Caveat: It is my intent that this blog be for everyone but I recognize that not everyone believes the same thing. I happen to be a Christian and will reference my beliefs when appropriate. If you do not believe as I do that is fine. Please be gracious and simply disregard the parts that don’t apply to you. Regardless, I’m not looking for arguments on my beliefs or interpretation thereof. Please feel free to comment sincerely, but don’t expect an argument.
Archbishop Coleridge said “In sexual abuse, the powerful lay hands on the Lord’s… weakest and most vulnerable.” I see two points being made by the Archbishop: in this context, priests are powerful, and his victims are the weakest and most vulnerable.
“The Powerful”: For some who read this it might be understood why priests are powerful but I’m not going to assume that. Let’s look at what scripture tells us. Hebrews 3:1 identifies Jesus as the High Priest. And we know, especially from the Gospels, that Jesus appointed 12 disciples to become Apostles after the Resurrection; Judas having been replaced by Matthias as was the tradition in that day (see Acts 1:20-26). We also recognize that the Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus appointed Peter as the first leader of His Church. We also know that, through Apostolic Succession, we have our priests. So, as Christians we recognize that priests are ordained by Christ and that their calling is uniquely different from all others in as much as they are called to serve the Church in special ways by saying the Mass and administering the Sacraments to put it succinctly. They are the leaders of the flock. This puts them in a position of authority where it is never, never, never okay for a priest to have anything to do sexually with any other person, and the priest is always, always, always 100% responsible if he abuses this power (see note 1 below). That’s it in a nut shell. This topic, as many others I bring up before and later, could be expounded upon in great length, but I’m not sure it’s appropriate for a blog.
“The Weakest and Most Vulnerable”: That’s not how I saw myself at the time; one of the weakest and most vulnerable, but I understand now. Let’s explore who the weakest and most vulnerable are. To put it simply: the weakest and the most vulnerable are those individuals who are unable to defend themselves against inappropriate behavior. But there are many reasons that would make one person more vulnerable than another. This is a whole topic on it’s own, but for this blog, at this time, I just want you to put some though into it. A person may be physically or mentally handicapped in such a way that puts them at risk of being abused. A persons past experiences can also put them at risk. It’s well documented that early abuses often pave the way for future abuses to occur.
Not too long ago I posted a new section to the main menu that is titled “Library“. The “Library” section is intended to list professional references that are relevant to the subject of this blog. There you will find a number of references to material written by Jim Hopper, Ph.D., Clinical psychologist and independent consultant, Teaching Associate in Psychology, Harvard Medical School, and nationally recognized expert on psychological trauma. I recommend visiting his website. He has much to say on this topic in general, and even talks about factors that predispose a person to future abuses.
Guilt and shame often follow victims, especially sexual abuse, at the hands of others. There are unavoidable consequences to that. And it’s not that victims want to feel guilt or shame, they can’t help it. Many victims blame themselves for the abuse and they feel dirty, that something is wrong with them that it happened. Well, at least that’s my experience.
I find it disgusting, repulsive what a man of God, a man appointed by Christ, did to me. Though intellectual I know that I am not to blame, I do still blame myself. In my mind a part of me thinks that others blame me, too, at least some. And the shame? Well, there’s just no escaping the shame. But I reckon the thing that bothers me the most is not what happened to me, but rather it’s the things that I do because of that inescapable shame. The anger issues, the trust issues, the ruined relationships, etc. etc. etc. Yes, I’m the one who is responsible for my actions. But my actions are too often driven by unrelenting shame.
Shame, shame, shame on me. Shame on me for not thinking my way out of the shame. Shame on me for not just making a decision to not feel the shame. Shame on me for being angry and having shameful anger outbursts. Shame on me for not being more spiritual. Shame on me for not simply turning it over to Jesus one more time. Shame on me for having such a shameful blog. Shame, shame, shame on me … for being me.
As victim/survivors it’s important to recognize that shame is an issue that we deal with. It may be that we carry that shame forever. However, with some work, to at least quieten those thoughts and improve our quality of life.
Note 1: There are some priests who are already married when they are ordained. Obviously they are an exception to this rule but only to the extent that they are expected to be faithful to their wife. In other words, if they have sex with anyone outside of their marriage, their unfaithfulness is more grievous because they would not just be committing adultery but more so because they are a priest would also be abusing their power/authority in an especially heinous way.
Pope Francis, I appeal you to meet the needs of survivors of clergy sexual abuse by making reparations commensurate with the damage, emotional or otherwise, caused to survivors. I have ideas on how to do this. If you can’t do this, then I respectfully ask, on behalf of the Church, you to stop receiving communion until such time that the Church does. Because until the Church does, it will not be in communion with the saints. Sincere contrition is meaningless without reparations in kind. Demonstrate to the world that the Catholic Church is catholic; that is, the Church Jesus established with Peter as the rock, the first pope; that the Church practices what it preaches.
Thanks for reading.
Wishing you much love and peace,
“Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” ― Mother Teresa
Consider sharing this blog with others. Victim/survivors of abuses, more often than not, carry this burden silently alone, not knowing how to deal with it or where to turn, but need hope. Loved ones and caregivers also need support. We never know who is or wants to reach out for help. This blog might be of help to caregivers and loved ones of abuse. Silence is deadly and if together we are able to help or save just one life, isn’t that worth it?
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It has been great to meet and talk with you Matt… I look forward to reading long or short versions of any topic, story, thoughts or emotions you touch on.. I hope they help other survivors in their healing journey.. I know talking about it helps me.. be well !
The other day I shared a story on FB about losing two teeth in an accident, and someone said everything isn’t everyone’s business. I said, it was a burden and shame I was holding onto and I no longer wanted to carry it. God told me to turn over my burdens and turn them into … Continue reading Tamirra H.
In reaching out to others, you are Christ’s hands. It takes courage and broad shoulders. I will continue to pray that the Holy Spirit guide those open hands into a thriving ministry…Don’t let yourself fail prey to discouragement. It may be your calling. God bless you!