Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

December 31, 2019 GMT

Recent editorials from North Carolina newspapers:

Dec. 30

The Charlotte Observer on the release of a list from The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte naming clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse:

Monday’s release of a list of clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse marked an important milestone for The Catholic Diocese of Charlotte and its members. For the diocese, the list is an opportunity to take a fuller accountability for its troubled past. For victims and other faithful, the list is a long-overdue validation of pain that the church both hid and enabled decades ago.

The list comprises 14 clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse in Charlotte and western North Carolina since the diocese was established in 1972. In addition, the diocese published information about credibly accused clergy prior to 1972, when the Diocese of Raleigh oversaw the Catholic Church across the state. The Charlotte diocese also identified clergy who served here without apparent incident but were on lists published by other dioceses and religious orders.

“First and foremost, this promotes healing among those who were hurt,” said Rev. Patrick J. Winslow, the vicar general and chancellor of the diocese who oversaw the examination of clergy records. “We have a great deal of hope moving forward for our faithful.”

The release is an important step for the diocese, but it’s one that could be marred by new revelations of missteps by the church nationwide. An Associated Press analysis published late last week revealed that more than 900 Catholic clergy accused of child sexual abuse and other sexual misbehavior were left off of lists released across the United States. Those clergy included members of religious orders or priests arrested for sexual crimes such as rape, solicitation and receiving or viewing child pornography.

The revelations were a setback for the church, and they threatened the trust and healing that dioceses had hoped would come from the release of their lists. In Charlotte, that effort began last year with an exhaustive examination of church records conducted with the help of an independent investigative firm, U.S. Investigative Security Services. Importantly, the Charlotte list includes clergy who were members of religious orders, and investigators did not leave off clergy arrested for child pornography or deceased clergy with only one allegation against them, as other dioceses did. “I do believe it could be held up as a model for any diocese in the United States,” Winslow told the editorial board this month.

Winslow also stressed that most allegations the diocese is dealing with now involved incidents prior to 2002, when U.S. bishops adopted a charter of policies and protocols involving sex abuse allegations. Since then, he says, the diocese has had a “zero-tolerance approach” that includes swiftly reporting allegations to authorities and removing clergy from ministry. Clearly, things have changed for the better in the church and diocese, and that should bring comfort to the faithful.

Still, policies and protocols are only part of the path toward rebuilding trust. The 2002 charter was an acknowledgment of systemic issues that protected predatory priests, but the church has waited far too long to take the equally important step of coming clean about the past. Now, the AP’s revelations raise the question of exactly how forthcoming some dioceses have been.

Winslow and the Charlotte diocese should take immediate action to ensure that its hard work is not undermined. Among the questions that need re-checking or addressing: Were there any clergy not on the diocese list who were arrested or accused of sexual crimes such as rape and solicitation that involved young adults or might have raised red flags regarding children? Diocese officials also should examine the Associated Press reporting to make sure that clergy who were left off other lists didn’t serve here, and it should quickly address any new questions regarding names that might have been missed.

The Charlotte diocese appears to have conducted a good-faith effort to address its past, and Winslow and other officials understand that the list might prompt more revelations of clergy abuse and misbehavior in western North Carolina. That, too, is part of the healing process. The diocese should continue to transparently embrace it.

Online: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/


Dec. 29

Times-News (Burlington) on a crowded field of candidates since Rep. Mark Meadows announced he’s not running for re-election:

For seven years, voters in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District had limited choices: Republican Rep. Mark Meadows and whatever Democrat faced him in a district gerrymandered for GOP advantage.

That all changed Dec. 19 when Meadows, a conservative firebrand and staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, announced he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Meadows stated: “My work with President Trump and his administration is only beginning.” He now appears poised as Trump’s “chief of staff in waiting — ready to assume the position in a second term if Trump wins re-election,” Politico reported.

Meadows’ announcement that he wouldn’t seek a fifth term came one day before the deadline for candidates to file to run. But that short window did not stop a flurry of Republican candidates from entering the race for the GOP nomination.

Five Democrats are also running for their party’s nomination, spurred by recent changes to the 11th Congressional District’s boundaries that have reduced the GOP’s advantage.

