The psychological maxim: "Name it, Claim it, Tame it" makes sense to me.
We all have our shadow sides. We all have our demons. How do we deal with them? Do we name and accept them? Do we rationalize them? If we do admit them, what do we do to tame them? But it's not only us personally, our institutions, our schools, our churches - and our governments also have their demons.
First, let's examine ourselves. At the personal level the maxim can help us improve our lives and the lives of those we love. "Name it" forces us to admit the truth. "Claim it" deepens and personalizes the process. And "Tame it," well, it depends on our belief system. We do whatever it takes. It might be yoga, AA, Anger Management Support Groups, Tae Kwon Do - or prayer and meditation. Those practices offer us the strength we need to tame our demons.
Taming our personal demons is certainly important to us and to our families, but in the universal scheme of things it pales before war, terror and famine. It's the difference between fleas and dinosaurs. But naming, claiming, taming pertain to both the personal and the global and we will explore them both.
How does this apply to our institutions? At Penn State, for example, it would have meant admitting (naming) the horror of Jerry Sandusky's rape of children, taking responsibility (claiming it) and reporting it to the police (taming it) as well as providing counseling and restitution to the victims.
Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is another story. In confronting the abuse of children by priests it has named and claimed it in the 2002 Dallas Accord, which called for zero tolerance of abusing priests and their removal from ministry, but it never fully tamed it. Although the Church has removed 700 offending priest from ministry, it has never disciplined the complicit bishops. Many are still in office; some have even been promoted. And many dioceses shamelessly invoke legal tactics to delay and prevent the release of incriminating evidence and to thwart legislative reforms.
And how about governments and political parties? In some ways they are the worst of all. They don't even try to name their demons. Perhaps it's the recent conventions, but sometimes I think their mantra would be: reframe it, blame it, inflame it and proclaim it - again, again and again.
Journalist I. F. Stone instructing young reporters for the I. F. Stone Weekly told them the first thing to remember is that governments lie. Governments don't name it; they evade, distort and spin it. They all do. The Vatican does. The White House does. The Kremlin does. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad does.
Spokesmen at the Vatican in addressing the leaks to the Italian press of compromising e-mails from the Pope's computers have blamed the Pope's butler. The butler, however, has said that there were more than twenty whistleblowers involved and that they wanted the Vatican's political power machinations to be widely known. Does anyone really believe that only the butler was responsible for what the media has dubbed Vatileaks?
And does anyone believe the White House and its generals when they say that the Afghan war is going well despite the corruption of President Karzai's government, a reinvigorated Taliban, and mounting American/NATO casualties?
Does anyone believe President Vladimir Putin when he says the feminist, punk-rock Pussy Riot group were really guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" when in truth he had them imprisoned because they performed a provocative anti-Putin song at Moscow's Christ the Savior Cathedral?
Does anyone believe Syrian President Assad when he brazenly says it is the rebels and not his own military who are killing and executing tens of thousands of innocent Syrian citizens?
A final international example and a more positive one is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu chaired this court-like body after the abolition of apartheid. Witnesses who were victims of horrifying human rights violations gave testimony. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from civil and criminal prosecution. The country as a whole faced the truths of its sordid past, and to some degree, tamed them.
It's all about truth. Isn't it? Even when the truth is unpalatable, disturbing and ugly. It's about the personal or collective honesty needed to acknowledge that ugliness and the courage do something about it.
We can do that in our own lives. Moreover, we can do it in our churches, schools, political parties and governments; we can name, claim, and tame the truth. Then not only will our lives be healthier, but our world will be more civil and compassionate.
Daniel O'Rourke lives in Cassadaga. His column appears on the second and fourth Thursday each month. A grandfather, Dan is a married Catholic priest. His new book, "The Living Spirit" is a collection of previous columns. To read about that book or send comments on this column visit his website www.danielcorourke.com/