Tuesday, October 14, 2008

God, jail, dinosaurs, and the law

I'm proud of the fact that my son is growing up loving God.

Being four and a half now, he's getting to the age of strange questions, so we try to handle them as well as we can. For example, this morning he was talking about dinosaurs, as he likes to do.

He asked who made the little plastic dinosaur he was holding, and I replied that it was made in China. He replied by telling me that he thought God made everything, to which I replied that God made the original materials, which people in China (since it said, "Made in China" and he can read) then fashioned into the toy dino he was holding.

Yes, that was satisfactory. I'm glad I didn't have to begin discussing the composition of plastics while driving them to school.

When he goes to church, he goes to his Sunday School classroom and he enjoys being there. He's liked his teachers very much - including his current one, though we've advised him to call her "Ma'am" instead of "Mommy" but it might take a few weeks.

He hasn't gotten to know our new reverend as of yet. We had a change on pastor over the summer, as our former pastor, Fr. Berny, went to Conyers to oversee the construction of a new church. We have two new priests who we already enjoy - one is an older priest with an Irish accent, and the other is about as conservative as you can expect, extremely adherent to church teachings. I like both of them already, and I'm very comfortable with them, and I'm sure if/when Alex starts school there, he will feel just as comfortable in school as I felt in elementary school and high school.

That brings me to the third part of the title of this post. Growing up, I tried to avoid being at home as much as possible. I spent as much time either at school or out of the house with friends, as many of you remember who read here regularly. I got along well with almost all of my teachers, and at times (especially rough times) would confide in the faculty a lot, including the clergy, and they were always helpful to me in trying to sort things out.

I never thought of, or had to worry about, any of the scandalous behavior we hear about often nowadays - never crossed my mind, and there was no reason for it to cross my mind. There was never anything inappropriate, and to consider anything like that as a possibility was absolutely abhorrent. Whether it was a lay teacher, one of the priests, or even the principal or headmaster, they were still people that I knew I could confide in and trust without any repercussion.

It was that sort of trust that probably caused me to be even more devastated when I read this article a couple of weeks ago about the former headmaster of Regis High School coming out of New Jersey at the end of September.

When I was in high school, Fr. Kuntz was one of the people I would confide in, among others, about crazy shit going on in my life. I never felt threatened, nor was anything ever tried that would have been associated with this sort of behavior. Hell, he performed my mother's memorial service at Regis in 1993. This was definitely be one of the people that I trusted deeply in my time there.

That makes this news all the sadder. I would not have suspected the person I knew of such behavior. Some more cynical among us might cite statistics as an expectation of such behavior among a predetermined amount of the population. From a macro level, it's easy to make that judgment.

On a micro level, a more personal level, it's tougher to make that assumption, especially when you know all the people involved. Yes, one should expect a certain percentage of that behavior within the general population, but knowing just WHO throws a lot more variables into the mix regarding their overall personality.

Now, this is not a defense of the sin or the sinner in this case. It's wrong, and can't be justified, especially in an educational setting. What I am going to say, though, is that it's easy to condemn them without hoping and praying that they are rehabilitated in some form or fashion.

A letter was sent out from Regis last week which discussed the incident, but it was severely lacking in reassurances to the Regis community. It did not detail that his time was thoroughly investigated, or any actions taken by the school or archdiocese to investigate the past or safeguard against any behavior in the future. It was severely lacking in facts and reassurances, which would do nothing to reassure the Regis community at large.

At the same time, one part of the letter was correct, in that just trashing the sin and the sinner doesn't really get anywhere. That is where the law comes in, and Fr. Kuntz will have to deal with the consequences of his actions and the people who have been hurt by this. As Catholics, it is also our duty not just to punish the sin, but also to forgive the sinner when they seek remorse for their actions.

At this point, on a micro level, all I can do hope and pray that he is remorseful and repentant for his actions. I know from my personal experience that it seemed unlikely he would engage in this sort of behavior, but the facts are blatantly obvious that it did take place. At this point, I would hope he knows his sin and is prepared to do whatever penance is necessary in the eyes of God and of the law.

At this point, I would also be prepared to listen to his problems and try to help the same way many faculty members helped me with my personal problems many years ago.

