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Have we all abandoned ship?

February 3, 2012
By Bill?Finnigan , Tribune Chronicle |

Recently, the Italian cruise ship, Costa Concordia, struck a reef off the coast of the island of Giglio. Passengers were enjoying their evening meal when there was a sudden, loud bang, supposedly from an electrical failure.

The guests were told that everything was under control and they need not panic. According to a survivor, the boat began to shake, with dishes crashing to the floor and people falling down the stairs. Suddenly, the ship tilted to the port side, which consequently hindered access to life boats.

The Captain, Francesco Schettino, has been indicted for abandoning the sinking ship and for the death of at least 11 passengers. Claiming that he accidentally "fell" into a lifeboat, he left the stricken vessel early on and refused to obey coast guard orders to return. Prosecutors said he rammed the vessel into submerged rocks by making a risky maneuver, disregarding the alarm for the ship's computer navigation system.

Schettino said: "I was navigating by sight, because I knew those seabeds well. ... But this time I ordered the turn too late." Instead of facing the consequences, he secretly took off, leaving hundreds of passengers trapped on board. The aftermath was a literal nightmare of horror, as thousands of precious people struggled to escape a black, watery grave.

How does a ship captain justify such bizarre behavior? Did he "jump ship" to cover up his guilt in failing to follow procedure? He abandoned his responsibility as the pilot, which resulted in a most egregious act of cowardice. Everyone knows that the captain stays with a sinking ship. Duty, integrity and commitment are glaring issues here.

It's easy to say this tragedy would not have happened if Schettino had obeyed the rules. But that's a big "if"-- one that plagues our society as a whole. This act of irresponsibility reflects a cancerous attitude that permeates our civilization.

Soon after the aforementioned incident, a political cartoon appeared in the Tribune depicting the huge ocean liner tilted on its side. The vessel's name on the bow was replaced by "Obama Record," with a message from the bridge saying, "It was human error ... by the previous captain." What a clever and accurate portrayal of the arrogant irresponsibility in the White House in failing to steer our nation aright, then placing blame on the previous president. What else is new?

Significantly, the sacred institution of marriage has increasingly been abandoned by those who see little purpose in its legality and / or privilege. Granted, the divorce rate of 50 percent is alarming, but disregarding this time-honored bond is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. As one who has been married for almost 55 years, I can vouch for this beautiful and endearing institution.

Human failure in marriage is also no reason to change its definition. It's still a covenant relationship between a man and a woman, with intent to produce offspring. Same-sex marriage cannot fulfill this purpose.

Husbands and wives have an awesome responsibility to make their marriage work, especially as children come along. Serving each other in mutual love is essential.

So many children today have a house, but not a home. School-teachers can tell the difference. Whatever the cost, fathers must not "jump ship."

Finally, churches need to take a hard look at their responsibility. "Separation of church and state" was never intended to take God out of national life. A better word is "distinction" between the church and government; this means that the church can do what government can't - namely, care for the spiritual needs of the populace.

The clergy must believe and preach the Bible, God's Word. To do otherwise is to abandon the spiritual ship. Social programs have their place, but not as a substitute for proclaiming the whole counsel of God. Without seeing individuals change, there's not much hope for our community or society at large.

Finnigan is a Howland resident. Email him at



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