It’s been another long week, with lots to report, and many things left untouched. I’d like to offer a few parting thoughts before we head into what I hope will be a long weekend (Monday is a holiday here in America.)
The Michael Smalanskas/Providence College Story Has Reached a New Low
Michael Smalanskas, the Providence College student I interviewed this week after he received death threats from another student, about which the administration did nothing, received a temporary restraining order against him (filed by VP of Student Affairs Kristine Goodwin) after our story went live, as well as a no-trespass directive from the college. Smalanskas is not only getting married on campus, he also works there. But while the new restrictions allow him to be present for wedding prep purposes (with prior notification) they make it impossible for him to go to his job, effectively cutting him off from any income. (See the TRO here, the No Trespass Order here, and a transcript of the complaint — with Smalanskas’s own commentary — here. All links go to PDFs).
In her complaint, Goodwin — whose Facebook page shows membership in at least four pages dedicated to supporting Hillary Clinton, along with some pro-LGBT pages — stated that:
For approximately 3 months he [Smalanskas] has demonstrated an escalation of animosity toward me which culminated in two in person incidents this weekend. These incidents convinced me that I needed to take this action for my protection. Prior to these incidents Mr. Smalanskas’ lashing out at me has been by email, in meetings, and via social media. However, it appeared that as graduation approached he became emboldened enough to harass me in public. There were several witnesses to both incidents.
You may recall that this so-called public harassment involved Michael telling Goodwin she should be “ashamed of herself” for refusing to do anything after he has been threatened with both rape and murder.
Describing the treatment that so intimidated her that she felt the need to have a restraining order issued, Goodwin says that Smalanskas “exited the line for communion” at the commencement Mass and “stopped approximately 10 feet away from me and glared at me for 5-8 seconds” while “visibly angry”. Goodwin says this caused her to feel “surprised, uncomfortable, and afraid as to what he might do next.”
The second described incident involved him “yelling” her name after the Mass in a crowded public area, at which point she says
He yelled something to the effect “You should be ashamed of yourself Kristine Goodwin, Kristine Goodwin – they threatened to rape and murder me and you did nothing Kristine Goodwin.” The area was very crowded and I had a difficult time getting away from him through the crowd. He got louder and louder either by walking closer and following me or yelling louder. I was more fearful for my physical safety than I have ever been. He seemed out of control and lacked any judgement about the scene he created. I went to a secure location and called for help. While his words were not expressly threatening his actions toward me have escalated quickly.
Goodwin also believes that Smalanskas
has been progressively fixated on intimidating me. He is significantly larger and younger than me and he has, on multiple occasions, used his physical stance, glaring eye contact, and verbal confrontations to impose fear. I am also afraid of Mr. Smalanskas’ parents, especially his father who has access to weapons and information about my whereabouts. On a prior occasion his father yelled at me and I was afraid enough to ask him to leave my office.
Smalanskas’ father is a police officer, not a hit man, in case you were wondering. Goodwin omits this from her statement. It’s not as though his father was wandering around campus announcing the contents of his gun safe. Goodwin also does not mention that the president of the college refused to meet with the Mr. Smalanskas when he wanted to address what was happening to his son.
Imagine the irony of a woman whose job it is to represent the interest of students taking such drastic action against a student simply for expressing his Catholic beliefs at a Catholic college. A woman who spoke at a march organized in opposition to a Catholic bulletin board put up by a Catholic honors student at a Catholic college. It boggles the mind — especially when one reads the webpage for the Office of Student Affairs at the college:
In choosing to attend Providence College, our students recognize the value of a liberal arts education within the Catholic, Dominican tradition; commitment to academic excellence, the pursuit of truth, growth in virtue, and service to God and others.
The Division of Student Affairs, through our comprehensive services and programs, strives to guide and support our students while at PC, and to prepare them well for their lives after graduation. While the classroom develops our students’ hearts and minds in the pursuit of academic excellence and truth, our division helps them to understand who they are and who they are meant to be.
The Rhode Island Center For Freedom & Prosperity has organized a legal defense fund to help Michael fight this injustice. As their fundraising page says, “Because of his ban from campus, Michael cannot work at his campus job in order to earn money to pay for legal representation” to “defend himself from the unjustly issued Superior Court restraining order” and “remedies for potential civil rights or Title IX violations”. Even the local news report featured on the fundraising page smacks of confusion. The subtext of the report is pretty clear: why is a Catholic student at a Catholic school being targeted for upholding a Catholic teaching?
