If you’re getting married, or your son/daughter is planning a marriage, one of the most personal things you can do is to have a friend or loved one officiate the marriage. It will create a memory that everyone will share.
Something that a lot of people tell me is that they are surprised that I can perform marriages. It’s profoundly easier to be a licensed marriage officiant/minister than you’d think.
Arkansas, like many states, does not get into the murky waters of “who” ordains you as a minister. This fact also surprises most people.
If you’re interested, I recommend that you go to the Universal Life Church website. There are others, but this one is tremendously easy to navigate: https://www.ulc.org/ It is not expensive.
Once you obtain credentials, all you have to do is take them to the county clerk and register them, usually for five dollars. Your credentials are permanently recorded; you’ll need the book and page number for each time you sign a marriage license.
Another misconception is about how complicated the ceremony has to be. Legally, both people marrying only have to be in the minister’s presence and sign the marriage license. The ceremony itself can be five seconds or five hours, involving anything you’d want to say in the middle.
If you’ve ever been interested in this, I recommend that you check it out.
Although I don’t claim to be a minister, legally I am. I almost got to perform a marriage ceremony a couple of weeks ago. It’s also fun to put people on the spot when they talk about getting married. “Oh yeah, well let’s go do this right now.”
Personally, I wish people wouldn’t spend so much getting married. The act itself can be highly personal and creative. Spend the money on a down payment on a house or take a trip and create memories. IF you truly love the idea of an elaborate wedding, go for it. And if you’d like to make it more personal, get licensed so that you can directly involved in your friend’s or loved ones’ ceremony.
Again, for anyone who has wondered how to go about being a marriage officiant, go ahead and do it. You won’t regret the very little bit of money and time it will take you.
The day started perfectly, even though an observer might mistake its onset for just another day. That’s the magic of life; all of it is in the heart and eye of the beholder. Mine was full.
One of my favorite things in this life is my hand-written copy of Ecclesiastes. It was on my mind today as I traversed the day. It wasn’t the religious undertones that sparked the connection; it was the multiple themes of mortality, existence, suffering, wisdom, and time. Today was a wild mix of activities. I walked through it as if touched by the lightest of magic. I added more creativity, affection, and humor to the day than I took from it, and I felt buoyant for having done so. As often happens, life then snuck an unseen hammer into my periphery and hit me on the head with it. It’s an ongoing and hard lesson to be reminded that one’s intentions, though colored with optimism, can give birth to their opposite.
A few people wrote to me and admonished me for jumping picnic tables this week or walking in the 3 p.m. sun—both of which I did again today. But I also did my best to brighten a few people’s day, which often turns out to be riskier than risking life and limb against the breadth of a picnic table.
It could have been worse: I could have shouted the F-bomb loudly while standing next to my manager. Someone else is guilty of that one. It was an accidental moment of fun. I took a risk and sponsored a frivolous game for a meeting at work. Note: my coworker didn’t shout the F-bomb in response to my game, at least not directly. The takeaway lesson from the meeting is that everyone looks like George Clooney.
I sat and read Ecclesiastes before I took my afternoon walk in the scorching sun. It’s an austere lesson, one that directs me every time to be glad for the moments I had.
On so many levels, that’s all we have.
It’s so odd that on some days, it’s more than enough.
And others? I weep for my expectations. ..
PS The double rainbow is from a recent Sunday morning. I stole a walk among the rainy outbursts that chased me across Fayetteville. What a beautiful morning that was.
One of the ways you know that emotionality has seeped too far into your head is when you find yourself exaggerating. Often, when we’re lashing out, we take a small version of the truth and stretch it ridiculously. If we don’t have such a truth to work with, we either invent one or attribute a motive that we have no way of knowing. We villainize.
All of us hear dozens of vicious encounters in our daily lives, wherein people jab, snark, and exaggerate about the people they are currently upset with. That’s not going to end as long as humans are walking around.
For example, I’ve always had a real problem with fundamentalists or extremists, especially religious ones. Regardless of where I was on the spectrum about the existence of god or the futility of interventionist prayer, I’ve had a stable attitude about the foundation of people’s beliefs.
