Thursday, January 05, 2006

instant annoyance

Why can't I see or read the news without getting annoyed almost instantly?
Has the Exorcist really grown that ornery during his mid-life crisis?

Two items that immediately bugged me:

1. The tragic report of the West Virginian miners that died in an accident a couple of days ago was instantly eclipsed by the false rumor of their survival that spread the night of the rescue mission. Imperceptibly, in a nano-second, the story was not about the death of the miners, but rather about how their friends and families felt upon hearing the news. Immediately the media began looking for someone to blame for the rumor, asking the miners' kin how angry they were about the false hope they were fed, suggesting they sue someone in outrage, not for the accident that took the miners' lives, but for allowing their feelings to go from elation to despair during the ordeal.

Before our eyes the dead miners were pushed aside and the reaction of those who somehow felt tricked or abused (concerning a situation that was tragically hopeless to begin with) took center stage.

Why does the media do that? Why does it make us think it's always about us?

Twelve miners lie dead, but I feel outrage, hurt... I have a microphone in front of me and a lawyer waiting in the wings so I become the news item.

2. Both the NYTimes and the Boston Globe have published reports this week about the second wave of settlements that is about to hit the Archdiocese of Boston in reference to the clergy abuse scandal that has literally decimated the Church.

In a nutshell, both report on the outrage felt by the new, belated wave of claimants and their pricey lawyers because the Archdiocese has modified its terms for ths new settlement. This time, there will be an average payout of $75G (down from $153G the first time) and - gasp - the Church reserves the right to cross examine with its own lawyers any or all of the claimants that have hopped on the settlement bandwagon this time.

Why the outrage?

First, because the money available is significantly less due to the near bankruptcy of the Church in Boston. The claimant's lawyers are quick to insist that the money never interested their clients, that it is only the deep yearning for justice and closure that impels them.

OK. The money doesn't interest us, we're just pissed off because there's not more of it.

Second, because the Archdiocese has not waived its right to question, examine, investigate the nature and the credibility of the claims made this time around. The claimant's lawyers deem this new attitude a grotesque sign of the Church's insensitivity toward the victims. In their view, the courage it takes to sign on to the claimant's list should be more than enough guarantee of the credibility of their complaint.

If this were a class action suit against the government or a major pharmaceutical company, no one in their right mind would question its prerogative to cross examine the claims.

During the first round of settlements, the Church waived its right to cross examine and paid huge quantities to the victims of its priests' misdeeds. Now it is compelled to scrutinize the claims more closely. Is this injust? If the claimants and their lawyers truly burn with the desire for the truth to come out, how could a new, direct line of questioning be harmful? The Church has already agreed to pay a second round of settlements. Why the outrage?

I do not easily buy into the sorry dirges about anti-Catholic bias or conspiracies to destroy the Church. I am appalled and ashamed by the crimes committed by priests and the suffering of their innocent victims. I think the Church does well to offer generous compensation and reach out to them, knowing that the scars will never really heal.

Yet the litigious animus of our secularized society knows no bounds. Is it so cruelly preposterous to consider the possibility that not all the claims against Boston's clergy - many stemming from incidents that supposedly occurred 30 or 40 years ago and many made against priests who are long since deceased - may, in fact, be equally credible?

Many criticized the Church in the past for paying out private settlements to abuse victims to avoid having cases go to court. Lawyers and advocates were rabid over the Church's unwillingness to surrender private records and files to public scrutiny when they were eager to make their case against the abusers.

Now that the Church considers asking questions of the accusers and not blindly paying out settlement sums there is outrage.

This is the stuff that annoys the Exorcist.