Dawn Bowie is an Attorney in Washington and a convert to Catholicism (as well as a long time member of the Catholica community). She sent this commentary in some months ago and the editor apologises that it slipped under the radar. As it's a reflection that might also lead readers off into an exploration of a lot of interesting YouTube clips it will be a useful commentary to leave up on Catholica for a few days while the editor takes a break. (Exploring the YouTube clips could keep you occupied for about 2 weeks in fact!)
Looking at the abuse scandals through the eyes of a convert...
I have been watching all the hoopla about the abuse scandals in the Catholic Church with great interest.
As the oldest, and most entrenched institution of Christianity in the world, the institutional Catholic Church certainly qualifies as a prime suspect, and likely one of the most serious candidates of Christendom (and all its many offshoots) with respect to taking advantage of the weak and helpless children who have come within the borders of its power.
I'm a convert to Catholicism. Twenty years, next Easter. To make matters more complicated, I'm a post-Vatican II convert. When I attended RCIA, my instructors were all fired up with the call of the Encyclical to bring the wonderful truths of early Christianity to everyone. I don't now, nor have I ever, since my confirmation in 1991, regretted a minute of my walk of faith as a Catholic.
My spiritual journey has led me from the basics of Catholic faith that I received at my confirmation, to the high and lofty intellectualism of the Jesuits, to the community and lived gospel of a fantastic Franciscan parish.
I was hard-wired to be a Catholic from the womb. But I didn't grow up that way. No. I grew up as a cult-classic Protestant. Daughter of a Protestant pastor. And not just any Protestantism, no, my Dad was a Seventh Day Adventist pastor. God love him! He knew from my early days that there was something about the ritualism of liturgy that called to me, and that I couldn't find it in his own faith.
Now, the Adventists are, admittedly, a bit odd. Even for Protestants. They come from the call of a Baptist preacher, William Miller, in the complicated time just after the American Civil War. Mr. Miller preached the imminent coming of Jesus Christ. He claimed he had worked out the exact day and hour of the Second Advent. He was really, really wrong.
But among his followers was this very limited, but very loving little girl, named Ellen White, who'd gotten hit square in the third eye (i.e., square between her eyebrows) with a rock. After it became clear that Mr. Miller was a bit off on his mathematical calculations, Ellen White began to have "visions". Some of them were probably not too far off the mark. A lot of them had to do with health. Others had to do with something she called the "Steps to Christ". Not bad, in their own way. And Ellen White's "visions" started a new religion, the Seventh Day Adventists.
As a result of the "visions" of Ellen White, arose the Battle Creek Sanitarium. (check out the movie, "The Road to Wellville", starring Anthony Hopkins . . . a classic! Click HERE to see the movie trailer.) You've all heard of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, right? Well, the breakfast cereal tycoon was, at least initially, a Seventh Day Adventist invention.
"The Road to Wellville", doesn't tell us much about what happened to Mr. Kellogg after the Battle Creek Sanitarium burned to the ground. Neither does the recent PBS documentary, "The Adventists" (Click HERE to see YouTube excerpt.), which lauds Mr. Kellogg's contributions to the Seventh Day Adventist health network.
But take a careful look at what is going on in "The Road to Wellville". Even if the movie is a fictionalized account of the early days of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, it offers some very telling commentary on what was surely "de riguer" at "The San". Check it out and decide for yourself what kind of problems may have existed as the result of the influence of one man on a very new faith tradition.
The point being, that without in any way minimizing the responsibility of the oldest Christian institutionalized faith for preying on the weak and vulnerable, this venerable institution has set the "standard" for most other Christian denominations in terms of what is right and acceptable.
Birds do it, bees do it, Catholics do it, Mormons do it, Seventh Day Adventists do it, even Orthodox Jews do it. Probably Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims do it too! It isn't about a particular faith, it's about the substance of the wrong, and the ability of a closed community to cover up the faults and failures of those revered in an institutionalized community and to keep them from public and civil censure. Let's forget about the labels and focus on the harm, and hopefully, find a way to reconciliation, justice, and truth, no matter what the institutional label!
YouTube Clips: Here are links to the three YouTube clips mentioned in the commentary. On the right hand side of each of the pages you will find links to many more clips from the documentaries and other 'interesting' pieces of Christian religious history...
What are your thoughts on this commentary?