Much has been written and continues to be written about the most recent sexual abuse bombshells in the Catholic Church. I keep putting off writing a blog post about it, hoping that I can calm down and write something thoughtful, not simply rant from a place of deep anger.
WARNING. I am not even attempting a balanced commentary. Is there a dialogue to be had? Can you defend the indefensible?
The first bombshell was Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s long history of sexual misconduct and abuse of diocesan seminarians. A shock to most, but apparently not to many seminarians, priests and bishops who knew McCarrick.
The second was the grand jury report from Pennyslvania, based on internal documents from six dioceses, which concluded that over 300 predator priests had abused more than 1,000 child victims.
This past weekend, the abuse crisis took centre stage at the World Meeting of Families in Dublin, as it should have. The church cannot and should not preach about the beauty and gift of family life without acknowledging the horrific violence perpetrated on her children by ministers of the church.
Without acknowledging the damage it has done to each and every life affected by clerical/church abuse.
Without acknowledging the loss of moral and spiritual credibility of its leadership. A leadership who has self-righteously instilled fear and guilt into women and men for centuries for not living up to its sexual teachings – teachings that tried to control our right to freedom over our fertility, freedom to choose whom we love, how we love them, and whom we marry.
YES, we the People of God are angry and disgusted. WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH!
YES, something has to be done. NOW.
NO, that “something” isn’t for us to join priests and bishops in prayerful fasting and penance. WE ARE NOT THE PERPERTRATORS.
NO, this is not the time to finally open leadership in the church to the laity. We have been denied a voice and active role in all other decision making. Victims and their supporters have been speaking truth to power for decades about clerical sexual abuse, only to be ignored or silenced. THIS IS YOUR MESS. OWN IT. FIX IT.
NO, this is not a gay problem. It is AN ABUSE OF POWER PROBLEM.
YES, the root of all this evil is clericalism with it’s elitist, self-promoting and self-protecting culture of princely titles and princely garb; YOUR HOLINESS, YOUR EMMINENCE, YOUR EXCELLENCY, YOUR VERY REVEREND FATHER.
YES, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Pennsylvania is only one state in America. America is only one country. THIS IS A GLOBAL PROBLEM FOR THE CHURCH.
YES, sexual abuse is a crime. YES, those who help to cover up sexual abuse are guilty of aiding and abetting a crime. THE ABUSE AND THE COVER-UP ARE BOTH CRIMES.
These crimes must be punished. NOT with canonical slaps on the wrists. NOT by whisking away the perpetrators to safe houses or monasteries to hide them from public scrutiny. THESE CRIMES MUST BE PROSECUTED IN SECULAR COURTS OF LAW.
For those of us yearning for a new church, we have often talked about the need for the current structures to implode in order for real change to happen. The gospels are filled with images of pruning, dying and rising to new life. The coming months, years, decades will be a time of pruning and dying. We will not see new life overnight, but it will come. It must come.
For some, the current crisis will be the final straw that pushes them out of the church doors forever, if they haven’t left already. Others will stay and fight the good battle for the church they love. And, fight they must. Silence and turning a blind eye enables evil to continue.
The mighty are falling from their thrones. And, fall they must.
9 thoughts on “thoughts on an imploding church”
Yes, the Church as Institution must undergo radical change. It has been modeled on the Roman Empire since the time of Constantine in 313 AD.
Though the Roman Empire imploded, the Institution of the Church has filled the vacuum ever since. The model of Empire has been sustained by the privileged clerical structure, which has held vulnerable believers hostage with their claims of control of God’s presence both in the sacraments and in the afterlife, not to mention treating the faithful as children.
I feel very sorry for Pope Francis who must come to terms with over 1700 years of gross misuse of power. He is unlikely to get much cooperation from those who hold tightly to their privileged status.
I also feel sorry for all innocent and hard working ministers of the Gospels who are in the impact area, through no fault of their own.
I share your sorrow, Jerry….for Pope Francis and all faithful ministers, servant leaders who live their vocation with integrity. This horror did not happen overnight, and it cannot be solved overnight. Pope Francis is a man of deep discernment. I pray that he will find the necessary wisdom and practical solutions that are needed.
