This may be a repost. If it is it’s because I don’t know how to use the Blog system. My apologies.
Summary: “And I have confidence that this true, genuine contrition will happen. ‘But, Matt, silly Matt, how can you have confidence in such a seemingly unattainable goal? Your life is a classic demonstration that you don’t have anything near the faith of a mustard seed, if you have any faith at all! Don’t you know that’s what it takes to move mountains? Silly Matt.’ Well, as it turns out, I’m glad you asked. My faith may be weak, but I know the collective of our faiths is enough to move the mountain that is the hierarchy of our Church.”
Body: So, have I gone from abused to joy? Have I transitioned from survivor to thriver? Does thriving mean that I’ve reached the end of my journey? Just writing that cracks me up. No. Instead, it’s my experience that it’s like passing through a cave that opens into an entirely new cavern, just beckoning to be explored. That’s what I see anyway. Regardless, recently I’ve had some serious challenges to this new outlook on life that I’m currently experiencing.
No story would be worth reading that wasn’t without irony. Right?
Now, it’s a much darker place. Way off in the distance there’s a faint, just barely audible train horn heading for me. But wait, how can this be? Well, believe you me, it’s got me scratching my head, too. Let me try to use an analogy:
Imagine you wake up and find yourself completely tied up on, and to, a railroad track. You know that train is coming, but you just don’t know when. Thanks to Covid, it’s running behind schedule. But then you can hear it’s getting louder and it’s picking up steam, as they used to say. Mr. Bill, from Saturday Night Live, might say something like, ‘Oh no! Don’t run me over with that train! What are we going to do?’
But the train is’a comin’. The whistle is’a blowing, getting louder the closer it gets. The tracks are starting to shake. What can one do? What choices does one have? I mean, really? A spiritual person might say, ‘Pray, boy, pray!’ And I agree. That’s a most reasonable thing to do. I’ve heard it said that, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” Can’t say I’ve ever been in a foxhole, so who am I to question that?
What I can tell you is this: While prayer is wonderful, and I firmly believe it has its place, I’ve also heard it said ‘pray with your hands and feet.’ Can’t say I don’t practice the first, but it’s the second one that intrigues me the most.
I’m reminded of a joke that goes something like this: a big flood comes and leaves a man stranded on his roof. He’s praying to God to save him. After several hours, a piece of debris floats by and he declines to use it as a raft; fully confident his god will save him. The water rises.
A rescue team comes by in a boat and, again, he declines, telling the crew, ‘my god will save me.’ The water rises.
Finally, a rescue helicopter comes by and, yes, you guessed it, he declines again, yelling up to the crew, ‘my god will save me.’ The water rises and you know what happens next.
Upon reaching the pearly gates of heaven, Peter grants him an audience with God. The man queries, ‘God, why didn’t You save me?’ God, trying not to chuckle says, ‘I sent you a float, I sent you a boat, I even dropped you a rescue line from the sky. What more could I have done for you?’
I can also tell you this. From the day I was born until I was old enough to leave home, no amount of prayer saved me from the hell of abuse that I went through; along with my siblings and Mom. All those years I blamed myself for not even having anything close to the faith of a mustard seed. I had failed not just me, but my entire family. My sister worst of all. I must’ve had NO faith. Zero, zip, zilch. But some might say, ‘Yeah, but look, you all made it through’. And I used to buy into that. The fact that we, I, lived another day, meant that our prayers were being answered. Right? Sure. And I believed that until…
Until my faith was challenged again when I was abused by the priest. Whoa! Who is this god that I’ve been praying to that, now, his own minister, his right-hand man, if you will, has sexually molested me? Who is this god? Some might say, and I certainly did to myself, ‘Well, you just didn’t have enough faith.’ Regardless, and I must say now, looking back, it’s amazing that I passed through that with any faith at all. But I was still alive, and it was still there. So, again, some might say, ‘See, Matt, that’s proof your prayers were answered.’ And I used to buy into that until…
Until I realized that I wasn’t the only one. Though the number of boys that my priest molested is a number unknown, it is FACT that I wasn’t his first, nor his last. Before I was molested, the Church sent him to ‘predator priest child molester rehab’. Yay for me, right?