I'm not denying it's complicated. It is, in many ways, and from a population standpoint some actions must be taken to prevent this sort of behavior in any segment, not just the priesthood. We shouldn't have to worry about this sort of behavior when our kids are sent off to school - we should be able to trust that the laymen and clergy in our community will support our children and be good role models for them.

I want Alex to be able to confide in his teachers the same way I was able to confide in my teachers, while at the same time I want to make sure he's in an environment that he can still come talk to us r to his teachers about anything that worries him. Children need to have that sort of comfortable environment to be able to actually grow up somewhat well-adjusted.

But on a personal level, we must also realize that forgiveness should come into play, provided the sinner is WILLING to do penance for his sins. While we can cast out someone for the gravity of their sins, we must also be willing to forgive such sins from someone who is willing to seek such interior repentance.

To those who stuck with this post to the end, thank you - I've been trying to figure out how to put my thoughts down for quite a while.


Big Daddy Jeff said...

I never thought of, or had to worry about, any of the scandalous behavior we hear about often nowadays - never crossed my mind, and there was no reason for it to cross my mind.

Hmmm? Gotta disagree. No, I didn't have proof Kuntz was masturbating to pics of little boys, but c'mon. Other than the dinosaurs, there wasn't a single Jesuit who didn't come across to me as homosexual. Many were blatantly effeminate. I'll spare you the naming of names. But we joked about it all the time. To say it didn't cross your mind seems to be a re-writing of history.

we must also realize that forgiveness should come into play

This is where think you're being way too soft a la Judge. I was surrounded by this crap for too long. When I was in Catholic middle school in the 1980s we dealt with a member of the clergy at that school being busted as a pedo. He naturally got kid gloves treatment, despite local law enforcement being involved. I also was friends with someone who confided in me of his abuse by another member of the clergy. What an awful thing for a young child to deal with. Then we found out several years ago that there was another pedo at Regis during our years there. Now we find out that our former headmaster Kuntz has become a pedo since leaving Regis.

Are you kidding me? All that from 6 years in Catholic education? Thank goodness I was spared more direct contact with these freaks! But, no, I'm not at a forgive and pray for them mode. Because the tone of Judge's letter (which is consistent with the Church's overall "it's a small problem" approach) is forgive and forget.

You elegantly list all the things the letter lacked yourself. Why not thus hold them accountable? How can one have any faith at all in Regis since they don't? It would be consistent with your broader approach to crime and punishment, that I know of anyway.

Do you forgive the criminal who refuses to do his time? Do you pray for a Bill Ayers, who while not planting bombs anymore never properly paid the price for his wrongs? Why do it for Kuntz then?

In Kuntz's case, when I find out that he has been stripped of his priesthood and that he's no longer a member of the Jesuits or an authority in the Catholic Church at any level, then I will be ready to forgive and pray for him.

But that will not happen.

Kuntz will "rehabilitated" and "reassigned" and will not truly pay for his crimes.

Do you really think it was a coincidence this man was suddenly sent from being the principle of the most elite Jesuit HS in the USA to the darks of Africa in 1994 to tend to local missions, something which he told us he was bittersweet about doing? Think about it. Perhaps they knew something. And perhaps they choose NOT to do something about it.

And perhaps as Judge's letter indicates they are STILL choosing not to do anything about it.

No, I will save my prayers 100% for the victims of these crimes, until the perps are treated like the no good pedos they truly are. When that happens, maybe I'll throw them a bone too.

APOSEC72 said...

Two very quick points, because I'm running into a meeting:

1) Think of all the teachers that we did joke about - in language departments, history departments, and math department. Remember what they had in common? They were all LAY TEACHERS, not clergy. At least the top 5 I remember making fun of. None were even Jesuit apprentices.

Mac, Nedgar, Vinny, and Bob from Fire Island, and Frank (pick one) were all layfolk.

2) He's not refusing to do time, and as for his repentance, I'm not an authority to say if he is seeking it. I hope he is, but I think I made pretty clear that he has to (and should) suffer for those actions and will according to the law of man and the law of God. Beyond that, though, the only one who can begin the process to seek forgiveness is him.

More to follow later unless someone else feels like jumping in.

Big Daddy Jeff said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
CrankyCon said...

