CHAPTER 17 - THE NEW EXPERTS
Dr. Goldberg proved to be Jewish as Bennett had expected from the name. He spent about three hours interviewing and testing Bobby and was awed by his devotion to me. The doctor also interviewed Maria and me. He spoke at length with me over the phone on seven occasions.
Goldberg, a former associate of Dr. Elenewski, agreed that I was the primary psychological parent, but he was concerned by the degree of surface hatred that Bobby displayed towards his mother, an emotion not confirmed by all of the projective testing methods he applied.
When asked to draw a picture of his mom, Bobby drew a witch with the word bad on her chest. Then he erased the word and drew a bat in its place. Yet in story-telling tests, there were no harsh feelings that came forth. The meaning of all this was clear to Goldberg. Bobby knew that he was supposed to hate his mother, but that feeling was not apparent at the subconscious level.
The child had only praise for me, but the praise was seen as being extreme. Goldberg sympathized with me as a fellow Jew, but he felt that Bobby was too involved with religion for a 7-year-old. Although tests confirmed that the boy had an I.Q. in excess of 150, the doctor still couldn’t believe he really understood all the Bible verses that I had taught him. What concerned him most, however, was that Bobby was having a hard time getting acceptable food at his mom’s home.
The doctor was likely also afraid to come down too strongly on my side. Such results would be tainted by the fact that he was a Jew, too. It was best to appear impartial, no matter how many stories of beatings and food deprivation. Bobby looked healthy enough and there were no marks to indicate serious abuse.
The months in between court sessions also featured a visit by another H.R.S. social worker, James O’Malley. With a name like that, I suspected at once, and correctly, that the Catholic viewpoint would eventually be represented.
The night before O’Malley arrived was a busy one. We wallpapered Bobby’s bedroom and an adjoining bathroom. From the way Bobby’s room was set up with rocket and jet models dangling from the ceiling, and a well-arranged collection of new toys and books, you’d think Kathy and I were stage prop designers by trade. Everything was finished a mere five minutes before O’Malley’s arrival.
When the social worker began the interview, Bobby wasn't permitted to be in the room with the adults. O’Malley indicated that he had read the file, including the Miami Herald story and the evidence in the pleadings that linked the Vatican to the Holocaust. He didn’t discuss these things much with me however, preferring to see what opinion, if any, the boy had of them.
I liked much of what I initially heard that day. For one thing, Maria had so far refused to see the man, and O’Malley was quick to point out such continued behavior would hurt her case a lot.
The old man sat back and fired questions at my wife and I for about an hour, taking notes and smiling kindly all the while. When he had listed all my concerns, he called Bobby out of the bedroom and told him that they were now going to have their man-to-man secret talk, a discussion that Bobby had to promise not to share with me.
The secret interview was conducted in Bobby’s room. O’Malley was quick to note that half the toys in the room had Israeli decals on them. It looked like the boy was preparing for a private war with the Arabs. There were Israeli jets, tanks, Uzi machine guns and half-tracks, not to mention a number of Jewish flags. This, O’Malley thought, is how the father brainwashes his son.
The discussion soon turned into O’Malley’s private crusade. He apparently disliked Jews and this kid was a super Jew. For over an hour the seven-year-old spewed verse after verse to debate the man, trying to show why major beliefs of Christianity are in error. Maria’s old fears of me telling Bobby about the Holocaust were proven well founded. The kid knew about each and every article that had been cited as evidence in the case, and O’Malley was hard pressed to refute any of it. Little questioning was needed about his folks. The social worker noted that in Bobby’s eyes, I could do no wrong and Maria no right.
“Why don’t you love your mother?” he asked.
“Because she always hits me and gives me food I can’t eat like ham which isn’t kosher.”
“What’s wrong with ham? I eat it all the time,” O’Malley exclaimed.
“The Torah says Jews can’t eat it. Some laws are easy to understand, like the one that says not to murder. Others we don’t understand, but we do them because God asked us to. Kosher laws are like that. We do them just to prove we love God enough to listen to Him. My dad says that God loves us more when we give up something we like just to please Him.”
“Doesn’t the Torah say anything about honoring your father and your mother?” the social worker asked.
Bobby didn’t want to answer that one, so he changed the topic. “I’ve got a constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religion,” the kid said.
“Seems to me every mother has a God-given right to expect obedience from her son, too,” O’Malley replied.