Henry Sire Cuts to the Quick on the Reason for the Chilean Bishops’ Mass Resignation
Any thought that this represents the new promptings of the Spirit would be off the mark. It is an effort to save face after the biggest public-relations blunder in Francis’s pontificate, the one he committed on January 18, when he defended Bishop Juan Barros against accusations of complicity in sexual abuse by the notorious Father Fernando Karadima in Chile. Pope Francis’s off-the-cuff pronouncements, which have earned him such popularity with the journalistic profession, on this occasion backfired on him. He declared that he had seen no proof of the sexual crimes alleged and that the accusations were slander. It was later demonstrated that Pope Francis had indeed seen the evidence, and he was dismissing the claims of victims who had been trying to gain justice for years.
The reason why this was such a disaster for Pope Francis was that, for the first time, it earned him criticism not only from such a senior figure as Cardinal O’Malley but from the liberal media, to whose applause he had been successfully playing for five years. A rescue operation was urgently needed. First of all, the Pope organised one of what may be called his “humility opportunities”, which he welcomes the way other celebrities like photo opportunities. There was a meeting with victims, and Pope Francis admitted his own failings; but this was nowhere near enough. To expiate his mistake, the Pope called all the Chilean bishops to Rome and told them — what? — that they were all to blame. One sentence from his rebuke is especially worth quoting: “No one can exempt himself and place the problem on the shoulders of the others” — a classic case of Francis’s frequent habit of denouncing other people for the faults of which he is the prime exemplar.
Pope Francis’s response to his predicament is in the honored tradition of Oliver Hardy: “Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten me into.” The result? The whole Chilean hierarchy must resign to deflect attention from the Pope’s own error.
Cardinal Errazuriz Has NOT Resigned
Sire goes on to note that Francis’s
faux pas was indeed due in part to misinformation, as he has pleaded; but the man chiefly responsible for that misinformation is the domineering ex-archbishop of Santiago, Cardinal Errázuriz, who was Father Karadima’s most adamant defender, even going so far as to describe him as a saint. And Cardinal Errázuriz is the man whom Pope Francis chose (at the sprightly age of 80, curiously enough) to be a member of the C9, the council of cardinals who are supposed to be planning the reform of the Church.
But as Sandro Magister reported, Errazuriz was one of only three out of 34 Chilean bishops who did not offer their resignation. (Another bishop emeritus, Juan Luis Ysern, did so in solidarity with the others.)
An noteworthy omission, considering his alleged involvement in the scandal.
The Ecclesiastical Juan Peron
Every so often, someone sends me something orthodox (or orthodox-ish) that Francis has said, and asks me what I make of it.
“But he said the bodily resurrection is real!”
“But he said the Mass isn’t a show!”
“But he said the Eucharist is really the living Jesus!”
“But he said there should be no active homosexuals in the seminary!”
These days, my response is to return to the wisdom of the aformentioned Henry Sire, from his pivotal book, The Dictator Pope:
The story is told that Perón, in his days of glory, once proposed to induct a nephew in the mysteries of politics. He first brought the young man with him when he received a deputation of communists; after hearing their views, he told them, “You’re quite right.” The next day he received a deputation of fascists and replied again to their arguments, “You’re quite right.” Then he asked his nephew what he thought and the young man said, “You’ve spoken with two groups with diametrically opposite opinions and you told them both that you agreed with them. This is completely unacceptable.” Perón replied, “You’re quite right too.” An anecdote like this is an illustration of why no-one can be expected to assess Pope Francis unless he understands the tradition of Argentinian politics, a phenomenon outside the rest of the world’s experience; the Church has been taken by surprise by Francis because it has not had the key to him: he is Juan Perón in ecclesiastical translation. Those who seek to interpret him otherwise are missing the only relevant criterion.
Never forget this when a man known for contradicting himself twice a day tells you something that you want to hear.
Have a good weekend everyone. Please, in your charity, say a prayer for the repose of the souls of all of our departed servicemen this weekend. I know many of you, myself included, count family among them.
We’ll see you next week!
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.