Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sandra Cantu's Dead: Time for Prayer and Thought

The search for Sandra Cantu, an eight-year-old in Tracy, California, ended yesterday. Searchers found her body in a suitcase, in a pond. She's quite dead. Sandra went missing March 27. She and her family live in Orchard Estates Mobile Home Park. Lived, in Sandra's case.

First: A Lot of People Who Knew Sandra Cantu Could Use Prayer

It hurts to lose a child. This is just a suggestion: but you might consider praying for Sandra's family, and people in Tracy. My guess is that they're hurting, bad. You don't have to, of course: it's strictly up to you.

Second: Beware Assumptions and Speculation

Juicy bits are starting to show up in the news: a church is being searched by police; a pastor lives in a trailer park.

Maybe I'm sensitive, but I smelled a bit of class consciousness rising to the surface. Journalists are too polite, and careful, to use terms like "trailer trash," and references to Orchard Estates may be strictly factual.

Running with assumptions and jumping to conclusions is simply not a good idea. Case in point: a newspaper, the Tracy Press.
'You Know What Those People are Like'
The Tracy Press - "one of only a handful of family-owned newspapers left in California" - has been doing quite a job, covering Sandra Cantu's death. A few headlines: Kudos to the Tracy Press, though: The 'felon' story leads with an explanation that Lisa Encarnacion, who showed up as the bereaved family's spokesperson, "didn't know Sandra's mother Maria Chavez or her father Danny Cantu, or their families. But she said she was drawn to help them and showed up at the first vigil at the mobile home park.

"She, too, had experienced the pain of losing a child when her 16-year-old son, Adam, died in an accident on his dirt bike six years ago...."
Provocative Headlines, Human Complexities
Lisa Encarnacion may have been sincerely trying to help Sandra Cantu's family. Aside from a few words in the news, I know nothing about her. I think she was prudent to step aside, though, when "police told the family about her criminal past...." (Tracy Press)

But I will not criticize her.
Sin is Real: So is Forgiveness
The Catholic Church isn't exactly tolerant of criminal activity. Article 10 / The Tenth Commandment in the Catechism is pretty definite about coveting your neighbor's property being a no-no:
  • " 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him.' "
    (Ex 20:17)
  • " 'You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. 'You shall not desire your neighbor's house or field, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything that belongs to him.' "
    (Deut 5:21)
On the other hand, there's that forgiveness thing: "...and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors...." (Mt 6: 12)

The Catechism's Article 8 / Sin starts off with a section on "Mercy and Sin" (1846-1848). That section includes references to the letter of Paul to the Romans: "...The law entered in so that transgression might increase but, where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom 5:20, 21) Bottom line, sin's real, and we're required to forgive. It's not easy, but I'm not going to tell God that He's wrong. Besides, I need forgiveness myself: and I'm not stupid.

Slander isn't Nice

Slander is "words falsely spoken that damage the reputation of another ... aspersion, calumny, ... defamation, denigration (an abusive attack on a person's character or good name)." (Princeton's WordNet) Doesn't sound very nice: and it isn't. 'Gossip' doesn't have the negative vibes that 'slander' does, but it's a close cousin: "...gossip, tittle-tattle, chin wag, ... causerie (light informal conversation for social occasions) ... (a report (often malicious) about the behavior of other people)...." (Princeton's WordNet, again)
What's the Harm in a Little Gossip?
"Gossip," meaning "light informal conversation," isn't, I think, a problem. Not all conversations have to be profound. On the other hand, those light conversations can slide over an ill-marked border into slander. And that's a problem.

The case of Sandra Cantu may give journalists, bloggers like me, and everyone else, opportunity for chewing up the reputations of quite a few people. This isn't anything new. Psalm 109 has quite a bit to say about slander, from the victim's point of view. There's a long bit in another book:
"...Never repeat gossip, and you will not be reviled. Tell nothing to friend or foe; if you have a fault, reveal it not, for he who hears it will hold it against you, and in time become your enemy. Let anything you hear die within you; be assured it will not make you burst. ... Like an arrow lodged in a man's thigh is gossip in the breast of a fool. ... Admonish your friend--often it may be slander; every story you must not believe. Then, too, a man can slip and not mean it; who has not sinned with his tongue?..."
(Sirach 19: 6-15)

Is it True? Is it Necessary? Is it Kind?

I can't remember when I first heard those three questions given as a guide for repeating information about someone else. They seem to be a pretty good, easy-to-remember guide. A whole lot easier to remember than, "Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty...." (Catechism 2477-2479)

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.