Monday, April 2, 2012

I Believe the Victims

While writing this blog entry - and I have been writing it for over a week now - I have been struggling.   I don’t like beating a dead horse and as readers of my blog, you know my struggle with the Catholic Church. I don’t like to make people uncomfortable. But, more than that, I hate seeing people in pain.  The Church sex abuse trial has started in Philadelphia and I have been in contact with survivors of sexual abuse by clergy.  Their stories are unbearable.  These survivors have lived through the most damaging and heart-wrenchingly, disturbing experiences imaginable.  All by priests whom they and their families loved and looked up to. These same priests continued to harm countless numbers of children. Even after they were caught by their superiors, who sent them for “treatment” and then assigned them to another unsuspecting parish.  The survivors are extremely strong individuals.  One man was abused when he was only 10 years old.  I think of the 10 year olds I know and shudder.  His abuse was not “alleged”  his abuse was documented and admitted to, by the priest/perpetrator. The Church decided to listen the victim only after the threat of going public.  That seems to be the only thing that makes the Church do anything; Money and Fear of Scandal.   A man who is now 35 struggles daily, sometimes hourly.  A wife of a survivor said that she and her husband go to support group meetings and sit in a roomful of survivors who will never tell anyone, except for in the safety of that group, about what happened to them.  They don’t want revenge or retribution.  They want to heal, move on and make sure no other child suffers the way they did. They all want one thing, to be believed.  
The trial of Monsignor Lynn and Fr. Brennan started on Monday, March 26th.  Days before this trial, the former “Father” Avery, pleaded guilty to raping a 10 year old in the sacristy and conspiring with Msgr. Lynn to hide his crimes.  This did not happen in the 60s, or the 70s, or the 80s, it happened in 1999.  It happened in a parish that Avery was moved to, by Lynn, after 17 years of previous accusations by victims.  Having read Grand Jury reports, this is the status quo when Msgr Lynn was approached by a scared and defeated victim.  There were so many that approached him NOT looking for money but only that the perpetrator would not hurt other children.  Some victims, after being so horribly violated by the Church, trying to maintain their faith, turned to Msgr Lynn to make it right.  Not with money or settlements or public humiliation, but just to make sure another innocent child was not victimized by those monsters.  He did nothing, or at the most, he did the very minimum.  He only did what was necessary to avoid scandal.   He is not alone in this.  There were many others above and below him that knew and did nothing, Cardinal Bevilaqua being one, Cardinal Rigalli being another. Both documented, some in their own writing, of the knowledge they had of the pedophile priests. The infamous list that was made up, by Msgr. Lynn of the 35 active priests who ADMITTED to sexually abusing children also noted, next to each name, whether the accuser could still sue!   Avoiding scandal is the common theme in the trial.  They did not care about the victims, they only cared about the scandal it would cause to the Church.  
I know it seems that I have a real bone to pick with the Church.  I know some readers will see these posts about their beloved Church and be angry, insist that I am stirring the pot and agitating the faithful.  Please know, that although I am angry at our Church and the way it has mishandled the perpetrators and victims, I am also hopeful that this will bring about major changes.  Changes that will allow many to come back into the fold of the Church community.  I am happy to see that 5 priests came forward to testify for the prosecution.  I am hopeful more good priests will be strong enough to stand up and say “No More!” I still have faith in that.  
The fact that many Church faithful turn a blind eye and don’t want to hear about the horrible things these monsters did to children and how these monsters were protected, is frustrating but understandable.  To believe these things about the people they hold in such high regard is, for some, quite impossible.  These victims are real, they are not only people that were abused in the distant past, each decade there are more victims. There are children being abused by priests right now.  Victims of childhood sexual abuse can take anywhere from 10 - 30 years to have the strength to admit they were abused.  The statistics go up for victims of clergy, teachers or pillars of the community.  So it may take them 20 - 40 years to report they were abused.  By this time the statue of limitations has run out and there is no chance for justice.  The other problem is, in that time, the amount of victims that have suffered is insurmountable.  The statistics also say that 88% of those abused will say nothing.... ever.  They remain silent and hidden under their shame.  Often they hide it with addictions.  Sometimes their brains protect them by developing mental disorders and disease.  Some take their own lives not knowing how to face it.  I guess my mission with these Church posts is to say that we are all damaged and hurt by these cases of the raping and sexual abuse of children.  Whether they be by priests or coaches or relatives.  We must believe the victims.  We must stand up for them, no matter how difficult or painful or uncomfortable.  The generation of keeping quite and pretending it does not happen has to give way to the generation of instant information and social networking.  This Church hierarchy can not remain so secretive and shrouded in mystery for much longer. 
The light of the truth has to shine bright on the hypocrisy.  The fact remains that the leaders of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for AT LEAST, the last 50 years have known of the predator priests in their midst.   They made the decision and concerted effort to protect their “brother priests” and ignore the cries of children.  Maybe it has to do with not having children of their own?  Maybe they hold children with the same disdain that they hold women?  Maybe they have no backbone to stand up for the innocent against the hierarchy? Any excuse is unacceptable.  Maybe we should hold these men accountable for their actions and start questioning EVERYTHING that they “teach” as moral?  How can a man who turned a blind eye to the depravity and pedophilia of his “brother priest”  tell me that I have sinned by missing Mass, let alone provide absolution to that sin?


Bethany said...

Oh, Michelle, you've done it again. So well written. You are an asset to the Catholic church because you still care so much. If more believers would speak up bravely like you have, maybe it could affect some changes for the better. Changes that could sustain the Catholic church, which continues to lose good people. Until then, my Sunday mornings are spent at home spending quality moments with my family. As opposed to sitting in a pew, hushing my four young sons, listening to an unmarried man wearing a dress preaching to us that our dear friends, who happen to be gay, will never enjoy the marvels of heaven because they've dared to find love with someone of the same sex. No thanks, call me a heathen, but I'll gladly pass.

Momma O said...

Thanks Bethany. I do care, but mostly because I believe in the message, not the church. No matter if people believe Jesus was the Son of God, or a wise prophet or just a man. His message is the same as the basis of all great healers: Love, stand up for the oppressed, and do unto others. You seem to teach your boys that every day....Heathen you are not! I can't believe that kind of crazy either. And if we are heathens I am proud of it!

Becky said...

Bethany is right, we need more Catholics like you.