Tuesday 5 March 2019

Back in Scotland or The Event

Jet-lagged, muscles aching, coffee-swilling: I'm back in Scotland.

Canada was splendid: so splendid that I did not want to come back and wouldn't have come back had  it not been for Benedict Ambrose. I have reached Peak Scot, which is to say, the stage at which Scots say, "Let's emigrate to Canada!" 

Canada was cold and covered in snow: ankle-deep in Toronto, knee-deep in the Eastern Townships. I lived in houses: my parents' large two-storey box, my brother's sprawling bungalow. For once in sync with management, I worked the regulation 9 to 5, although (as we will discuss) I did quite a lot of overtime. 

I was surrounded by family and friends, most notably children. Three of those were blood relations,  three were courtesy nephews and one was my goddaughter. 

I saw two of my favourite professors; I met up with elementary school pals for drinks. Red Mezzo drove up from Vermont to see me in Quebec; Alisha stopped by a bakery-cafe in Montreal to see me before work. 

For the first time in a long time, I spent an entire day in research: interviewing sources and hunting down books. 

I finished reading Emmanuel Carrere's The Kingdom, minus the infamous few pages of porn. There's a professor in Ohio I'd like to talk to about it. (O Boże, it's overdue at the library.)

I went to "Chicago" a day early to buy pączki for Tłusty Czwartek. "Nie ma"--so I bought a poppy seed roll instead while the sprzedawczyni nattered away happily po polsku, and I was so rusty, I understood barely a word.  

But most of the time I worked or slept, just like here, only there I could come downstairs to tell my parents the latest news, or go upstairs (I stayed in my brother's basement) to apologise for still being on the computer. 

I was on the computer because, during my first week in Canada, I googled "diabolical masterpiece" and thereby discovered what turned out to be the terrible 30-year secret of a Toronto-based Church personality.  Our story broke on February 15 and was read by (I'm assuming) the more conservative of Catholic and Lutheran intellectual types. Curious, they did more research and tweeted the results. The National Post story broke the night of February 22.  I was so tired, I was shaking, but with the help of an editor, I wrote another piece. 

The Post story went viral. The Catholic media finally picked up the story. Versions of it (not always accurate) were published in French, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish. 

I received emails of congratulation and an email of mild abuse. I was warned on Facebook to watch my back, and I took down a blogpost about the children. 

At the beginning of the scandal, certain institutions would not reply to my emails or phone calls. Now they are replying to my emails, which certainly makes my job easier. 

This is, for the record, now all very terrible and sad. Virtual bombs are blowing up in offices all over Canada, frightening and hurting people I care about. At the same time, the spectacle of various Catholic figures trying to minimise the 30-year secret is a nauseating spectacle of clericalism. No layman's career would have survived this. Thirty years. Peer-reviewed journals. Called Archbishop Viganò a "liar".

Today I got an important and respectful email from Jerusalem. It is a great contrast to the sniping from Toronto I've been getting over Facebook. Apparently writing this story is so divisive and so bad for the Church, blah blah blah. It gives me just the smallest taste of the hell Rod Dreher went through trying to report on a worse scandal. 

My hands hurt from typing. I check Twitter at least once every half an hour. 


  1. Congrats on the breaking story! Satisfying. Yet ultimately sad, when you think of his career/vocation.

    Sad too, you felt you had to take down a family post due to the story, but better safe than sorry.

    Interesting aside: it doesn't say much for the standards of peer-reviewed journals if they let plagiarism through for 30 years!

    1. In their defence, it's sometimes hard to detect, and it seems that some may have escaped even two plagiarism detection software. It seems to me now that the entirely publishing industry is based on trust, which may be why "Plagiarism will get you expelled" is banged into students' heads. All the same, I am learning a lot more about it now. There are different names for the different kinds.

      I veered between excitement and horror it until I saw a piece of criticism aimed at an innocent victim of the plagiarism, and after that I have been consistently horrified. I'm not sorry it was I who found out, but I am so, so sorry for the good people having to clean up the mess.

  2. Exposing sin is painful, but it's the sin that does ultimate harm, not its exposure. Keep walking in the light (Eph 5:11-14).