I am Catholic, and I am angry.
I am beyond angry. I am shamed, horrified, humiliated, disappointed, pissed off (an expression I’ve rarely used since I was about 15), and a slew of other emotions I can’t put into words.
My stomach churns as details of the latest Catholic Church sex scandal surface. I think of children posing naked with arms outstretched as Jesus Crucified. I visualize silent, pleading tears rolling slowly down smooth, softly rounded cheeks. I think of children forced to have oral sex with men who selfishly sacrificed them when they should have selflessly, sacrificially Loved them as Jesus selflessly, sacrificially Loves His Church. I think of the child whose mouth was washed out with Holy Water after “the act” was complete. I think of the boy who was sodomized so hard his spine collapsed. I think of those who sought escape through alcohol, drugs, and suicide.
I think of victims who preferred the gift of death over the gift of life. I think of times when my own life fell apart and faith was all I had left, and I wonder when life falls apart and the supposed faithful are the evil doers, what do victims have left?
It is in faith that we hear the words of James 1 telling us to “Find joy in all things,” but what happens to a child whose joy is corrupted by those who should personify Good?
It is in faith that we are told to Love our enemies, but what happens when your enemy abuses and assaults you in the name of God? How do you show love to that kind of enemy?
What happens when Love is confused with sex? What happens when you think Love means you have no choice but to give yourself away, to sacrifice yourself for the pleasure of another?
What happens when Love means pain?
What happens when the person others trust most is the creature you trust least?
What happens when your thinking, like your body, is f***ed?
Because that’s what happens in sexual abuse.
It is a crime, not just against a faceless, nameless, soul-less body. It is a crime against your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit, against your body as a beloved child of God who created you out of Pure Love, against your body as a pure, sacred, special, one of a kind gift given only to you. It is a crime that steals innocence and renders victims helpless and confused. It is a crime against the psyche and heart.
Sexual abuse is a crime against the eternal soul of a child.
Childhood sexual abuse is a crime that does not die with the offender or his victim. It is a crime that lasts generations. It is a crime that is silenced and not spoken of. It is a crime that lives on in secret. It is a crime that affects choices and decision making, friendships and success. It is a crime that affects future generations and results in them not understanding how they ended up “here.” It is a crime that future generations cannot hope to heal because they don’t know what is wrong. They don’t know the silenced crime, so they cannot help the victim overcome. It is a crime that results in many thinking this is the way life is, the way life should be, the way God intended life to be.
And the cycle of abuse continues.
And the circle of trusted people who could AND WOULD help (because most who can, won’t) shrinks.
And this is all true in “normal” abuse cases.
I have been one of those abused children. I have suffered trauma that has played and replayed in my mind for 40+ years, and I am one of the “lucky” ones. I could return to my house when the “act” was done and escape physically although I have never quite escaped emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. I am lucky because my abuse came from an outsider not a family member or priest.
I view my experience as “normal” compared to what is being revealed in recent Catholic Church sex scandals. I only realize how sick the phrase “normal” is as I write this and struggle to find another, better word to define my experience. The truth is, there is no “better” word to describe abuse.
When it comes to sexual abuse, “better” only describes varying levels of awfulness.
And I can imagine no less awfulness than being victimized by one of God’s Shepherds. For this offense, for these children, for these victims, for these survivors, and for more reasons than I can give here –
I am angry!
I am angry at the scenes I visualize after hearing testimony given. I am angry at how my mind fills the gaps in testimonies. I am angry at the pain these victims and families have endured, are enduring, and will endure for decades.
I am angry at the evil perpetrators who committed these offenses, but I am angry at others too.
I am angry at Catholic priests who stood silent and did not protect victims.
There will always be evil in this world. The men who committed these heinous crimes are evil. They have been corrupted. They have fallen. I will not say they are destined to rot in Hell. Only God can judge that. I’d never want that responsibility, and in my heart of hearts, I pray these men seek TRUE forgiveness. I pray God shows them Mercy. I pray they use their free will and fall on the Mercy of Jesus to escape what would otherwise be almost certain damnation.