GOP voters in Henderson County have a little more than two months to get to know their crowded slate of candidates before the March 3 primary. Democrats across the 11th District who previously faced extremely long odds against a powerful incumbent will also have to recalibrate their campaigns as they run against the party of Trump and an as-yet-unknown Republican.

The dozen Republican candidates are Chuck Archerd of Asheville, Lynda Bennett of Maggie Valley, Matthew Burril of Asheville, Madison Cawthorn of Hendersonville, Jim Davis of Franklin, Steven Fekete Jr. of Lenoir, Dillon S. Gentry of Banner Elk, Wayne King of Kings Mountain, Joey Osborne of Hickory, Vance Patterson of Morganton, Dan Driscoll of Winston-Salem and Albert Wiley Jr. of Atlantic Beach. Congressional candidates do not have to reside in the district in which they are running.

On the Democratic side, the five candidates running are Steve Woodsmall of Pisgah Forest, Gina Collias of Kings Mountain, Moe Davis of Asheville, Michael O’Shea of Mills River and Phillip G. Price of Nebo.

Polk County unaffiliated candidate Winn Sams, who was running in District 10 before the lines changed, is seeking 8,000 signatures to be added to the 11th District ballot. There is also a Green Party candidate, Tamara Zwinak of Franklin, and a Libertarian, Tracey DeBruhl of Asheville.

Among all these candidates, two have clear establishment ties. King is currently Meadows’ deputy chief of staff and has already been endorsed by eight WNC sheriffs, including Henderson County Sheriff Lowell Griffin and Transylvania County Sheriff David Mahoney.

Price, the Democratic nominee in 2018, had not planned to run but changed his mind after Meadows announced he would not seek re-election.

The 11th District is more competitive since legislators adopted new voting district maps that restored the city of Asheville and areas that had been cut out of the district by GOP gerrymandering in 2011.

The result is a wide-open race with a plethora of candidates who will present voters with more choices than they have had in a long time.

Online: https://www.blueridgenow.com/


Dec. 26

StarNews (Wilmington) on a letter delivered to a church which police are investigating as a hate crime:

Like a visit from some cruel ghost of Christmas Past, we hope the vile and hateful missive delivered to Wilmington’s St. Andrew’s AME Zion Church is an aberration.

During this season of joy, light and love, we wonder what inner demons drove a person to spew three typed pages of racist vitriol aimed at the predominantly black church on South Ninth Street?

Police are investigating it as a hate crime, as it certainly was. There’s a very real difference between something aimed at one person and something aimed at a specific community. Let’s be very clear here -- the letter was meant to terrorize.

We can’t help but think of another event this year -- the November dedication on Market Street of a state roadside marker that finally acknowledges the 1898 white supremacist uprising as the Wilmington Coup. A coup, it should be pointed out, that was never reversed. Yes, the injustice still stands.

That’s not to suggest that a hate-filled letter that targeted members of Wilmington’s black community is the same as the bloody massacre that took the lives of dozens of people here 130 years ago and forever tilted the political and economic landscape against what was a large and thriving black community.

Rather, it should be a reminder of the indelible mark the events of Nov. 10, 1898, left on Wilmington -- scars that, despite what some cynics say, are still visible and felt by many here and in a host of ways.

Police are taking the letter very seriously, as they should, especially considering recent violence aimed at churches, synagogues and other places of worship.

“We will not sit back and allow ourselves to be divided,” WPD Chief Ralph Evangelous said in a news release. “We stand here together. There’s no place in our society (for) a letter like that with the language and disgusting rhetoric that we should be beyond.”

As we sought to learn more about St. Andrew’s, we came across some internet photos of a joyful morning when the congregation was holding its Valentine’s Sweetheart Breakfast, photos filled with happy children, smiling parents and folks both black and white coming together in the name and cause of love -- that Beloved Community envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr. Maybe some of that spirit will one day breach the hardened heart of the person who spewed this hate.

Meanwhile, we hold the good people of St. Andrew’s AME Zion in, yes, our thoughts and prayers, but also with a commitment to tangibly support them and others who seek to elevate our community to a better place.

Online: https://www.starnewsonline.com/