Any dogma, doctrine, commandment, or rule can be created out of whole cloth. It often is. It’s part of the reason no two religions or denominations agree on everything. Often, the divergence is massive, leaving no recognizable overlap.
My derision has always fallen on those who would demand adherence or obedience to the imposition of their chosen religious beliefs.
I distrust rigid authoritarians about religion; they can’t be trusted to honor the line of observance.
But, in anger or exaggeration, I’ve been accused of having a horrible attitude toward Christians as a category. That’s ridiculous. As with most religions and denominations, the individual observing it has massive leeway in how they treat others against the backdrop of spirituality. Many use it compassionately and intelligently; others would burn the world to get agreement. It is the latter that pisses me off.
It’s a small thing, but one which, if repeated unfairly, can grow to discolor the true nature of how I look at Christians and others.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed this sort of exaggeration in anger more frequently. It’s no great revelation, of course.
This afternoon, I waited and sat in the shade of a leafless tree, and read the handwritten copy of Ecclesiastes that Mary Emma transcribed for me some seven years ago. The sky above me was clear, blue, and reminded me that serene as it is, it masks a volatile and unpredictable world. It’s still my favorite book, in part because not even scholars can agree whether it is highly optimistic or pessimistic, coherent or incoherent. It is not a religious text. Each time I read it, I realize that I’ve become a different person and interpret its optimism and pessimism in equal doses.
And I read Mary Emma’s passage from John I that she added: …”the light shines on in darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it.”
I sat in the filtered sun and read. And pondered.
It’s amazing the big circle that life places us in.
All those years ago, when I asked her to write it for me, I could not have imagined the place and time I’d find myself in today. I hope her world has blossomed into a spectacle for her, too. .
The time change and my recent life have aligned to place me in the gauzy betweenworld of sleep and reality.
Yesterday, I watched the last episode of Bill Maher. One of the guests was Michael Eric Dyson, a preacher, professor, and activist. Another was Jon Meacham, a historian, and writer. Both were exceptional. Jon’s intelligence and ability to explain his ideas impressed me. Michael had the same gift, amplified with a poignant and natural turn of phrase. If I’ve learned nothing else about myself, I treasure these gifts.
Though I didn’t know I was dreaming, a writer invited me to attend an unfamiliar church on a Friday evening. As happens in dreams, I entered the church without any connecting events.
After a round of introduction and applause, a man approached the podium placed in front of the altar at the front of the church. He cleared his throat and began to speak:
“If you want to be a good person in life, the most important thing you own might be your ears. Your eyes are forever full of appetite and illusion. If you’re receptive to what you hear, you learn a lot of knowledge. But you also learn a lot of subtext and context that your eyes convert to confusion. If you educate yourself, your mouth allows you to share what you learn with others who hopefully have their ears open to different voices. But no matter how much you learn in life or what you achieve, if your heart isn’t open, you’ve wasted your life. Your heart shouldn’t be open only for what you see as God in your life. It should be open to people as they struggle. Because you have a lot of life experience, it would be easy to use the conduit between your ears and mouth to forget that whatever someone else is going through, they need your ears and heart to open long before they need your mouth. A welcome ear and a warm hand on one’s shoulder can cure more disorders than any amount of preaching. Present company excluded. If you have God in your heart, I believe you’re ahead of the game. But more importantly, just open your heart at every opportunity and figure out what’s keeping you from doing it all the time. Wide open. My message today is this: Ears. Heart. Mouth. Your achievements are meaningless otherwise. And all the knowledge? Dusty information doesn’t help anyone. Flex your fingers and arms for an embrace.”
The preacher took the papers from the podium and threw them into the air, and laughed.
“See? You weren’t expecting that! Sermons and life must contain unexpected moves – and laughter. Love one another as much as you can and listen. Amen.”
I see so much teeth-gnashing about truth and reality.
Even Grammarly, the proofreading AI I use, told me, “Your tone is angry.” If it had such a mechanism, I’d reply, “No, you’re wrong,” to prove this post. I did chose “ignore suggestion,” which does address one aspect of this post. It’s ironic that I pay for this service only to ignore such suggestions.
