Carroll County Times
Carroll County Times Opinion

Batavick: White House, Vatican shatter ideals

I am heartsick. The news coming out of the White House and the Vatican has left me despondent. Two of the world’s highest offices — the U.S. presidency and the papacy — are besmirched and fouled, leaving me with shattered ideals and a sense of violated trust.

My despair isn’t just triggered by reading the morning paper or watching the news. It is there when I awake each morning, like a shifting shadow in the corner of the bedroom or a gathering mass of ink-black storm clouds outside the window.


Since the 2016 election, I’ve wondered just how dysfunctional this presidency would be, given the erratic temperament, amorality and lack of intellectual curiosity of Donald Trump. The last few weeks have confirmed my worst anxieties.

First came the excerpts from Bob Woodward’s book, “Fear: Trump in the White House.” Woodward is known for his impeccable reportage about U.S. presidents. In fact, Trump actually complimented him for the integrity of his body of work, “I would've loved to have spoken to you ... I think you've always been fair.”


Through a series of recorded interviews with key administration staffers, we learned that Trump has “gone off the rails” and has the understanding of “a fifth- or sixth-grader.” Former chief economic advisor Gary Cohn and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis claim that Trump doesn’t grasp “the importance of allies overseas, the value of diplomacy or the relationship between the military, the economy, and intelligence partnerships with foreign governments.” That’s pretty damning.

Next came the Sept. 5 New York Times anonymous opinion piece from a White House insider that offered, “The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.”

Trump sunk us even lower when he callously denied the loss of over 3,000 American lives in Hurricane Maria.

I knew that when the Electoral College awarded the presidency to a man who had five draft deferments, five children by three different women, multiple high-profile affairs, six bankruptcies, 3,500 lawsuits in U.S. federal courts and state court, and a reputation as a congenital liar, we were in for a rough ride. I didn’t think it would be akin to a 20 car pile-up on Interstate 95.

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To Trump’s defenders: Is it OK for the next presidential candidate to have had four wives, seven bankruptcies and 4,000 lawsuits? How much is too much? I just need to know what your standards are.

Now to the Vatican. I’m a practicing Catholic, a former altar boy and the product of 16 years of Catholic education. I’ve stayed the course through the last 17 years of ugly reportage about sexual abuse by clergy, most often with children.

I know sex abuse is not unique to Catholic priests. Ministers, rabbis, Olympic team doctors, football coaches, talk show hosts, comedians, movie stars, congressmen and TV network CEOs have all engaged in predatory behavior against children, women, and yes, even men. (A team doctor systematically abused wrestlers at Ohio State from 1979-1997.) But the Catholic Church scandal is different.

The Church is founded on the teachings of Christ, and child molestation is among the greatest sins. Jesus warns in Matthew 18:6, “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.”


The evil of child abuse is self-evident, yet it was permitted to continue because of the hierarchical nature of the Church, its secretive processes and all-male culture, and its ability to move around offending priests to protect “their own” and cover up crimes.

What makes the matter all the worse is that the scandal’s slimy tentacles have entangled Washington’s former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the city’s current archbishop and even reach across the sea to the papacies of Benedict XVI and John Paul II. They purportedly knew about the allegations against McCarrick in 2000.

What to do about all of this? We require an active resistance against the Trump administration’s follies and a need to put country above party. Reform of the Church ought to proceed via the collection basket. The faithful should only resume its support after resignations at the highest levels; criminal charges are brought; priests are permitted to marry, and women are placed in leadership positions. Maybe then my harassing corner shadow and threatening storm clouds will depart.