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Dear Pope: Check This Out

May 03, 2010 — Categories: ,

I don’t know if you follow the National Football League in the U.S., but I think you will be interested in this.

I don’t know if you follow the National Football League in the U.S., but I think you will be interested in this.

A professional football player allegedly got an underage college student drunk and then raped her in the bathroom of a bar. She reported him to the police. He was arrested but not prosecuted because the District Attorney did not feel he could win a criminal case against him. The player walked free. Nothing unusual there.

But this is the interesting part. The Commissioner of the NFL suspended him for 6 games (that’s a lot of the season) and sent him a letter with the following statement:

I recognize that the allegations in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you . . . My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor. That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.

You see, the Commissioner wasn’t concerned that the football player wasn’t prosecuted for the crime of rape (although I think the player should be in jail). He was concerned that his conduct in the bar was unbecoming of his role as a star athlete and member of the NFL. Imagine that! It wasn’t the law but a higher standard against which the player was judged.

I confess that I was shocked by the Commissioner’s statement. I didn’t know the NFL had a standard of conduct for the players that would address their acts of violence against women, and I certainly didn’t know that they had a Commissioner who had the courage to take action and call a player out.

Since you are sort of like the Commissioner for the Roman Catholic Church, you might want to contact the NFL Commissioner. I think he might be able to give you some pointers on dealing with players who engage in conduct unbecoming the ministry.

And remember, I’m still waiting by my cell phone.

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Series of letters to the Pope

Posted by Lisa Cataldo, M.Div., Ph.D. at May 04, 2010 11:58 AM
Dear Marie,
I want to thank you for your clear, uncompromising communications to the Pope on the issue of priest sexual abuse (I only wish he would read and respond to them). As a professor of Pastoral Counseling who teaches courses in both Professional Ethics and Trauma, I have found my work increasingly challenging in the face of the ongoing abuse of trauma victims in the form of silencing, denial, and deflection. It is more than disheartening, it is heartbreaking. As a Catholic and a teacher in a Catholic institution, I struggle each day to live in the tension between a faith that promotes justice and a Church that denies it to people whose lives have been damaged by its actions. I wish you continued blessings in your work - you are an inspiration to me and my students.
Lisa Cataldo

re. counselor struggle

Posted by K N E at May 04, 2010 02:15 PM
Thank you, Dr. Cataldo -- your succinct statement crystalizes for me the tensions I too have been working in, and has opened the fog a little more for me to see where my future career work is leading.
Your post today has helped me find some light.

Counselor struggle

Posted by Lisa Cataldo at May 04, 2010 05:44 PM
Dear K N E,

Thanks for your reply to my comment. We stand in solidarity in our commitment to both justice and healing for every person who has been traumatized by the abuse of power. In my research, I working on the question of how the failure to act on the part of those who CAN intervene to limit the damage of a traumatic event compounds the trauma. When one has the power to help/heal, and instead uses that power to silence and deny, the original betrayal is compounded exponentially. When the church is ready to focus on the issues of trauma and its aftermath, there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth" at the reality of the suffering it has caused, and this will need healing, too. Meanwhile, we will pray and work. I wish you great blessings as you move forward. -- LMC

Dear Pope: Check This Out

Posted by Anita Bradshaw at May 04, 2010 11:58 AM
Thanks, Marie. This (as the others to the Pope) is excellent. Who would have ever thought that the NFL would have higher standards than the Church? I am delighted that the NFL Commissioner had the guts and the values to stand up to the pressures of winning games and go against the culture of professional sports. I doubt the Pope is listening, but he really could learn something here. Thanks!

Dear Pope

Posted by Tom Dyer at May 04, 2010 11:58 AM

Your Dear Pope series has been great. I hope you been sending him the correspondence. You never know, you might give the whole mess the nudge it needs to start real reform of the hierarchy.


This blog

Posted by Roger O'Brien at May 04, 2010 11:58 AM
Marie, this and your other blogs on the Catholic abuse crisis are so HUGELY refreshing.
Thanks tons. Lots of water under the bridge since you and I worked together (was it to get your meeting space?) in those halcyon days of Hunthausen. I'm retired now, but still active and enjoying life and ministry. I'm preaching on this next weekend and
will send you a copy of my homily - not least of all because I quote you. Keep up your superb work - always with depth...and always with humor. You are a blessing and a grace. Roger

Dear Pope blog

Posted by Salma Abugideiri at May 04, 2010 11:58 AM
Thank you Marie! So well said.
The fact that the NFL is taking a stand like this will hopefully send a strong message to all the fans, of all ages.

NFL Standards

Posted by Kate Johnson at May 04, 2010 11:58 AM
Yes, the NFL has standards, but all too often they are not enforced. I, too was shocked that after the "legal" troubles were over the suspension took place. But it happens too few times. Just look at the sexual assault and domestic violence charges that go on with no suspension. Sometimes, it depoends on how "valuable" they are to a team. That is what makes this more shocking. Ben has value. Let's just pray this type of discipline continues... we'll see.

Dear Pope

Posted by Dr. Donald Wilde, D.Min. at May 04, 2010 11:59 AM
While I may agree with the point you seem to be trying to make, I have to say I disagree with your mocking tone. You write about "conduct unbecoming the ministry." As I recall, this mocking of clergy and the church is not new to you. Just something for you to think and pray about.

mocking the clergy?

Posted by Marie Fortune at May 04, 2010 06:06 PM
Actually i am not mocking the clergy. The phrase "conduct unbecoming the ministry," is the language from a denominational policy years ago. This was the only standard expected from the clergy: to avoid "conduct unbecoming the ministry." This does indeed cover a multitude of sins. But it has become clear over the years that many clergy need more specificity in the standards of conduct.

Keeping On

Posted by Arthur (Bud) Van Eck at May 05, 2010 12:15 PM
I am pleased that your commitmnts continue to foster much needed dialogue, albeit not yet from the Pope, and, no doubt, action.

An old frind in both senses of the word old.