It doesn’t matter what the specific conspiracy theory or weird belief is. It is not the particular belief that is the problem. People don’t have a system to examine how they got there or how to get out of that particular belief. Politics, vaccines, covid, religion, astrology, or white people’s alleged supremacy are a few examples. We bludgeon our way through our lives, trying the same tactics and responses repeatedly, even as we paint ourselves into constricting circles.
Our biggest problem is that “we know.” Even when we don’t.
As wrong as I was when I was younger, it is still hard for me to accept that I must be wrong about things now too. Having always been wrong about something indicates that I’m currently suffering from an unidentified bit of idiocy.
To get the hypocrisy out of the way, I have my blind spots. I have a system to counteract it. I hold a very few people in esteem enough to let them gleefully bodycheck me if necessary if I’m trapped in a stupidity loop. If they point out that I’ve suddenly fallen victim to believing something stupid, I’ll take a long look. But I don’t include most people in this circle. For example, anyone trying to discuss politics but doesn’t vote, I don’t listen. (But I do believe that non-voters have the right to participate and opine.) If they are working an entry-level job, I disregard anything financial they say unless they are monk-like in their happiness. If someone hasn’t read a book in five years, let’s be honest – they should sit down and be quiet. The tricky part is convincing a good person that you’re interested in frank criticism. It’s a rare offering. Human beings aren’t programmed to make friends by being honest in that way. “Hey, you’re getting kind of chunky, X” would be a good example of something hard to share, no matter how close I am to that person.
One of my favorite go-to comments is that millions of people think the moon landing was fake – and many more millions are ‘undecided’ regarding its validity. I try to say it like a mantra, as it reminds me that no matter how well we explain ourselves, teach science, or rely on the common bond of truth, the lunatic fringe is not only more than just a fringe, but one that we can’t convince to evolve.
Among my list of popular ‘truths’ that are bogus is the Lunar Effect. It addresses the misconception that the moon (and especially a full moon) affects human behavior and especially strange human behavior. Pop culture, our grandmothers, and countless reinforcements have pushed it into people’s brains in such a way that it is just background noise and accepted. Due to the recent full moon, I saw at least two Lunar Effect posts on social media, with multiple comments and anecdotes. I didn’t interfere. The result would have been immediate contradiction and anger if I insisted. A letter from both Jesus and Albert Einstein would not have diverted their certainty.
It’s not true, of course. Like the ongoing and incorrect belief that an ulcer is primarily caused by stress rather than a bacteria, no amount of evidence, study, or direct appeal can convince people that they are completely wrong about the moon’s effects on behavior.
As you would guess, even bringing this up triggers many people’s defensive response. Their brains immediately react with a litany of learned responses. All are wrong. You’ll see a barrage of misstatements, each based on faulty methodology and study – but also cemented into their rigid structures identified as truth.
If you’re reading this and disagree, you’ll invest a great deal of your time and attention to devise a point to ‘prove’ my argument is invalid. Meanwhile, pieces of your life will pass you by, you’ll lose vital energy, and you’ll still be wrong. The only thing you’ve proven is that you’ll waste much of your time and energy trying to convince someone who probably isn’t in your inner circle anyway.
As with the moon landing deniers, no amount of science, data, or facts can dissuade a closed mind.
Don’t try it.
At any given time, about 1/3 of Americans are on the fringe side of any debate, question, or issue.
You can expose people to the truth, but no amount of words or strident argument will ever turn their attention and convince them. People must convince themselves.
Any effort you expend to convince an unwilling dissident will be a piece of your life that you’ve wasted. There is no magic combination of words that will ignite a light of recognition in people’s minds.
When my Facebook author page started getting readers, I had a smart older gentleman start reading all my posts and interacting. One day, I opened Facebook to discover that he’d angrily written at least a half dozen angry comments, each of them detailing the evil of using the word “xmas” instead of “Christmas.” My post was very optimistic. He focused solely on the word “xmas” to the exclusion of all else. Of course, I politely linked him to multiple sources indicating that he should acquaint himself with the historical and religious context of “xmas.” At that point, he flamed out like a cotton bale on the 4th of July.
