Well, anyway, to get to the point, I was reading the Huffington Post online and their front page story was Jon Stewart's show on 911 First Responders and how congress voted down compensation for 911 responders who suffered health problems. The article contained a link to Jon Stewart's show, and I watched Jon Stewart drop his humor and interview some first responders who have lost their health and how they felt about congress voting down benefits for them and others like them. You know, I'm a peacenik. I'd get us out of Afghanistan in a wink and a nod if I had the power to do so. But that does not mean I don't care about what happened on 911. I have watched documentaries and movies and You Tube segments on 911 over and over and poured over many books written on the subject. In one day we saw the worst of what humanity has to offer as well as the best. The worst was the terrorists who thought violence was the answer to their concerns and the politicians who demagogued the disaster. The best was the selfless actions of the policemen and firefighters who entered those burning towers to risk their lives to save people or to die trying. People came from around the country to help. But in the collapse of the burning towers toxic chemicals and ash were released into the atmosphere and now many of those who risked their lives to save people suffer from respiratory and other related ailments.
If we ask people to risk their lives for our country, whether they be war veterans or First Responders,we need to properly care for them. I feel pretty annoyed that Congress and the president sustained tax cuts for the wealthy and left out people in need, especially those 911 First Responders. The House passed the bill and paid for it by closing a corporate tax loophole. But the Senate voted the bill down. So corporations that are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars of reserves and not hiring are more important to care for than First Responders?
Talk about misplaced priorities.
And then my thoughts turn to another human made disaster -- the disaster of abuse.
My first thoughts were about clergy abuse survivors. Wikileaks revealed that the Vatican, while one side professing concern for survivors, took offense that they might be investigated by a commission investigating clergy abuse in Ireland. Once again the concern is for those who hold power and prestige and not those who are wounded.
Jesus said, "What so ever you do for the least of these, you do for me."
In the expanded version of that saying -- in the Gospel of Matthew 24: 35-46, Jesus actually says that you will go to hell if you don't give to those in need or visit those who are sick or in prison.
I think many Catholics are afraid of losing their churches and their schools, but one of the most dynamic parishes I've ever seen was St. Juan Diego here in Portland, which managed without a church building for 6 years or so. The people of the parish lived the saying, "The church is the people."
I understand that it is a pain in the neck to cart around everything, but the point is that people who are dedicated to their faith and to their Church, don't need a building. The Church is built on spirit, not on bricks.
Moreover survivors who come forward are like First Responders to 911. Abuse happens when we are silent. We have to speak out to end it. Unfortunately, not everyone in society is grateful for when the wounded come forward. Sometimes the wounded are reviled for disturbing our peace.
Abuse is corrosive of our society. I went to a lunch yesterday here in Portland given by the Wholistic Peace Institute. I sat, without knowing next to Israel Bayer, the editor of Street Roots, the newspaper sold by homeless people struggling to get out of live cycles that caused them to be homeless. I am a fan of Street Roots and often speak to the men and women selling the paper. At least half were abused as children. Some tell horrendous stories. One man lived in a series of foster homes and was abused in almost every home he lived in as a child. The man had a life long struggle with drug and alcohol abuse, but selling Street Roots was among his efforts to clean himself up and get himself off the streets. But that is really hard to do alone. Fortunately he had help from Street Roots and some other non-profit organizations. But there are so many people who have to wait for these services.
When a survivor come forward they are like a First Responder to a disaster. They are fighting in their own way to end this scourge that is so expensive to our society. The abuse cycle continues as long as people remain silent and so often when people come forward they are reviled for disturbing the peace of those around them. Catholics can't believe that the priest they love did such a terrible thing. Members of the community can't believe that this well liked man terrorizes his family in private. All too often survivors of all stripes are not supported. And like the 911 First Responders, they have so many long term wounds. How can we abandon survivors as a Church or as a society?
So what sacrifices can we make as a Church and as society to support our first responders to our human made disasters? We also cannot wait as a people for Church leaders or politicians to address these problems. We must do what we can ourselves now to support those in need. So ask that we all give. Why can't we establish an independent fund for survivors of clergy abuse to support when the Church fails to do so? And for regular survivors of abuse there are all kinds of deserving charities such as Street Roots and well, Compassionate Gathering too.
Copyright 2010 Virginia Jones
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