Using “healing” to end the conversation … when the conversation is far from over



Here’s a hypothetical:

Your boss borrows your car and runs over your beloved dog Rover in the company’s parking garage. When your boss returns the car, you ask him about your dead dog and the blood stains all over the bumper. He denies all knowledge.

When confronted with video surveillance footage, your boss finally admits that he did run over your dog, but claims that “he thought he did the right thing for you and Rover.” He is not fired. In fact, he is backed up by the company and remains in his job for three more years, where he supervises your work and is your “go-between” to higher management.

You can’t quit because you are under contract.

After those three years, your boss resigns. But he keeps his paycheck and gets to go on all of the company golf outings free of charge.

Soon after the resignation and well-publicized golf outings, your company invites you to come to a “healing meeting” where you are invited to heal from the pain of losing your dog. Your boss is invited, too. The company will be collecting donations for the “coffee fund” at the meeting, so attendees are asked to bring their checkbooks.

Your company also invites the press. When the press calls you about the meeting, you tell them that you aren’t going. You are portrayed in the media as angry and ungrateful for not participating.

Ridiculous? You bet it is.

But let’s switch out a few things … say, using Kansas City/St. Joseph as an example … and see how perception changes:

Your bishop knows that a priest in your parish has created child pornography involving your child and does not call the police.

Fmr KC/St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn: Call the cops? Nah. I might miss my tee time.
Fmr KC/St. Joseph Bishop Robert Finn: Call the cops? Nah. I might miss my tee time.

When confronted by the police, the bishop says that he did the right thing for the priest and the children involved. The police don’t buy his argument and arrest the bishop. He later pleads guilty to child endangerment and is sentenced to probation.

The bishop is not fired from his job and is supported by his fellow bishops and the Vatican. But you’re rightfully angry. If you stop going to church and receiving the sacraments, your faith tells you that your eternal life is at risk. Remember: you’re under contract.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan: Defended convicted bishop
Cardinal Timothy Dolan: Defended convicted bishop

The bishop finally resigns, but is allowed to do all of the fun stuff like keep his title, collect a paycheck, live in a fancy house, go to Rome and perform public ordinations.

After the resignation, the bishop’s successor holds a “healing Mass” and invites you to attend. When you say, “Hell, no. There has been no accountability within your organization,” people say you are callous and unforgiving.


Anchoring the argument with “healing”

The conversation about sexual abuse and cover-up in Kansas City-St. Joseph is far from over, but by throwing out the word “healing,” interim Archbishop Joseph Naumann is slamming the door shut on discussion, reform, change, and accountability.

Archbishop Joseph Naumann: Slap on a band-aid and open up those checkbooks, m'kay?
Archbishop Joseph Naumann: Slap on a band-aid and open up those checkbooks, m’kay?

Basically, he’s saying, “We healed and offered the victims healing. It’s time to move on (and raise money).”

Really, that’s the gist of what he said:

[Naumann]’s encouraging the grieving and still angry parishioners to reach toward their faith.

“I think we need to ask the Lord to help each of us to heal. There are people who have experienced wounds on both sides,” Naumann said in an interview Monday at the Diocese headquarters in downtown Kansas City.

“A great resource is our prayer. Prayer can be helpful to become focused on moving forward and not (revisiting) those things in the past,” Naumann says, “unless we can learn from them.”

“At this point,” he says, “if there are people who chose not to give because of Bishop Finn’s leadership, this may be a moment to re-examine that.”

Why the anchor is false

Minnesota Public Radio reporter Madeleine Baran made a very interesting point about the term “healing” at the 2015 SNAP conference in Washington DC.

Peabody Award winner Madeleine Baran
Peabody Award winner Madeleine Baran

She remarked that groups who are in the wrong (and the journalists who cover them) will use the word “healing” as a way to end an argument or story arc and create the “next phase,” even if the story arc hasn’t finished.

Even if there has been no accountability.

Even if the group does not have the moral authority to determine healing times for those they have hurt.

My suggestion? I encourage Archbishop Naumann to hold “meetings of accountability ” and “prayers for reform.”

Healing can’t happen when a wound is still infected with cover-up.

And the story? It’s far from over.


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