March 12, 2013
You Can’t Unbreak an Egg
Dealing with Clergy Sex Abuse
A frittata graces the breakfast buffet in Rome.
In the USA we say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Not in Italy. Why should it be? Lunch here is the eighth sacrament. There could be as many as six possible courses: antipasto, pasta, meat or fish with vegetables, salad, cheese, dessert, etc. While on normal days there are usually two or three courses, at lunch (pranzo), one has to be pasta. So why waste the calories on breakfast?
While living in the apartment here, I have breakfast privileges at the hotel from which I am renting my pad. It is a splendid buffet. I watch the Italians “eat and run.” That means a cappuchino and a breakfast bun. I watch the Germans eat Mueslix and drink juice. I watch the French eat yogurt and drink water.
As for the Anglo Saxons, the hoteliers have made a concession and provided a frittata. That means they cook a pancake-sized omelet with tomatoes or prosciutto or fresh mushrooms inside. They also provide hard-boiled quail eggs, cut in half and served with a drop of olive oil and freshly cracked pepper. My favorite.
One morning last week Assunta, the always congenial and gracious morning waitress, who has worked there for more than 30 years, asked whether I wanted an omelet. I was surprised at the unexpected question. Italians eat omelets for dinner not colazione (breakfast). She laughed and said that she had made a mistake in preparing that day’s frittata. She had two eggs left over in a bowl waiting to be cooked. She said, “You can’t unbreak an egg.” I smiled, but respectfully declined. Quail eggs for me.
|Biscotti and other sweets round out colazione (breakfast).|
I then set about reading emails on my iPad. With six hours’ time difference, lots of folks deserve an early-morning reply from Rome to America. Then it is all local emails and news until lunch time here when the USA awakens and we are off and running in the electronic sweatshop of emails. (Is this progress?)
As I sat back over cappucino and sparkling water, I reflected on what I had been reading about the cardinals’ conversations in Rome these days. Clearly, the major topic in the (confidential!) discussions among the cardinals concerns the qualifications of the next Holy Father to deal with a number of very important issues facing the Church today. It seems that, at the top of the list, is someone who has or can deal decisively with clergy sex abuse of minors. This earthquake has not stopped quaking in our Church, much to our dismay and shame.
Among the cardinals, it seems that we Americans have done better than most on a national scale. Much of that credit needs to go to Most Rev. Wilton Gregory, CUA trustee and archbishop of Atlanta. We were priest graduate students here in the mid 1970s and have stayed in touch regularly ever since. I know the agony he went through as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops leading to the drafting of the Dallas Charter on Child Protection. I was encouraged to realize that the worldwide College of Cardinals is taking this so very seriously. They have to. We need to.
I am sometimes dismayed by the way clerical sexual abuse is so politicized in at least the American media. No one ever wins in any lawsuit. Why? You can’t unbreak an egg.
Each and every child who has been abused is like a broken egg. Never again able to go back to the way it was. She or he is forever marked by insecurity, fears, phobias, lack of confidence, sometimes leading to compensatory self-destructive behaviors. As a priest, I have heard far too many stories, dried far too many tears, and walked with people into far too many doctors’ offices and treatment facilities than I care to remember.
The word, victim, is meaningless. Victims all have names and faces and bodies. And some can never like or love their bodies or themselves again. Many have lived the secret and pushed it down more firmly in their psyches than can be imagined. For many, recovery is impossible. They live a day at a time. Some days are better than others. Some days it is hard to think that life is worth living.
I am profoundly grateful that the College of Cardinals not only know that abuse is on their radar, but that it has to be front and center in deciding who can lead us internationally away from this earthquake.
You can’t unbreak an egg.