Over the years, I’ve had multiple instances of grammar experts incorrectly repeating various ‘rules’ that are mostly just generally agreed-upon ways to communicate. Whether it’s the apostrophe, ain’t, you’re/your, couldn’t care less, or any of the other thousand bones of contention, many people want language to be as concise and static as math. It’s not. As a bona fide older person, I’m supposed to become more rigid as I age. I don’t. Quite the opposite. As late as yesterday, I found myself surprised that there is no agreement whether “detectible” or “detectable” is the correct choice.
Without getting into the weeds, I recently had someone challenge me on the validity of something I’d written. I’d mentioned I could prove it. The person in question angrily said I had fabricated the allegation. Naturally, I did my best to stay calm. I wrote an email and attached a copy of the email that proved what I said and an IP index. The reply was hate-filled. The person writing didn’t stop to think that he/she sounded like an angry lunatic. After thinking about it, I wrote back and said, “Ask _. They’ll confirm. That should convince you.” A couple of days later, another reply. This one was worse than the first. They were furious that someone else knew about the incident in question – and worse, that it made the angry person look stupid and hateful – something out of my control. My final reply was an apology for expecting them to respond critically and that I’d keep their correspondence for myself unless they tried to call me a liar again.
A few years ago, I finally hit the end with my mom. I couldn’t do it anymore. I’d been through the cycle of no contact with her several times. Discovering she had Stage 4 cancer forced me to try to navigate the waters with her until her death. I’m not sure I would do it if given an unlikely chance for a do-over. My emotional deficit made it impossible for me to engage logically.
In the last couple of years, I alternated wildly with my brother, despite knowing that I was inconsistent and probably stupid. One of my go-to people told me that I needed to avoid replying, as it would fan the flames and reward the person trying to victimize me. (This person wasn’t my brother.) It took me a bit to see how right it was. It didn’t stop the other person from being a tool to me, but it did leave me out of the equation. When I did get around to addressing it, I was able to be peaceful and calm about it. (Which, of course, made the person even angrier. No one likes being angry while dealing with someone who won’t’ stoop to your level.)
As a liberal, it took me years to understand that not all the immigration arguments were specious. All the shouting obscured much of the meat and bones of the counter-arguments. As a result, I realized one day that while there were a lot of angles and I still generally disagreed substantially with the conservative viewpoint, I saw the truth in some of the objections. More importantly, I noticed that not allowing any flexibility in my stance was causing me dissonance.
More importantly, living a good life is often 80% the act of not engaging. That part is almost a miraculous ability.
If you’ve read this post and wondered what the theme is, accept my apology. I’ve had a version of this sitting in my growing list of drafts long enough to have children.
*This is a truncated version of a social media post I wrote for someone in a dry county a few years ago. It tickled me that after commenting on a post of one of the pages working for a vote in the county in question, the person organizing it asked me to write a post about the basic arguments against dry counties. I removed the arcane historical information that, while interesting, was too cumbersome for many people.
Before launching into my point, I’d like to mention that DUI/DWI and alcohol-related violence has affected my life. I had a family member killed in a DWI incident. Many in my family were affected by violence and many were also affected by alcoholism. It’s a subject that has touched the core of my life. We as humans are immensely gifted at perverting pleasures into afflictions. It is wrong on a moral level to dictate the otherwise free choices of citizens living in a free society. For those who abuse, we should focus on lending a hand without exception.
It’s easy to look at a United States map of wet vs. dry and draw an immediate conclusion: dry counties still exist predominantly in areas in which have a less-developed infrastructure – and residual religious influences at work. Most of us with a rudimentary grasp of history know that the United States attempted to stop all alcohol consumption in the past. It was a failure. Afterward, the federal government left alcohol laws in the hands of states. The South is home to most dry counties.
In Arkansas, many of the counties are dry. The counties with the highest level of economic development and education, interestingly enough, are wet. Studies continue to demonstrate that dry counties are punishing their own economic growth. If you’re interested, the U of A did a study for Independence County in 2016. The conclusions and observations it makes are exactly what one would expect: being dry is a terrible economic indicator. (If you’re not interested in contextual facts – or reading anything contrary to your established opinion, please stop reading now. Reading my opinion will likely cause spontaneous shouts of anger.