Umm, guys, maybe dropping names of teachers we thought were gay on a public forum isn't the most appropriate thing to do.

APOSEC72 said...

I only typed first names for a reason. I did not want any descriptive last names posted on here, so I am deleting the previous comment.

APOSEC72 said...

Also, I said joked about for a reason, as opposed to guessing if they were gay. A couple of the names were made fun of for other reasons, such as placing one's desk on the roof of a building, but not all of the FIRST names I mentioned were thought of as gay nor am I distinguishing the ones that were. They were just the most frequent targets of joking for a variety of reasons.

Big Daddy Jeff said...

Censorship! ;-)

That's fine. I'm sure they're daily readers of Francase Place (even the dead ones!) and I wouldn't want them to be offended. And since it apparently doesn't offend them to have a guy like Kuntz in their ranks (see Judge's own letter), I wouldn't want to be the one to cross the line!

We'll just have to agree to disagree. You pray for Kuntz, I'll pray for the victims, and hopefully someone really powerful is praying for America cause we're all screwed these days!

APOSEC72 said...

Damn, you're cranky today, but actually, yes, it seems a couple of people have popped in from www.regis-nyc.org today, so apparently someone's reading it.

not sure who, though. No comments from there. Unless you're secretly sitting in Mr. Philips' computer lab.

CrankyCon said...

Look, I think it's reasonable to be upset with Regis and even Church administrators when it comes to shuffling people around. The way that this problem has been handled is disgraceful. And I probably would feel much like Dexter (a reference only watchers of the program will get, and only those who have seen the latest episode) if my child was molested. But Francase is right: we also must forgive. But that's easier said than done sometimes.

CrankyCon said...

You pray for Kuntz, I'll pray for the victims

Sorry, I missed this one. We can pray for both, you know. God's good at the multi-tasking.

Big Daddy Jeff said...

You're right, Paul. I can't deny your point in that last regard.

And I appreciate your description in the prior post. I'm not "church-bashing" or "Regis-bashing" here just for the sake of doing it. I really have a real problem with the way this issue is handled. Judge's letter was case in point. Mike well described many of my issues but I suppose we disagree on the "where do we go from here" part.

I just can't focus on forgive/forget until I think the issue if honestly being addressed.

I think being a Jesuit must be a tremendous privilege. Afterall, isn't it a 13 year process to become one. Almost anyone else would lose their career for such an action. They would have to start their life over and spend the rest of their days making amends.

Then, and only then, can forgiveness enter into the picture, in my opinion. Will Kuntz do that? Will he be defrocked? Or will he be reassigned and rehabilitated.

From what I know of similar situations, it will be the latter.

If I'm wrong, I will gladly take my thoughts back here. Make a stand Regis. You want your grads to be examples in the world. Why don't you be an example yourself??!!

CrankyCon said...

Make a stand Regis. You want your grads to be examples in the world. Why don't you be an example yourself??!!

Umm, Jeff, Kuntz doesn't work at Regis anymore, and hasn't since 1993. What stand is Regis supposed to make? I agree that the letter was a little weak, but I don't know what precisely they can do at this point since he is no longer associated with them, and hasn't been since the days when Notre Dame was a relevant football program.

Big Daddy Jeff said...

True. But Regis, by way of Judge's letter, could have made stand by condemning the action stronger and calling for harsh punishment because of the violation of the trust that institution once gave him.

In other words, save the "pray for Kuntz" tone for another day down the road. For right now, tell pissed off alumni how they will advocate for Kuntz's removal from the Jesuit order and fight to ensure he never sees the four walls of a classroom again.

That would be making a stand. And it's one they could do for people like us even if Kuntz no longer works at Regis. He's still a Jesuit. My words in forums like this are meaningless. Those words in a letter from the current Regis president to thousands of alums would have been powerful.

But wait, you mean those Brady Quinn years where the won the Commander-in-Chief trophy every year by beating Army, Navy and Air Force weren't meaningful? Sure they didn't win a bowl game but they routinely beat Stanford! In my opinion, Notre Dame is getting their just rewards for wrongfully firing both Ty Willingham and George O'Leary. And Charlie Weis is showing that it sure is easier to coach an offense when you illegally have access to the other team's defensive playcalling!!!