I pray their victims find it in their hearts and minds to forgive their abusers as I have forgiven mine. I pray the victims and others understand forgiveness does not mean memories go away. It does not mean the psychological damage, which far outlasts physical damage, goes away. It does not mean the shameful feelings, confusion, self doubt, vagueness of boundaries, over and under trusting of EVERYONE, or the longing for real, but unidentifiable, Love that never goes away.
Forgiveness simply means embracing Jesus’ Sacrifice as triumphing over even the most violate acts against the most innocent part of who God created you to be.
I am angry and disgusted by the clergy who committed these crimes, but I can’t waste my time on them right now. I am focusing on the others who knew but did nothing. I am angry and disgusted by those who stood by and watched. I may be more angered and disgusted by those who stood idle with wringing hands doing nothing to stop the evil-doers.
The evil-doers I am more able to turn my back to and wish they never existed.
Those who stood by and watched or pretended not to see leave me shaken, speechless, and sputtering.
I wonder what they were thinking. I wonder why their careers were more valuable than a child’s innocence. I wonder why fear of blackmail, as Father Palka pointed out, was used to let lambs go to slaughter, a slaughter they live through every day. I wonder if these silent onlookers, when they watched predator priests and bishops lead frightened, innocent, and trusting children away, saw Isaac on the altar with Abraham poised above him, sword ready to thrust into the child’s bowels. I wonder why they didn’t see that God may have placed them there at that time to act as His hands and feet. I wonder why these men did not reach out and stop the evil bishop’s sword from penetrating the child’s innocence.
I am angry at the good priests and bishops and yes (God help me) older seminarians for not speaking up. I am angry at them for not protecting the innocent. I am angry at them for putting themselves ahead of what is right and good. Stopping this madness was in their power. Good priests could have come forward. Every day, hour, minute, second good priests had opportunities to break the silence. They failed. Time and again they failed for years on end. They abdicated their responsibility and in their weakness created perhaps a greater sin than the molestations themselves by maximizing abuse and minimizing suffering. Just as easily as abusers used free will to commit evil, so did cowardly priests use free will to allow evil.
The result is not just outrage at those who committed crimes against humanity. The result leaves Catholics in the pews wondering who they can trust. It leaves us wondering who we turn to in times of crisis. It leaves us wondering who will stand for righteousness.
It leaves Catholics suspicious of every clergy member. It leaves us second guessing signing our children up for CCD, altar serving, choir, and youth programs. It leaves us questioning every priest, bishop, cardinal, and religious leader in our beloved Catholic faith. It leaves us questioning, not necessarily because we believe ALL priests are bad, although there is some concern there too for many, but because we now believe most of our priests are weak or self-centered when we once believed them noble, honorable, and warriors for Good.
I am angry at the priests who are call themselves Shepherds, priests who claiming to guard against wolves, priests who didn’t tell us wolves were already prancing in the yard feasting on unsuspecting human prey.
I am angry at the traps that keep us from speaking out for Truth. I am angry at myself for being complacent and not standing up to those traps. I am angry at social media platforms like Facebook and Google, which cut out Conservative voices like Leila Miller, Joseph Scambria, and Prager U. I am angry that I am angry at good priests for not speaking up when I have also turned blind eyes and fallen to the I-can’t-change-it-so-I’ll-go-along-with-it mentality.
I am angry for the priests who have been wrongly accused and been found guilty without trial. I am angry at those who signed plea deals to shut cases when they were innocent. I am angry that the Church thought it could avoid scandal by taking easy ways out and hiding Truth. I am angry because any time there is a mass roundup of the guilty as we see now, there will be innocent swept up too. I am angry because these men will take falls, sign papers, and pay a price they do not owe. They will exist under a cloud of suspicion for the rest of their lives. I am angry because they will be victims no one talks about.
