galaxy, Venture, Analog, and  F&SF.  The word at the time was “keen”.

But to the right of the big glass door, just as you came in, was a circular rack filled
with paperbacks.  I have no idea how orders were handled then—I gather Mr. Leukens had very little say in what paperbacks he received and certainly there was no logic to what you found in wire slots—but he seemed to have a source for some of the neatest books.

The summer of ’67, when the country was beginning to be impacted by the emergent
Youth Culture and the Summer of Love was on-going, I bought my very first Isaac Asimov book, plucked from the circular rack in Leukens’ Pharmacy.  It was Foundation and Empire, the Avon edition with the Punchatz cover.  I didn’t know what a trilogy was, but the back cover copy alluded to two more books related to this one.

The book simply felt important to me.  There is an aesthetic to the physicality of
books rarely talked about, but everyone acknowledges, even publishers, else why so much money and effort taken on covers?  But there is a smell, a feel, things only incidentally related to the text, but details that can shape a book’s reception.  This book represented everything I wanted in those terms.  I didn’t realize this at the time, but it turned out that way.  This, I thought, was what a book—especially a science fiction book—was supposed to be.

Then I read it.

What is the process of imprinting that goes on between a reader and a text?  What is
it that creates a reader, transforms someone passive into someone active in the pursuit of reading?  I have no way to reconstruct the experience, only the memory that it was a
complete one.  I took that book home, having spent all of seventy-five cents on it, and read it over the next few days and became a science fiction fan.  The magazines hadn’t done it, much as I liked them.  I still read westerns and comic books and war stories and if you’d asked me then what my favorite television shows were I’d have given a list of ten or twelve, not even half of which were sf.  Certainly Star Trek was on at the time, but I’d missed the first season because of parental disapproval (my mother thought it would give me nightmares) so I can honestly say that, while my aesthetic had been prepared by a lot of science fiction, it wasn’t until this encounter that I became utterly enamored of the genre.

It took me nearly a year to track down the other two volumes.  I haunted Leukens’
Pharmacy waiting for them to arrive.  I had no idea how unlikely it was that he’d actually
get them in, only faith that if I waited long enough they’d turn up.  In the meantime, I rarely left the pharmacy emptyhanded.

Years later the incongruity of it all struck me with a large dose of melancholy.  The
pharmacy is gone now, of course, part of a vanishing feature of our culture.  Leukens’
Pharmacy was a hold over from a mythic American past.  Ironic that I had encountered the future within its fading reality.

Institutional Abuse and its Discontents

William Donahue is the head of the Catholic League in America.  Basically, he’s an apologist for all things Roman Catholic, and he comes across like an old line political boss from Chicago or the Lower East Side.  Loud, aggressive, with just enough facts to make him sound like a heavy-weight in more than just bluster.

In the recent revelations about child abuse in European Catholic institutions and some allegations that the current Pope was responsible for some of it because he was in charge of the supervising organization at the time (which seems like a fairly straightforward argument to me), Donahue went on the attack and in one instance from the Fifties he blamed the parents for not going to the police.

Everyone I have ever known who is not a Catholic has the same reaction—why didn’t the parents call the police?  Catholic reactions vary depending on age, but by and large this really misses the point.  All it says about these people who didn’t call the authorities is that they were truly devout Catholics, which is just what the Church wanted them to be.  They believed their priests.

And let’s be honest, it took most of the Seventies for the whole issue of child sexual abuse to emerge from the shadows of “We don’t want to know about this” Ostrich behavior on the part of society in general and most of the Eighties to learn just how not innocent some children can be before this matter drew serious attention.  Prior to the Seventies people tended to think kids “made shit up” all the time and couldn’t be trusted to (a) tell the truth or (b) know what the truth is.  The myths about who does what and when still pervade the culture and the majority of folks (probably) still think pedophilia is the same as homosexuality.  So to assume that way back then people would run to the cops when a little kid said “Father so-and-so played with my wee-wee” is naive and a bit amnesiac.

Add to that the strong hold Catholicism asserts on its adherents…

A reasonable question is, what about non Catholic institutions?  A report here discusses the numbers for Protestant churches and the difficulties in collecting and collating the data.  The numbers actually place the incidents on par with claims made against the Catholic Church.  The numbers aren’t that different.

What is different is the institutional reaction, and that’s where people like Donahue come in.  Protestant denominations do not have the same centralized organizational structure that the Catholic Church has.  When a local minister gets into trouble, or when a bishop finds himself in legal straits, it’s on him.  What makes the Catholic situation odious is the whole attitude the Church takes toward the obligations it expects from its adherents, the responsibilities entailed on the part of the priest, and the level of betrayal which ensues both when abuse is alleged (and demonstrated) and when the Church has moved to cover it up.

Blaming the parents is a cheap shot.  They were being good Catholics and trusted their priest.  That’s what it meant to be a Catholic then.  I recall no such obligation of trust in my days as a Lutheran.  Sure, we expected we could trust our pastors, but he didn’t enjoy any special immunity if he did something he shouldn’t have done.

It is not the numbers that are at issue in this.  It is the betrayal.  The nature of trust involved and the destruction of that trust.  Do I think these people were foolish to hold such opinions of their parish priests?  Maybe.  Do I understand it?  Sure.  That’s what they were taught.  The heinous nature of the betrayal only made the break harder to achieve and more painful to endure.

Do I think institutions ought to expect, command, and hold such trust?  No.  That’s on the Church, though.  For fifteen centuries they’ve rejecting any kind of “eyes open” approach on the part of congregations.  Trust has always been expected to be absolute and blind.  Now they’re paying for it.

It’s just too bad so many innocent people have to fork over the interest.