To those who say, “But we will gladly lose economic vitality if it means we can restrict alcohol sales in our county,” I’d reply that they are making the decision for everyone else. This attitude tends to come from those who believe that they have the duty to impose a quasi-religious restriction on their fellow citizens. The geographic areas prone to agree with limiting alcohol sales tend to be cloistered and resistant to the idea that other viewpoints have validity. It’s a generalization; as such, it’s generally true in the spirit in which it is cited. Believing that it’s better (or easier) to outlaw alcohol sales instead of addressing any potential problems strikes to the core of an authoritarian mindset.
Some religions ban pork, others caffeine. In a secular society, it is both immoral and ambiguous to allow a specific religious minority to dictate these choices.
I use the term ‘quasi-religious,’ not out of contempt, but rather as an acknowledgment that it would be disingenuous to classify the argument as exclusively religious. To claim it as a religious reason would be in denial of the fact that most people who self-identify as religious have no issue whatsoever with adult consumption of alcohol. That a vocal segment of religion continues to attempt an illogical co-opting of the singular voice for all religious people speaks to the problem inherent in such an ideology. In short, if it were strictly a religious issue, those identifying as religious would overwhelming agree. They don’t.
To further clarify, I have many religious friends who loathe the fact that some religious groups attempt to limit or sanction the choices people of other religions or denominations make. Most people are cautious about using their religious beliefs to justify an imposition of their will on another member of society. This type of circular reasoning leads to some groups dictating behavior to others. When the tables are turned, they shout in protest, alleging persecution or a lack of freedom. It’s troubling to me, as we all walk out our respective doors into a society which we expect to generally leave us in peace unless we are harming other people.
I’m not asking anyone who wishes to not drink to do so. Quite the contrary; I’m asking for those who choose not to, for whatever reason, to respect the adult decisions of those around them. You lead by example, not by pointing angry fingers at those who live their lives differently. For Christians, it’s difficult to reconcile a defiant attitude about alcohol when Jesus himself imbibed.
I am of course not making the argument that alcohol consumption doesn’t come with some serious caveats. Like all human activity, there are undesirable consequences. It’s our job as a society to balance the consequences with our ability to stop encroaching on the lives of our fellow citizens. I’ve learned to distrust anyone who feels competent to judge the acceptability of certain behaviors in others. Once the line is crossed, it becomes all too easy to begin judging many other personal decisions.
“More crime!” some will object. Even if such a scenario is true, the economic gain from alcohol sales c-o-u-l-d overcome the negative impact, especially if we use the motivation and collective intelligence of the people around us to divert money toward enforcement and assistance for problems which may arise. More importantly, though, is that in a nation of laws, it is hypocritical to argue that each of us is responsible for our own actions, yet demand that fellow citizens desist from legal activities because they might misbehave. Abolition of all potential negative behaviors is no way to run a democracy.
We already spend an inordinate amount of our budgets on police and incarceration. I tend to have less interest in the abolitionist mentality of the police for a variety of reasons. Among them is the fact that law enforcement tends to suffer from a greater degree of alcoholism than the general population. Another is that it’s generally unwise to prioritize the complaints of those tasked with enforcing the laws we decide.
“More DWIs,” others will say. It’s as if those saying this believe that adults interested in drinking aren’t already doing so, many after being forced to drive to imbibe in their own homes. Interestingly enough, the argument of a greater frequency of possible DWI incidents echoes that of those who resist any gun control laws, stating that the responsibility for misuse falls on the person misusing them. The same logic, therefore, falls to driving while impaired.
Each of us has the ability to choose to engage in behavior we find rewarding or pleasurable. To participate in a system which gives greater voice to another person’s personal choice, even if based on quasi-religious reasoning, is wrong. If you disagree, I’ll remind you that many people have quasi-religious issues with pork. Imagine if we were to collectively vote to outlaw pork. Bacon is the unofficial salvation of many an Arkansan. Or imagine if we outlawed hunting, citing dangers to hunters and bystanders, or an appeal to ethics toward animals.
Additionally, citizens of today are not obligated to honor the decisions made by their predecessors; laws, like society, change over time. Some proponents of dry counties point to the past as a mistaken indicator of how best to proceed in the future. For anyone interested, take a look at the time frame during which many dry counties measures were passed. Even a casual look back into history immediately reminds us that we’ve made some monstrous decisions, some which we defended despite serious moral foundations. Each generation has the opportunity to examine its laws and to determine their relevancy. To those thwarting the necessary reexamination of past laws, you should remind yourself that no positive social change ever occurs in which people aren’t given a choice.
