Letters to the editor -
As more information about the new screening and police-checking of Catholic volunteers is revealed, the more possible it seems that the Catholic church may find itself with a class-action suit for elder abuse if it continues to insist on its new rules and regulations.
Volunteers have been given the ultimatum to sign the series of forms outlining the new criteria under which they must perform their work and undergo police checks by Dec. 31 or resign. As the majority of volunteers are approaching their senior years or are well past that milestone, this ultimatum fits squarely under the legal definition of elder abuse.
Let's look at the hypothetical case of an elderly volunteer whom we shall call Molly O'Brien. Molly can be found in every parish in the world. Ever since her first Holy Communion, Molly has been a volunteer in her parish. As a child she helped her mother wash the altar linens, polish the candle sticks. clean the church, and so on. As she raised her family, she sang in the choir, was a reader at mass, served as eucharistic minister, brought communion to the sick, was a sacristan, organized and worked at concerts, rummage sales, and bingos. Since her hip replacement she gratefully takes the sit-down jobs: selling the Nevada tickets at bingo, selling the mass cards at her friends' wakes, selling the tickets for the fishcakes at the ladies' lunch-and-rummage sales.
There is no plaque on her living room walls to mark her 25th, 50th, and now 80th year of service to her church.
Molly has recently been told that, if she doesn't sign a package of legal documents and undergo a police check, her services are no longer required. Her years of unstinting service are irrelevant and immaterial and she herself is expendable. She has until Dec. 31 to sign up or stay home.
As Molly's entire sense of value is based on her contribution to her church where she is welcomed by her friends as an honoured, valuable, trusted person, she will now be isolated in the loneliness of her home twiddling her fingers in uselessness unless she capitulates and passes the signed forms to her parish priest. Her reward for her co-operation will be a patronizing pat on the back.
Is there any reader who does not cry "Elder abuse?"
A simple solution which would not humiliate, devalue, or coerce the tried and true volunteers would be to tell new would-be volunteers that, as of Dec. 31 there will be a screening process. Leave the Molly O'Briens alone, for God's sake! The Mollys I know will not take the ultimatum lying down.
Port au Port