by Kathy Kane
The section of the 2011 Grand Jury Report regarding the case of lay teacher Bernard Shero, documents that a mother had safety concerns about him when he taught at her child’s parish school. She contacted the local police to share her concerns. Subsequently, the pastor called the mother to the parish rectory and chastised her.
Think of the “hand slap,” familiar to many Catholic school graduates of a certain age, involving a ruler and an extended hand. The pastor was not pleased this mother made her concerns public and she received a verbal hand slap. This happened in the 1990’s, not that long ago.
I’ve been thinking about all of the Archdiocesan news developments this past year. When the high school teachers went on strike in September of 2011 and the Archdiocese would not agree to use a mediator, a local mother called a press conference and formed the group Catholic Parents Respond. When the Blue Ribbon Commission called for the closing of many schools in their 2012 report, people organized within hours to protest and challenge the decisions. People were very public with their opinions in broadcast interviews and newspaper articles. Some schools held rallies that the press covered. Social media was flooded with Facebook pages set up to protest the closings and the comments left on Archbishop Chaput’s pages were anything but passive.
There were other stories in the news. A student from Archbishop Carroll was banned from attending the prom without a date. That made local and national news. In recent weeks, a young girl made national headlines for protesting the Archdiocesan policy that prohibits her from playing football on her local parish CYO team. The petition on Change.org has over 30,000 signatures and was “retweeted “by Ellen DeGeneres.
Clearly, many Philadelphia Catholics can speak up now if an issue moves us.
We often talk about clericalism on this site and the damaging power and influence it can wield. Clericalism is not just a mentality of the clergy, but of many people within the Church. There are those who think an opinion should not be voiced, a thought not expressed, a voice not heard. I imagine it must have been shocking them in this very conservative, clerical Archdiocese to hear people boldly speak up, speak out during this past year.
The mother who was chastised for going to the police concerning Bernard Shero is to be commended. She spoke up at a time when many in the Archdiocese were probably having their “hands slapped” when they voiced concerns. Obviously, if the past year is any example, those days are over.
The trick to avoid having your hand slapped is not to pull your hand away, but to remove the ruler from the hand of the person who is inflicting that punishment.