When the interview was over, O’Malley felt like he had just been through a war. In twenty-five years of interviewing kids, he had never encountered a child anywhere near Bobby’s age who could quote the Constitution or the Scriptures like this child did. The boy was sure about what he believed, but O’Malley was just as sure that he really wanted to smack the little guy. Still, his report would have to wait for Maria to soften up to let him in. Perhaps, he probably thought, he might gain access to the mother by telling her over the phone about the brainwashing he had seen.
When O’Malley emerged from Bobby’s room, he looked with exhaustion at me and said, “Well, Mr. Roffman, I have the picture here. I’m sure that the boy’s mother will eventually see me. Please don’t call my office after the report is written. I won’t be able to discuss it.”
By the time he left, I wasn’t feeling too confident. Concerned about the strength of my case, I decided to call Monsignor Walsh’s office to turn up the heat on the Church.
Walsh was about to leave for a trip to the Far East where he would meet the Pope. He wouldn’t reveal whether or not Bobby would be discussed, but I gathered from the man’s tone that such a dialogue was probable. Still, the Monsignor was elusive. I thought it wise to remind the man that I couldn’t wait forever before filing the suit against the Church.
“The court is not likely to rule in your favor. For it to do so would be a violation of the separation of Church and State,” Walsh asserted.
I reminded him that, as an author, I could only benefit by national publicity, even if I lost my case. The Church, on the other hand, could only lose by having the Holocaust material exposed to the public. “If I win, I get the money,” I said, “but if I lose, I’ll still sell a lot of books. All I’m asking for is a simple letter stating that Bobby’s baptism has been annulled. Your decision should be an easy matter.”
If Walsh had been uncertain about discussing the subject with the Pope before, he now knew that there was no way out. This was a decision that couldn’t be made at the local level. The very essence of baptism’s meaning was at stake.
“Have a nice trip,” I said as the conversation broke off. I hoped I had argued persuasively . . . but would the decision come in time? June 29th was now a mere three weeks away.
A week passed. When I checked my teacher mailbox, there was a message from Bennett. Apparently, Dr. Goldberg had finished his report and recommendations. Three times I tried to reach the attorney, but Bennett was in court each time. At last I got through and was given the answer.
“He recommends you be given primary residency for a trial period of one summer. Goldberg says that Bobby identifies with you and with the Jewish faith, but the boy’s afraid of losing his mother in the battle. The doctor also recommends counseling,” Bennett said.
“Is this guy serious, just a summer? I’ve been getting Bobby for most of the past two summers! That won’t prove anything. We’ll just be back in court again in another two months!” I exclaimed.
“Talk to the doctor,” Bennett advised. “Try to convince him to extend the trial period. I’ve got to tell you, however, that he won’t be the only psychologist testifying. Maria hired another so-called expert, a Dr. Gray. I’ve just received notice of his appearance from Schmidt.”
“Terrific,” I said sarcastically, “I know about the S.O.B. and I’ve tried to call him. He won’t talk to me. Can’t we block his testimony? He’s not court-appointed and he hasn’t even heard my viewpoint.”
Bennett promised to do the best he could.
The following day I received a call from Mike Fitzpatrick, attorney for the Archdiocese of Miami. Mike said that the letter I wanted had been prepared and would soon be ready for release. I was overjoyed. Without even thinking, I told the Church attorney that I needed it before the court hearing now only 13 days away. Fitzpatrick told me that the Archbishop would still need to sign it, but that shouldn’t take too long. All he needed to know was where to send it when complete.
As soon as the attorney hung up after getting my address, he may have realized that the Church might be letting itself in for more trouble by releasing the document before Bobby’s custody trial. If so, his biggest concern would be that it would devastate the mother’s case so thoroughly as to set up the Archdiocese for a suit by her. She might well make a case that the Church’s actions had cost her a son. They’d be right back again looking at another large court action. Thus he probably thought it best to call McCarthy and advise not that the letter be destroyed, but put on ice.
McCarthy likely concurred. He must have given the matter much consideration and felt that the document should only be released at the last possible moment. Judge Hickey, after all, was a practicing Catholic. It was unlikely that my attorney or I would be foolish enough to litigate against the Church until after the general master had ruled and Hickey had had the opportunity to review the case. That could be months from then. By the next day Bennett had been informed that there would be a “delay while the letter worked its way through Church hierarchy.”