REBUILDING THE KINGDOM
Helene Stapinski’s article (“Why I Left,” December 1) draws attention to the damage caused by James Poole, SJ. Poole was a founder of KNOM, the Catholic radio station in Nome that has continually served a wide area of western Alaska since 1971.
The author correctly asserts that no one at KNOM had knowledge of Poole’s abusive and inappropriate behavior. The sense of guilt described by Stapinski—the feeling that one could have done more to uncover the abuse or stop the abuser—is well-known to many people who worked alongside Poole during the nearly two decades he was at KNOM. The complicity she describes was unknowing, and visible only through the lens of hindsight.
Poole’s actions are indefensible. He brought pain and humiliation to his victims and shame even to those of us who never knew him but are forced to deal with his reprehensible legacy. The lawsuits against Poole and other priests and religious sent the Diocese of Fairbanks into bankruptcy in 2008 and nearly ended KNOM. But the station emerged in 2010 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, remaining faithfully Catholic in its identity, and with a volunteer board of directors serving as owner in place of the diocese.
We are a Catholic institution that carries the scourge of an abusive priest in its past, but we choose not to abandon our ministry because of it. The needs for inspiration, information, and positivity are as present now in our remote region as they ever have been—not to mention the profound amount of healing necessary for the families and communities of those abused. We choose to be part of the future of the church as we all humbly contribute toward rebuilding God’s Kingdom.
President of Knom
I too had an experience with James Poole when I was a religious sister in Berkeley from 1979 to 1980. I didn’t know much about life then, and didn’t report anything until 1992. My anger rages once again to learn how his many cases were handled. And it wasn’t just children Poole harmed, but also vulnerable adults. I am sorry for Stapinski’s pain and for all those so affected. But I am grateful that Stapinski wrote the article, as grim as it needed to be.
I read with great interest the three responses to Patrick Deneen’s jeremiad on liberalism, and his slightly dyspeptic thank-you (“Has Liberalism Failed?” December 14). While I am ill-disposed to accept Deneen’s recipe for overcoming the parlous state of modernity, I do think that his respondents all missed one important point, albeit one that he doesn’t actually stress. The problem may be that the logic of liberalism, if left unchecked, reaches a point where it is beyond human control. Neoliberal economics, climate change, and the destruction of our physical world are perhaps close to that point, and that may explain the attractiveness of the Benedict Option. However, the Catholic tradition at its healthiest will not promote homeschooling or other kinds of ostrich-like behavior. The gospel does not sanction turning inwards for comfort, but rather turning outwards to the hurting world. Why Liberalism Failed seems strong on scorn and definitely light on compassion. Small is often beautiful, of course, but that could mean the PTA or the local labor union, not necessarily back to the farm with Wendell Berry.