Then after he molested me, he was moved to an even larger all boys school (my fault because I kept silent) where he had access to who knows how many boys. And he feasted in the fertile soil of the faithful. That’s on me. I get it. I know I’m not supposed to blame myself for any of this. I know this. But the reality of it is, the cries of those boys echo in my head, “Matt, you could’ve saved us.’ It makes me sad…
As my healing journey continued, I learned that the scale of the sexual abuse by clergy was friggen HUGE! This was in fact a global problem. It wasn’t just me. Yea, so what, we all know this right? This is not news, or it’s old news at best. You’re right. It’s not news. But the thing that really gets my goat is this; what about all the prayers of the boys that weren’t answered? Where was their God? The boys that didn’t make it, I mean. The boys that didn’t live through it. Not every victim lives to survive. Not every survivor dies a natural death, but instead succumbs to the unbearable pain trying to overcome the effects of the trauma. So, my prayers were answered because I’m alive? My faith was stronger than theirs ‘cause they’re dead? no! No!! NO!!! Prayer and faith have nothing to do with it!!!
And what about the survivors that are still alive, today? The ones that are still trying to overcome the effects of their trauma. The ones whose lives may not end in a natural death. What about them?
For all the teachings in the Bible, it boils down to understanding 10 commandments; really only 2, if you ask Jesus. That’s a lot of words to only have 10/2 commandments. They must be important. For all the teachings of the Church, there’s only 7 sacraments that cover the entire spectrum of life. That’s a lot of teachings to have only 7 sacraments. They must be important. One of the sacraments of the Church is Reconciliation. Reconciliation is empty without contrition. And contrition is empty without reparations.
I’m not saying I don’t appreciate prayer. I’m just asking you to also consider the possibility, as my saint would say, consider the possibility of praying with your hands and feet. ‘But what do you mean, Matt? How can we pray with our hands and our feet?’ I’m glad you asked. Take action to ensure that survivors of religious sexual abuse are taken care of, the damage caused them is repaired, that their recovery needs are met. Even enemy of war prisoners are treated humanely; their needs are met, their wounds are healed. Insist on it. Demand it. And when it doesn’t happen, pull your financial support just as corporations do when their sponsee receives incredibly damaging press. Why do corporate sponsors do this? To show they do not condone the immoral behavior, to take a stand against it, to discourage it from happening in the future, to demand change.
‘But, Matt, that’s too much to ask. We need our god, we need our community, we need to belong.’ To those who say that, there is an easier path. I would suggest go to Mass and pray. Have a special Mass said for the victims (past tense) and the survivors (present tense). [Henceforth, victim and survivor may be used, more or less, interchangeably]. That makes everything better. Right? Now, just like Pilot, you’ve ‘washed your hands of the blood of the just’; the victims, the survivors. Apparently. Is that not just a justification for being complacent?
Are you scared of the consequences of praying with your hands and feet? People keep telling me I just need to put my trust in Jesus. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that! Well, I challenge you to put your trust in Jesus. In His own words, in the Gospel of Matthew, He says that ‘even the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.’ That is, the Church that Jesus established. What this means to me is, that by parishioners taking a stand, they will force the true Church to do what is right because it is Jesus’ will. Jesus assures us His Church will stand forever. That is, if you believe that there is a true Church. If not, you’re worshiping a false god.
Whenever a story hits the news, the Bishop puts out a letter and makes the parish priests read it. The Bishop says, ‘Yes, this is horrendous, but never fear, Super Bishop is here to save the day. It will never happen again. We’ll say a Mass for the victims and all is well.’ Yay for the victims. Right? While the survivors are left; shivering in the cold, soaking wet from the rain, unable to escape, because they are maimed from being run over by the Church bus.
And then the parish priest reads Super Bishop’s letter, and of course, the priest has to add his own two cents to amplify what Super Bishop said. The priest reassures the congregation that this is all under control, it’s not going to happen at this parish. Thank you, Mighty Priest. And of course, the willing congregation, not wanting to even hear about it in the first place, much less discuss it, all feel so relieved that the problem is solved; it’s all in the past. Right? The Church says a prayer and a Mass and all is well. Right? Let me ask you this: where are the hands and feet in that prayer, while the survivors are left; shivering in the cold, soaking wet from the rain, unable to escape, because they are maimed from being run over by the Church bus?
Let me also ask you this: Where do you think your money is going? Aren’t you sponsoring the Church? Why do you continue to pour your money into an institution that fights tooth and nail to provide equitable reparations for the damage caused to victims and survivors? Meanwhile, lawyers’ pockets are padded nicely on both ‘sides’. I find it disgusting.