What has happened for so long is too deeply imbedded to be *fixed* now. No bandaid can repair the putrefaction that has smoldered inside the church for centuries which I’m inclined to think would be since the time of Constantine. As a survivor of child sexual abuse in the late 1940’s I know how the problem was officially handled then and most likely has been over the ensuing decades. The criminal sexual abuse of myself, my three sisters and all the other young girls of our parish was handled thusly: My father accompanied by two other fathers who had independently questioned their daughters about this atrocity drove to Leavenworth, Kansas to inform the bishop of the atrocities being committed on their daughters with full expectation of the immediate removal of this pervert. There was no question that what any of us had reported was other than the unvarnished truth. My three sisters along with all the other young girls in our parish school had been his victims. He had been at it for years before I finally broke his law of keeping this *our little secret* and our parents learned about it. Not only did his Lordship, our esteemed bishop, refuse to help us he threatened excommunication for the three fathers and totally blamed the victims…the wicked little girls who were slandering this good man of God. That pervert priest was actually allowed to continue as pastor of our our little country parish for twelve years. He was allowed to continue practicing his perversions on the young girls with the full knowledge and tacit consent of his superior. Our bishop had blatantly not only refused to help us but had threatened all of us with excommunication if another word of this was ever reported. I am assuming that as SOP for the church wanting to avoid any hint of scandal or wrong doing on the part of the sainted clergy. The beleaguered and endangered young parishioners were mere trash while the priest was above any law of human decency. How many victims have been threatened or shamed into silence over the centuries? We likely number like the stars in the sky worldwide.
That bishop passed away and was replaced. I cannot say that the following bishop was informed but am convinced that it would not have mattered. So far as I know there had been reports of sexual abuse of little girls by this priest in his assignment prior to his twelve year assignment in our parish and later in his subsequent assignments. Surely the bishops knew and just as surely they did not give a wrap so long as no hint of scandal surfaced to mar the pristine phony image of the church and they were able to keep the faithful in line with threats of excommunication.
In my estimation the hands on sexual abuse was not nearly so devastating as the pure hell he put us thru in the confessional. As catholic school children we were forced into weekly confession. Australia is 100% right in their stand on the confessional issue. Non victims have no concept how devastating any of this is to the innocent child and to be forced to endure it year after year was inhumane. That priest and the bishop are now deceased but the scars they left still linger.
The way the church was able to keep this criminal activity under wraps for centuries was the bishops authority to threaten excommunication of those who reported abuse. I’m sure that this sickness has raged around like am insidious cancer for centuries because the bishops refused to help the children. Maybe it might have been stopped once but now the sickness and its scars are too deeply imbedded to ever be eradicated. It is simply too pervasive.
This cancer has gone to the very heart of the church of the whited sepulcher. The church needs to implode…to fall as Rome did and possibly rebuild from its ashes.
I do not believe that there is any accurate estimation of the real number of abuse victims in the US much less worldwide over the centuries. It cannot be fixed. Junk it and build anew from the ground up!
I have no words. Your story is heart-breaking. Thank you for sharing it, for it needs to be shared. How many more stories? One doesn’t want to imagine, but imagine we must for it is past the time of turning away or pretending these stories don’t exist. And, they exist both near and far.
Today your story is believed.
May God’s peace be yours,
Another Truth and Reconciliation coming, this time from USA. We in Canada is still working for healing. Enough said. Wait and see with prayerful heart.
I hear you, Perpetua. The Truth and Reconciliation commission gives an opportunity for victims to tell their stories, and be truly listened to. This is good and needed. But, it will take more for genuine healing.
We need to address the root causes of these crises. How do we eradicate racism from society? How do we eradicate the rot of clericalism from the church? There is no simple solution, but we must keep working to find a way.
You might find this topic interesting at https://www.facebook.com/thecatholicthing re: Cleansing the fire. This is my comment to it.
Mps Siglos The whole world heard but the world is far from knowing the whole truth. Here is an interesting Letter from Dr. Moynihan from Inside The Vatican “The Vigano Allegations and the Silence of Francis”
What is at stake
Determining who is telling the truth matters, and determining what that truth is matters, because the present intolerable confusion is destroying the Church.
Read the rest here:
Thank you Isabella, you know how upset I am about all of this. You as always, have written so eloquently and honestly what my heart cannot express.
It was interesting in prayer this morning I began to think of our Marianists founders and what their world, both spiritual and political, was like before, during and after the revolt of the people. I also thought about Mary and how all she had believed in and hoped for through her son laid now in raw uncertainty and confusion . The parallels to me were striking and in some small way gave me hope. In both cases, the future was born and carried by the people . I hope this generation, myself included, has the courage and fight of our fore-bearers.
Thanks for your friendship and wisdom and gritty honesty.
Thank YOU, Joanne for the kind words. It’s a difficult time for sure, especially for the faith-filled, hard working woman and men who have given their lives for the church in big ways and small. It’s hard not to feel disillusioned and angry. I’m hoping that we direct this anger to effective actions–actions of reform and rebuilding, for both will be needed.
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