Not everyone has heard of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on the nefarious plot to cover up sexual abuse by priests within the many diocese there. Everyone should. I won't link to it here because it is graphic and frankly, I couldn't read more than excerpts. There are many lessons to be learned here, and much to be said that is not being said. I've been mulling around many thoughts in my head since the McCarrick news hit. I've been waiting and praying - maybe writing would just add more noise. But 300+ priests. 1000+ victims/survivors.
Then yesterday. And today - so much silence overall. Late statements, weak statements, no statements. Not to mention much of the report is still redacted based on the objection of church officials to the publication of names. I have mixed feelings regarding this. If someone was cleared, their name should not be associated. Given the massive cover-up, I don't have the same sympathy for those who were not charged since the opportunity for legal action was denied, discouraged, and delayed beyond the statute of limitations. Perhaps I am wrong in this, but it is my honest opinion. You didn't ask, but here are a few more nuggets of honesty from this Catholic convert mama.
- Dear Victims/Survivors, I am sorry. Utterly disgusted and sorry that not only did you endure such abuse at the hands of those charged to be emissaries of Jesus Himself, but that you now must relive every moment and listen to posturing and positioning by the varied "sides" of this "debate." This is not a debate. This is your life. This is your pain. For many of you, this day never came as you have gone on to the next life. May Jesus comfort you and may you finally be believed and seen. I see you. I believe you. I am horrified and angry and disgusted for you.
- Dear Bishops of the US Church, stop writing letters. Please put away the pen and paper and flowery pastoral documents waxing philosophical and theological on these issues. I want to see your faces - on the media, in the parishes, with the people. I want to see your anguish and tears alongside us who are disgusted. I want to know you are horrified. I want to hear three things only: This is evil. We are sorry. We will repent and rectify.
No more defense or explanation that things are better now since Dallas (which does not apply to the bishops from my understanding!). No more. Be vocal and visible shepherds of Christ. And if you had any part in covering up these actions, resign. In the name of Jesus remove yourself from the office you hold. I don't want to hear it was complicated. A life in Christ is a challenge - where were the men more interested in protecting the vulnerable than making an easier road for themselves? Where? Where were the men of courage and honor who were interested, no, committed as Christ would be, to risk condemnation and suffering on behalf of those who were abused? Where?
- I am not tied to the institutional Church. It exists to serve the mission of Christ. Having worked in a diocesan office, I have no presumption that there is something other-worldly that happens there. There is dysfunction like anywhere else. Perhaps that has soured me to the structures that exist. Like my husband says, no one wants to see the sausage made.
- Pennsylvania is probably not an anomaly. They just conducted a state-wide grand jury investigation. Think on that. Then reflect on the silence you hear.
- Bishops (again) - if there are other secret files that still exist, bring them to light yourselves. Clean the house. Air the laundry. Do it in the name of Jesus so as not to cause another to stumble. That's your job. This isn't Animal House - there is no double secret probation. No more silence. No more protection.
- Despite the vile abuse at the hands of priests and bishops over those 70 years, there are many many many holy and honorable men who serve as priests, and some as bishops. Imagine for a moment their heartbreak and anguish at this betrayal. We as a community of the faithful need to be more vigilant in not only praying for our priests, but providing and creating healthy communities for them so they do not fall prey to despair and isolation.
- No, I do not think this means priests need to be married. Reference Willow Creek, the Southern Baptists, the Dr. Nassar horror, etc. What kind of misogyny says that a wife's role is to curb her husband's sexual appetite so he won't harm the vulnerable? Preying on a vulnerable population is a horrid sickness - it requires treatment, not marriage. Healthy people do not prey on people. Sexual abuse is about power, not sex. Sex is the means. This is about controlling our appetites - be it for power, sex, money, or prestige.
- I have seen the agendas of men of the cloth play out to the detriment of their "brothers." Call it out. Many good, holy priests live in fear of being the victim of false accusations and then being fed to the lions. It happens. There must be prudence and our bishops must seek to protect the dignity of all those in their care - ordained and laypeople alike. Protecting their innate dignity AND eternal soul includes restoring fully a reputation sullied by false charges AND admitting fully and with grave concern (and no excuse) the guilt of those who have violated another.
- Purification of the church has been an ongoing discussion for numerous years. It will come, but not in the way many "righteous" have sought after it.
- The same polarity that exists in our political discourse exists in the church. It is sadly seeming to be an all or nothing from both "sides." Why are there even sides?? While over the last day it has lessened, the initial responses were ALL clericalism versus ALL sexual depravity. We are a church of both/and on just about everything. Here too. There can be no scapegoats - it isn't the women, the homosexuals, the [enter group to blame here]. The depravity existed in seeking out and passing around vulnerable victims to feed disgusting appetites. The clericalism kept it quiet for fear of losing power, looking bad, believing horrible things about a brother, or rocking the boat. Again - the abuse happened and it was evil. Where were the men who were willing to risk themselves to make sure it never happened again? I know they were "different times," but the Gospel wasn't different. Jesus is on the side of the least. Always.
- I still love my faith. It may baffle people, but I do. I love my Church. It is MY church - I joined it as an adult and it is mine. It is where Jesus has called me. It is where I find Him. The offenders will not steal our church. The offenders will not steal our faith. The offenders will not steal our future. This is our moment to stand against the darkness and evil that has been uncovered. This is our moment to demand, "NO MORE - in Jesus's name, no more." This is our moment to fight to restore and repent and cleanse and make a home for all to find Jesus again. As I wrote a friend earlier today, if that isn't your mission, then don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya. YOU leave. I'm digging in and getting my hands dirty. Let's get to it.
These are the pinball machine thoughts rattling around my head. Where to go from here? Be vocal. Demand action. Pray, repent, and fast. Listen to those who are telling their stories. They are horrific, but important to understand.
God is merciful, but He is also just. I rely on the hope of His justice today.
Until next time, let's try to do better loving like Jesus okay?