“Hand of God”

“Hand of God”

David Alexander watched the documentary film “Hand of God” that’s making the rounds of PBS, about the abuse of his the filmmaker’s brother by Fr. Birmingham at St. James Parish in Salem, Massachusetts, and offers his reflections. He notes that the film is an uneven effort, exposing real evil on the one hand while confusing the sins of men with the beliefs they purport to represent on the other.

Living in Salem, I’ve met a few men who knew those who were abused. At least one has told me that it was common knowledge, at least among his friends, what was going on and that quite a few adults had been told as well, but either they didn’t want to believe or they didn’t want to get involved. While there’s plenty of blame to lay upon the heads of men in holy orders, there are laypeople who will someday have to answer for their actions or inaction, as the case may be.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • Superbly rendered and also verified by Our Divine Teacher Himself: “And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”  (Matt 18: 5-6)In other words, woe to the perpetrators of such perversities on children and, equally, to those who know of it and say nothing—there is no difference!  God bless and thank you for your astute moral wisdom, Domenico Bettinelli!
                  j hughes dunphy


  • My dad grew up in the 1930s in New Jersey.  He once said that he knew that priests who would pay high school aged men for sex.  He said it was also common knowledge which guys he went to school with were the ones who would make their money going to the priests.  Everyone knew.  No one cared.

  • Tried to post this over at David’s blog, but it won’t accept my comment, so I’ll drop it here.

    The fact that Bishop Lennon is now my bishop did not gladden my heart last night as I watched him call Cultrera a “sad little man” and tell him it was all in his head.  Does Lennon also believe the sexual abuse scandal here in the Cleveland Diocese has been all in the heads of those abused, one wonders?

    I didn’t get the sense that the Cultreras other than perhaps Paul, had abandoned the faith, but rather that some of them had given up on practice of the faith in the Church in their area, along with trust in the priesthood.  One doesn’t actually abandon the faith by walking away from the corruption, even if one may not be able to practice the faith one believes in, when the local corruption becomes too overwhelming, which in their case it was for the father.  Remember, the mother (and sister?) still practiced.

    I speak to this somewhat from their perspective since a family member of mine may have been abused.  We will probably never know for sure.  He exhibited the symptoms, was vulnerable for the usual reasons, and was in the company of a priest who abused.  I also was a member of a parish where some abusers were stashed, one of whom I thought was a very good priest, to my horror, and another who was the pastor.

    After such experiences, all of the truths of the Catholic faith remain ingrained as they have always been.  But the ability to walk into a church and trust the man in the vestments vanishes like dust in the wind.  And that doesn’t even begin to address the way I feel about bishops after 40 years of continuing damage to the beliefs of faithful Catholics at the bishops’s hands, culminating in the discoveries of scandal behavior.  It doesn’t yet drive me out of the Church, but it has the potential given more grievances.

    Many Catholics have spent a period in their lives where the practice of the faith was impossible for various reasons.  That does not mean that faith has been abandoned necessarily.  Consider the survival of faith in Russia.

    On the other hand, the bishops can count on the majority of Catholics being willing to go right on attending and supporting the parishes no matter what they and the priests do.  It gives them an important sense of immunity and helps them to escape accountability. Bishop Lennon’s statement is consistent with the sort of confidence this engenders.

    How far into corruption is too far?  For each of us there is a line that cannot be crossed by our leadership without driving us away from the Church.  The placement of that line is varied, but ultimately the offenses can become so bad that no believer can continue to practice and still call himself a Catholic. Would you be willing to attend a black mass that was passing for Sunday liturgy at the Catholic churches available to you?

    For the record I found the scenes that used (I presume unconsecrated) hosts gratuitious.  Cobwebs over statues represented to me the sin that now clouds the pristine image of the Church that most of us had in the 50s and early 60s.  The statues are no less valid, but they are veiled in scandal and will probably never bring the joy to our hearts that they once did.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons icons are growing in polularity.  Their is no hint in the sorrowful icons of the happy naiviete we lived through.

  • “Tried to post this over at David’s blog, but it won’t accept my comment…”

    Sorry about that, Carrie. I have no idea why that would have happened, unless it involves you being on the new Blogger (???) and me still on the old one. Feel free to give it another shot anytime.