Even in supposed dry counties, many allow private clubs. This fact provides an anecdote for the contention that many dry counties cater to those with economic clout. The cliché of wealth demanding access to alcohol exists in recognition of the fact that people with political influence will drink regardless of local prohibition laws. Although it is needless to point it out, those who are members of private clubs are generally going to drive away from their private clubs after drinking. Dry counties with private clubs are one of the most perplexing things I’ve encountered.
Dry county laws more adversely impact a person if he or she is on the lower end of the economic spectrum. If you’re about to make an argument in the spirit of “looking after your fellow man,” I’d like you to start by doing so in all aspects of life, not just in those areas in which you feel you have a moral voice to do so.
As for the argument, “I don’t want to pay for other people’s decisions,” I default to my observation that this is exactly what we all do in regards to everyone else. We all pay for issues, programs, or consequences we disagree with. People with no children fund schools their entire lives, those who don’t drive pay for roads, pacifists fund countless wars, and so on.
The reality is that being a dry county simply obscures the fact that a great number of its citizens are still consuming alcohol, whether in private clubs therein or by spending their tax dollars in surrounding communities. Prohibition relies on an illusion, one which most adults recognize as false. Perhaps it helps some people to know that they’ve made another person’s choices much more difficult or that the ‘other’ is the real problem.
I’d like to point out that regardless of whether you’re in agreement or not, it serves no one to needlessly insult the opposition. Most people simply wish to be able to live their lives without needless restrictions. It’s important to be able to passionately engage yet simultaneously avoid the pitfall of shouting in anger or vilifying those who disagree. At a certain point, though, those who feel the boot on their neck are going to stop being so polite or careful in their choice of words. Although it may sound like it, I am not categorizing all those who oppose their counties becoming wet under the same label. There are many reasons people use to justify staying dry; some are reasonable and more logical than others. For me, all of them fall short. To be clear, it’s important that we define who objects to alcohol sales and why. Not all opposition is created equal and not all arguments are worthy of usage in a free society.
If you live in a dry county and wish it were wet, please accept my apology. That feeling of frustration you experience when you consider the idea that other adults feel capable of limiting your personal choices and enjoyment of life can only be avoided by demanding that it be changed.
Further, if you reside in a county in which there is a concerted effort to thwart such an issue reaching the ballot box, you can be certain that those doing so do not have your best interests as a free citizen in their hearts. Such efforts are an obvious nod to the fact that abolitionist views are in the minority. That’s no way to run government and no way to treat citizens.
Note: Precovid, I was waiting on someone to get back to me on a particularly grim allegation. They lost their nerve. This isn’t a fun post. It’s just commentary I had to significantly pare down to avoid being sued by the organization involved in the allegation. Whatever we hear on the news, people talk and tell their stories.
For whatever reason, I’ve been reading a lot lately about abuse and abuse of authority or position. I know a couple of incredible stories involving people locally. Both are quite simply shocking and fascinating. Those stories aren’t mine to tell. Even though it might surprise some of my acquaintances, I sometimes get to hear accounts of things that you’ll never see on social media. I’m inclined to write about such things. For every incident of abuse or rape, many more go unreported.
A friend sent me a link to one of the databases identifying the “credibly accused” clergy of the Catholic church. We’ve since learned that a huge number of clergy simply had their names omitted from the list. A few thousand of those credibly accused also continue to live normal lives, in all manner of occupations, without being required to get help, register as a sex offender, or comply with any of the other restrictions placed on people in the general public who’ve committed the crime of abuse.
The topic swirls around me periodically due to books, movies, or stories that intermittently surface about the church. There’s always another bombshell, another revelation, in part because a group of old men thinks that secrecy will quell the truth. It is astonishing to me that those in charge of a church would ever seek to silence the truth, especially a truth which reveals that the institution has a serious problem. I keep waiting for people to stand up and say “Enough!” It’s not disloyal to your church to demand accountability. It’s disloyal to fellow humans to fail to do so.
