men overboard

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 10, 2005

A recent article on the seriousness of the training of Coast Guard cadets includes the following passage:

Over the years, according to Commander Joseph F. Domingos, there have been fires and men have gone overboard. In 1982, for example, a cadet fell overboard around 3 a.m. and spent a few hours in the dark, frigid sea before being rescued.

"He didn't have much longer to live," said Domingos, who lives in East Falmouth.

"We took care of him and then we threw him out," he said of the cadet, who was expelled.

Pre-trip training is "very serious business," he said. "We're talking about lives."

No theatrics. No elaborate apologies or justifications. "We took care of him and then we threw him out."

Contrast the Coast Guard's approach with the way grossly immoral clergy and seminarians have been treated by their superiors: the reluctance to name sin for what it is, the timid and facile recourse to psychotherapy, the seemingly limitless number of second-chances -- and worst, a disconcerting vagueness about the very end and purpose of priestly life.

Cdr. Domingos can explain the motive behind his discipline simply and clearly: "We're talking about lives." But for a Christian this life is a time of probation looking forward to something infinitely more important: eternal union with God or eternal loss. We would expect the recruitment, training, and discipline of priests -- as men concerned with preserving eternal lives -- to be proportionately more serious than those concerned with temporal safety. With few exceptions, it isn't.

"We took care of him and then we threw him out." The erring cadet almost certainly did not throw himself overboard, yet the failures of sexual predators and their enablers are deliberate and calculating, fatal to their own souls (if unrepented) and hazardous to the souls of others. Or so we're taught by our catechism.

It's exasperating and disgusting to endure the laxity of a Bishop McCormack toward predatory priests, and the laxity of their brother bishops toward McCormack, Lynch, Mahony, et al. But, for most of us, this exasperation and disgust is not personal distaste for the persons or even revulsion at their misdeeds. It has to do with a more fundamental unease: How do you put together the doctrine that Christ the Judge will separate the sheep from the goats with a praxis that is only intelligible on the premise that the doctrine is false or unimportant?

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 11, 2005 9:41 AM ET USA

    Personal devotion, not community aggrandizement, is the ultimate raison d'etre that must be championed. Salvation rests on the individual choice and is impossible without it.. It is indeed exasperating and disgusting to witness the breakdown in faith at the top levels, but we must not forget that "even the elect will be deceived." Personal prayer for them and for the Church seems to be our most pressing current need.

  • Posted by: Chestertonian - Jan. 11, 2005 8:11 AM ET USA

    That last question is easy to answer, Diogenes. The answer is that evil is insidious, not overt. Satan is a genius; he knows all will fight against the 'boogeyman' image of evil, but will not recognize--or refuse to recognize--the subtle image of the liberally-educated, smooth-talking, Roman-collared dissenter. But, as long as they dissent and act upon it, they are the personification of evil acting in the world against Christ and the Church, and muct be resisted and exposed with equal fervor

  • Posted by: - Jan. 10, 2005 10:16 AM ET USA

    But, of course, Commander Domingos had a real mission and he understood what it was. What is not to be understood about "ruling, governing, and sanctifying" the faithful in the Church which Christ, the God-Man established? What is not to be understood, as Christ instructed in Matthew, to teach the world what He taught His Apostles?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 10, 2005 9:42 AM ET USA

    The doctrine is immutable. The Church, however, ebbs and flows. In Boston it's low tide: Bishops and clergy haven't cared for years, the laity are now confused and leave, parishes close. The remnant persists, though I'm not sure whether the answer is to turn outward or inward, to greater involvement in the parish or to personal devotion.