I am angry for the good priests too. I am angry for those who knew nothing and are still treated as guilty. I am angry for priests who have innocently, purely loved children, men who have been welcomed into homes as part of the family, but who are suddenly afraid to be alone with a child even in a public place. I am angry for these men who sacrifice so much to live their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I am angry for these men who take Confession hearing stories of unbearable hardships, suffering, and sin day in and day out and are sworn to secrecy. I am angry for the priests who have heard things that eat them alive, things they cannot talk about, things they know continue but that they cannot stop. I am angry for the priests who suspects he is being played, who takes confession of a user/abuser not because the sinner is repentant but because he is sucking the holy priest into an malicious, manipulative game where the good are sworn to secrecy and the bad have a language all their own that is used to grow their circles. I am angry for good priests who already lead lonely lives and are now looked at with suspicion and further isolated, assumed guilty for the crimes of their peers.
I am angry for and at those who will leave the Church over this. I am angry at those who placed millstones about the necks of these beloved little ones of God and did little or nothing to keep them Catholic. I am angry at those who made Church seem to be more about music, pastors, and sermons than about the Body and Blood of Christ, the Communion of Saints, and the unity between Mary and the Holy Spirit among other things. I am angry at those who will leave the Church over sins of man without delving deeper to see what God is calling them to and how and why the Catholic Church fulfills God’s Commands in the best earthly way.
I am angry about the decades of corruption that have led to this debacle. I don’t mean the sex scandal here either. I mean the years of policy that has eaten away at our faith until what we practice is hardly recognizable as true Catholicism anymore. I am angry about the piece by piece devouring of ancient traditions that have kept Catholicism alive. I am angry at the manipulation of Scripture, the subtle wording changes that tweak what is said to fit modern mindsets. I am angry that my children don’t know what they are called to and think is is wrong to strive for perfection. I am angry that I spent 40 years of my life thinking I was a good, practicing Catholic only to find I had barely touched the tip of the Rock on which our faith is built. I am angry that for years Catholics have caved to social pressure in an effort to be welcoming and modern and appealing and trendy and competitive with other denominations.
I am angry that Catholics cannot speak of the tenants of our faith without being labeled as bigoted and closed-minded. I am angry that Catholics have failed to stand for simple things like one Man-one Woman Marriages. I am angry that too few of us understand things like the call to Chastity, which is much more than just not having sex. I am angry that in the effort to promote abstinence we acquiesced to dropping the promotion of Chastity and Love and then wonder why abstinence alone programs don’t grip our children’s hearts. I am angry that we have forgotten that chastity is a mindset and a loving, sacrificial, giving act. I am angry that Catholics bit into the demand to contracept believing children are too much – too much money, too much time, too much hassle. I am angry that Catholics believe in the right to children on demand through abortion and IVF.
I am angry that in these fallings, Catholics looked the other way, accepted, and eventually embraced agendas that are easy and in contradictory to Christ’s teachings. I am angry that in each of the above examples, we have moved sex away from its pure intent – to unite as one and to give life. I am angry that too many don’t understand that divorcing sex from unity and life always results in depravity over time. I am angry that the depravity has reached this extent and too many Catholics and others will see only the sexual abuse and purposely ignore and dismiss all the missteps leading up to it.
I am angry that my whole Church is cast under the black and ominous cloud of evil caused by a small percentage of Satan’s elite.
I, like many Catholics, am angry. Faithful Catholics are probably more angry than most when it comes to the sexual abuse of our little ones by priests and bishops, but our anger is not enough. Anger does not sustain you. Anger does not feed you. Anger fills you with red hot oven-fire while starving Love out of you. From anger we must move on. We must take anger, sadness, and all the other negative emotions I could have used in place of anger in this post and use them constructively.
We must work to protect and heal victims and bring back our beloved Church.
Life isn’t about sustaining faith or love or anything that is good. Life is about building Goodness. When we don’t actively seek to build Goodness, Goodness becomes weak, badness slinks in, and evil stretches its cruel talons. We have seen that in these reports. It is time to stop being complacent. Now is the time to act.
I give my ideas for action in my next post.
What Now? – Sex, Lies, Predators, & “Fixing” the Catholic Church
Why Remain Catholic? – Sex, Lies, Predators, & “Fixing” the Catholic Church
I am Catholic, which means universal; I know the gates of Hell will not prevail even when fires burn close.
Yes, I am angry, but I am not without Hope.
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