In the Cold Kentucky Rain

01-27-2019Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Rush to judgment, jump to conclusions and join the mob is what was on display with the incident involving the students from Covington Catholic High School. Can we pause for a moment and remember these are high school teenagers? And every now and then, and this may come as a huge, stunning shock to you but sometimes, teenagers don't always act appropriately. But in this case, they did. They were on a class trip, they stood up for justice for the unborn in the January cold of Washington D.C., they were waiting for the bus to take them home and they were harassed by a group of Black Supremist, being taunted with phrases such as: incest baby, cracker, trailer trash, faggot and worse. They were particularly vile to one of the young black students, telling him, “the white man is going to kill you and steal your organs”. One of his white classmates put his hand on that student’s shoulder and said to him, “we love you”. Who was doing the wrong thing here? Yet that group was never condemned by the twitter mob. And then a man with a drum comes marching up to them. What were they supposed to do, what were they supposed to think at that moment? And one slice of that video, maliciously edited, surfaced on-line and those kids were toast.

I realize the internet and social media world demand instant craziness and create instant villains. And I also accept that the media will no longer try to determine facts and context before forming opinions and that the twitter mob breathlessly waits for the slightest offensive so they can erupt in rage. But what I find appalling and disappointing in the extreme is the initial reaction of the School officials and the local Bishop of Covington and the Archbishop of Louisville. They rushed to judgment, did not even for a second stop to think and ask for the facts before they condemned these students via Twitter. Immediately the school threatened expulsion, the local Bishop of Covington pontificated about not tolerating such shameful behavior and for some reason, the Archbishop of Louisville decided he needed to pile on. Stop tweeting Bishops, and defend your flock from the wolves!

Why did they all need to virtue signal? Proof they didn’t want to get their hands dirty. No, when the wolf came the Shepherds ran away. When the mob came for their children, they instantaneously joined in the groupthink. No laying down your life for your sheep here. Why didn't they stop and think: these are our children? Don’t we need to stand with them and help them through whatever went on? That doesn't mean condoning bad behavior but it also does mean not abandoning your children and your flock when things go wrong. Please God, save us from the feckless, self-serving shepherds of this generation.

What message does all that send to these young people? What they learned is that adults are liars, they tell us to do the right thing even when it’s hard but then they themselves take the easy route and join the mob. They didn't even give us the benefit of the doubt, they didn't even wait to ask for our side of the story before they rushed to judgment, they were quick to believe the worst about us despite the fact that they know us and know what kind of young people we espouse to be.

What reason do these young people have to remain in the Catholic Church? The exemplary Catholic adults in their life turned out to be not so exemplary. When things got tough for these young people their leaders sacrificed them on the altar of political correctness. There they were at the March for Life doing the right thing, waiting for the bus to take them home and they got thrown under the bus by their leaders. How ironic, that leaders trying to teach young people to think and not live out of their feelings, turn around and react on feelings and surrender their thinking for a mob mentality.

The tweets of the local Bishop are particularly contemptuous and the tweets of the Archbishop of Louisville are doubly so. Why did he have to pile on? Lest you think me too harsh, I can accept that they got it wrong but they have yet to apologize. What message does that send? Why is it so hard to stand with your children even when things go wrong? Why abandon them when they are in the midst of a controversy? Why not have the emotional maturity to wait and ascertain the facts before you make a judgment? Maybe they need to be reminded that rash judgment is still a sin even in Kentucky.

I was a Prison Chaplain and my “parishioners” were mostly men and women who did some really bad things. While I never condoned their actions, sought to justify them, nor get them out of the consequences of their behaviors, I was still their pastor and found ways to advocate for them and support them and help them learn to do the right thing. That wasn't always easy nor comfortable and sometimes I got vilified. So, it really baffles me that Catholic leaders had such a hard time standing by their young people who were trying to do the right thing and be their advocates even in the midst of a chaotic moment.

Please don't rush to judgment, learn the facts first and don't be quick to join the mob. We have to learn to stick together and support each other. The mob is coming for everyone one of us.

Fr. John B.