From there, I opened the box of curiosity that led me to other cases locally. I have an inside view of a couple of them. What we’re told publicly is seldom most of the story. So many victims fail to come forward. Those who do are pitted against a variety of obstacles that impede and shame them, especially if the abusers are backed by organizations or have wealth to subvert the legal system to avoid accountability. A local case here wherein a professional abused his clients drove home to me that no amount of evidence and testimony will get someone convicted if they have lawyers to stymy the process.
Another friend reminded me of Priest Joseph Correnti, who called Tontitown’s St. Joseph home from 1995 to 2002.
He admitted to abusing children and then committed suicide the next day.
His actions weren’t revealed publicly until years later, after statues and places of meditation were created in his honor. A couple of victims came forward, one of them to sue. As well he should; the church participated in a scheme to protect and conceal the worst among us.
“It just doesn’t seem like he would have hurt somebody” are the words from one parishioner, upon hearing the revelations about Correnti. Those words echo in my ears. Like so many other Northwest Arkansas professionals, whether they be clergy, dentists, doctors, lawyers, police, or teachers, it’s important to remember that these predators do not have in fact wear a headband with the word “Danger” on their foreheads. I mean no harm toward the parishioner, who was surprised by the priest’s abuse of minors. A good head always strives to see the best in people.
I am surprised, though, that people still say they are surprised by abuse with a straight face.
When the evidence is presented, it’s part of our duty as adults to attempt to examine it.
If you understand that 1 in 25 priests was accused of abuse, it would stand to reason that you would, in fact, NOT be shocked that one of those is hiding in plain sight in your congregation. Those who abuse are precisely the people you trust; anyone and any occupation can be guilty.
If you have any experience with human nature, you know that monsters hide behind smiles, charity, and opportunity. Just because someone was an angel to you does not mean that they are doing some serious perverse things in secret. As I’ve written about before, a lot of friends have shared their stories of abuse with me, whether it was sexual, emotional, or physical. Many of them were put in the position of hating or accusing people who seemed to have lived lives of morality and respectability. Even though I have examples other than my dad, I want to scream when people find it hard to believe that he committed armed robbery, killed someone, beat his family, and so on. I’ve since learned other things about him that don’t rehabilitate his reputation.
People you knew growing up were abused. People you may know are guilty of abusing others. Given that I know several people who were abused when they were younger, I can say with certainty that a lot of predators live(d) in Northwest Arkansas. Most of them, even if accused, are walking around freely among us.
There are a lot more clergy guilty of abuse – and a lot more victims that we’ll never hear about. The victims of this abuse are listening to us as we bicker and argue about the issue, much in the same way that women who’ve been abused or assaulted sit in silence as their friends and relatives say some spectacularly ill-advised things about the subject.
It’s not anti-Catholic to discuss priest abuse. It is, however, unreasonable to fail to address this sort of thing aggressively. If clergy are abusing people, it’s on all of us to report them. What particular religion, position, or church is involved is irrelevant.
One of our greatest tools to combat predators is to stop the ongoing nonsense of secrecy. If a pastor, therapist, or priest is involved, feed him to the criminal justice system, independently of whether he gets help. Stop focusing on controlling publicity. Such secrecy damages the entire organization’s credibility.
The reason I know that there’s still a huge problem, aside from the statistics, is that when I bring this issue up, I get a lot of anger from those who are members of the organizations. This signals that the shield of secrecy is still very much at play. Until people demand accountability from their church, the church won’t address the issue completely. The cycle continues.
One of our most adult realizations is that anyone can misbehave no matter what organization they belong to. We should embrace the possibility that their misbehavior does not necessarily reflect on the entire organization. Sometimes, it does, especially when the organization or its members align to conceal the problem or defend those who have no grounds for defense.
The church cannot reach a minimum level of trust until it trusts everyone with the full accounting of what’s happened in the past.
Every human system is going to have humans who abuse it. It is no shame to oust those abusers publicly. Don’t defend them or the organization that continues to fail the people who are abused. There is no defense.
It isn’t a Catholic problem. It’s a human problem, one we should discuss.
We hear so much about the Catholic church precisely because of its size, reach, and influence.
We have to stop allowing people to resist open discussion when cases arise.