In AA I’ve heard it said that a sign of insanity is doing the same old thing expecting different results. Well, what does that say about me? I’m insane? The inner child in me says, ‘Matt, you’re insane! Own up to it!’ But, thanks to my friend Mark, my parent steps in and says, ‘matt, Matt, MATT!!! Listen to me, Matt! This inner child is being very, very naughty and is throwing a serious temper tantrum. Listen to me, Matt. Look at me, Matt. Focus on me, Matt, and let the inner child throw his tantrum. He’ll get over it.’ Tick tock, tick tock. I know I’m not insane. Or am I? Is it any wonder I have any sanity at all given what I’ve gone through? Am I off base? I just don’t know.
So, what does this have to do with the guy tied up, laying across a railroad track? “Great question, Matt! Tells us, we’re dying to know.” Well, turns out, I’m really glad you asked. But this time I want to turn the question back to you:
What does he do? What are his choices? When it boils right down to it, what can he do?
Here’s the question that intrigues me: So, the guy on the tracks … can he not be experiencing joy even knowing that he is helpless to get out of the encroaching engine? Did all he lived for, and everything he learned through the process, be in vain? Of course not. When it boils right down to it, it’s from dust we come and to dust we return. We have no control over that. And there’s much we don’t have control over during the time in between dust to dust. But the Church teaches that every life is worth saving. Can we trust the Church and its teachings? Does the Church practice what it preaches? Why should we?
When I was a child, I thought like a child. I had no choice to be abused. It was not my fault. But now I am grown up and I do have choices.
My back’s against the wall. I’m scared. Perhaps, that train is the Mercy Express sent by my god. Perhaps, this is what it feels like to escape the grips of despair’s black hole event horizon. Perhaps, just perhaps, I’ve gone from abused to joy. I can hope. Right?
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Church needs to do more for survivors, and yes, I have ideas on what a good start would look like. Someone just a few minutes ago, after reading an earlier version of this post, suggested that my solution is that ‘I need to put my trust in Jesus. He’s the answer.’ Okay, I’ll do that. I’ll trust Jesus.
I trust that Jesus will be my salvation by instituting reform within His Church. I trust Jesus that His Church will truly repent, be contrite, and make equitable reparations for the damage it’s caused, especially to survivors. That the Church will demonstrate to the world that the Church is the Church it professes to be; the one established by Jesus. Otherwise, what do the 10 commandments mean; the one’s Jesus boiled down to 2? Otherwise, why would anyone want to belong to such an institution? You’re not alone. That’s a question I still struggle to answer to myself as well. Am I being true to Jesus and thus myself? Am I being true to the one, true God or am I living a life of charades only to appease myself?
And I have confidence that this true, genuine contrition will happen; because I still believe Jesus meant what He said when He appointed Peter the head of His earthly Church; I believe in apostolic succession; therefore, I believe our Pope may as well have been handpicked by Jesus Himself. I think He meant what He said; that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. ‘But, Matt, silly Matt, how can you have confidence in such a seemingly unattainable goal? Your life is a classic demonstration that you don’t have anything near the faith of a mustard seed, if you have any faith at all! Don’t you know that’s what it takes to move mountains?’ Well, as it turns out, I’m glad you asked. My faith may be weak, but I know the collective of all our faiths is enough to move the mountain that is the hierarchy of our Church.
Because if it doesn’t? Jesus assures us in the Gospel of Mark, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe [in me] to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” The Catholic Church will be sealing its own fate; thus demonstrating to the world that the Catholic Church is NOT the Church that Jesus established on this earth. And by ‘these little ones’, Jesus is referring to the entire body of the Church that would’ve been misled by the church for, the least of reasons is, complacency. The Church will be up for grabs and there are plenty of suitors.
I’m proud to be catholic; that is, I’m proud to belong to the Universal Church. I pray the Pope demonstrates, so that all the world will believe (part of Jesus’ prayer in the Gospel of John), that the Catholic Church is also catholic. That’s where my faith is. So, for you doubting Thomas’, my faith is in Jesus and I haven’t even put my fingers in His wounds. I hope we have the same God, me and my Church (the one I belong to). But if not, I will choose to follow Jesus, alone; wondering in the desert without an earthly spiritual home for the remainder of my life. Either way, that brings me joy.
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
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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!