Front Page News (CCR)

The Catholic Church scandal reaches farther into the heart and spirit of the members prompting some to leave and many to question. There are those who can continue to attend Mass, receive Communion and pray that the church survives. Others, who consider themselves the ‘faithful’ placing the church above all else, remain in the pews, steadfast and vocal about the motives of those who seek justice for the abused.

Much has been said and written about bias against the Catholic Church, noting abuse in other organizations and decrying the unfair publicity heaped on the church. In the past, I have written about the church’s claim to be “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” the direct voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through the Pope. The church set the higher standard to which it is held.

The Kansas City Star newspaper of Thursday, January 26, 2012 appears to convey a message far different than bias against the Church in matters of child sexual abuse.

Page one carries the detailed story of a local teacher accused of abusing young boys. The accused is shown leaving police headquarters, shackled and tearful. Details of the crime and details of the man’s life are given in the story.

Page A7 pales in terms of transparency and detail. Bishop Robert Finn has placed a priest on administrative leave, the first priest to be suspended since the position of ombudsman was created. The duty of the ombudsman is to receive and investigate reports of inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct by the clergy.

It would be difficult to see the depth and position of these two stories as reflecting bias against the church. Both accused men are innocent until proven guilty but the civil authorities came to one situation quickly and openly. Not so, the other.

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Survivors Defined CCR

As I see it Bishop Robert Finn needs clarification concerning the meaning of ‘surviving abuse”. A survivor, by definition, lives on; sometimes leading what appears as normal life. Young children abused as a seminal point do grow up, become educated, raise a family and often maintain ties to the church that protected and harbored the abuser.

That normal is a facade. The abused child does survive but normal becomes impossible. Trust is destroyed. The world can never again be safe. The abused child can never be whole, is always less-than, looses the ability to be secure in any moment of life. Memory is damaged because the breached trust requires constant vigilance even in the most mundane circumstances. Huge chunks of what should have been happy childhood memories are compromised. Friendships never reach the depth of strength because darkness and pain lurk just below the surface. Ever vigilant, the survivor cannot believe, cannot trust, cannot be whole.

If the abused child of generations ago did speak up, did try to get help from parents or from another priest the overwhelming odds are that the child was not believed, or, worse the child was blamed. “What did you do to entice Fr. So&So to do what you are lying about?” The breach widens. The child slips farther into becoming less-than, soiled, guilty.

In later years, some who have suffered abuse through the immense power of the Catholic Church may test the strength of family relationships. The abused child grown to damaged adult speaks through voice or pen, testing tenuous attempts to believe that family relationships will be loving and suportive. The result can be disastrous to the spirit; shunning, distancing, disbelief and even disgust that the abused has not been able to get-over-it. Clarity is absolute now. The institution that sanctioned and protected abusers is more important than the abused.

I have spent most of my 70 plus years as a member of the Catholic Church, passionate and devoted for much of that time. I believed in the person of Jesus and the message of the teachings attributed to him. True, I have struggled with the secondary position of women in the church and was not pacified by token of lector and server. My life experience taught that the nuns, teachers and nurses, did the real work of Jesus.

The Catholic Church is not alone in gross mishandling of abuse, using the funds of the faithful to defend the indefensible. Other institutions are guilty.

Does mutual guilt exonerate? Does diminished responsibility follow wholesale abuse of power? Speaking out for the victims, demanding an accounting of perpetrators and those who protected the perpetrators in not a condemnation of any good accomplished by organized religion.

Rather, the demand for accountability and justice is an acclamation in the belief of what Jesus is said to represent. The demand for accountability and justice is the only way to restore a belief that the Catholic church lives the message of Jesus and is a belief system organized in honor of that message.