If you read the newspaper accounts you can easily piece together what happened. Bishop Edward Kmiec of Buffalo, New York, encountered a man named William Parks, who has been highly critical of diocesan policies. There was an argument, tempers flared, and the bishop probably waved his finger. Parks claims that Kmiec jabbed him in the chest. One witness supports that charge; all other eyewitnesses say there was no physical contact.
This is the sort of regrettable incident that mature adults usually try to put behind them, once the heat of the moment has passed. Not in this case. Parks filed a criminal complaint of harassment against the bishop, and the Buffalo diocese shot back by asking a local prosecutor to investigate Parks for filing a false report.
Harassment is a crime. Filing a false police report is a crime, too. Thus instead of apologizing for losing their tempers, both men tried to roll in the heavy artillery of the law-enforcement system, escalating the battle.
District attorney David Foley wisely declined to get involved. After a quick investigation he declared that "no criminal activity" had occurred. He announced, in effect that poking a finger in someone's chest (if indeed that happened), may be rude, but it is not a criminal offense. Similarly, charging harassment may be an overreaction, but it is not a criminal offense either. In Foley's words:
In no means am I calling into question Mr. Parks nor am I calling into question the bishop in this situation or indicating that I find for one as compared to the other. Given what I have received, it just does not rise to the level where anything should be charged.
After Foley announced his decision, Parks issued his own statement, asking for prayers that Bishop Kmiec would "find peace to replace the anger in his heart," and asking the diocese to acknowledge that he had not submitted a false report. He said that he would not be bothering the bishop anymore, because he thought it would be "counterproductive." That's not exactly a handsome apology, but at least Parks was ready to call off the battle.
And what about the bishop? The Buffalo diocese claimed that Parks had "impugned the character, reputation and integrity of the bishop with a false and very public accusation." In effect the diocese renewed the charge that Parks had filed a false report: the charge that Foley had just declined to pursue.
Foley's decision, the diocese claimed, “confirm what Bishop Kmiec and several eyewitnesses have maintained all along." That doesn't jibe with Foley's own statement that he did not mean to "find for one as compared to the other." But it does let us know that the Buffalo diocese isn't ready to let the matter drop.
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Posted by: extremeCatholic -
Jan. 26, 2010 11:39 PM ET USA
I cannot believe that a flight crew flying routinely out of New York had never encountered a person praying with phylacteries, or that there were no passengers who could vouch that Caleb Leibowitz was harmless.
Posted by: Ken_H -
Jan. 21, 2010 10:09 PM ET USA
The sarcasm a stretch? I don't think so - look at where we are going!
Posted by: Gil125 -
Jan. 21, 2010 8:29 PM ET USA
By the way, I've just read the full story and can't help adding the remark that if he'd been a Muslim and perhaps taken off his shoes and unrolled a rug in the aisle and the flight crew had reacted this way, there would have been hell to pay. Prejudice. Insensitivity. Anti-Mohammadenism!
Posted by: Gil125 -
Jan. 21, 2010 8:25 PM ET USA
May one politely differ with kman? It's at least a three-bagger. Maybe with a man on second.
Posted by: -
Jan. 21, 2010 8:09 PM ET USA
I find the response to be perfectly understandable. This is what the Muslim terrorist world has driven us too. And yet the insane refusal to admit that Muslims have driven us to this kind of response only makes things worse. So as a 70 year old grandmother I will submit to body search. Point the finger, if you must, where it really belongs.
Posted by: TheJournalist64 -
Jan. 21, 2010 7:38 PM ET USA
I hate to drive, but now I fear flying even more. So I guess I'll just stay home.
Posted by: -
Jan. 21, 2010 4:58 PM ET USA
Hmmm. I've prayed on planes before, with rosary beads and/or breviary, and garnered nary a glance. Are those days numbered?
Posted by: -
Jan. 21, 2010 4:45 PM ET USA
Swing and a miss...your sarcasm is a stretch on this one.