21 March 2011

Outside Reading for Class

I am auditing a class on Trauma at my workplace, Dallas Seminary. I decided that I would tailor the outside reading to things that I'm most interested in.

I remember the opening class. I was dressed in my clergy shirt. One of the videos highlighted grown men that had been abused by Catholic Priests while very young men. I really wanted to rip that collar off of my neck! The video covered various types of trauma, but every time one of these clergy abuse victims came onto the screen I just wanted to slink away. In case you don't know, that collar is all too uncommon at this protestant evangelical school. In case you also don't know, clergy abuse victims cannot bring themselves to come forward for a very long time--but when they do so it must be validated. They must be afforded the healing they deserve. Clergy abuse victims know that most people won't believe them--even worse, Church folk will blame them for it or silence them for lying about their beloved 'leader'. Talk about kicking someone while they are down, aka re-victimizing the victim.

I knew then what I'd spend time reading. Rocco Palmo has been covering the abuse from within the Catholic fold for years. Recently the terror was announced to his own Archdiocese, Philadelphia. Some of his latest posts have evidenced his pain. His Church has brought shame. Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, recently pronounced, "This is nauseating...hideous...must continue to haunt us".

Yep, yep, and yep.

At Rocco's blog, Whispers in the Loggia, I have found the Grand Jury reports. They are graphic, hideous, nauseating, and will continue to haunt me. Do not follow his links if you are not fully prepared for super-graphic language.

If anything ever happens to you while under the care of a Church leader...Report it, re-report it, call the police, call 911.
Bring the cowards to justice.
The Church does not want to be led by duplicitous, scandalous, heinous, sacrilegious ... FOOLS!

I hate to report it, but the new norms of the Catholic Church will be used to bring many Priests under scrutiny unfairly. This good tool will fall into the hands of those who do not have a genuine complaint--they are not victims, but anti-religious predators.

In short, this is a huge mess.

Possibly it is the fulfillment of the diabolical vision of Pope Leo XIII a century ago.

I have also taken to reading a couple of other sites that report on clergy abuse. Here is one that came to my feeder today. I wish this were not so prevalent. Abuse is not limited to the Catholic clergy. Some feel that clerical celibacy is the heart and source of their predation. Not so...not at all. Married men in ministry are just as likely to abuse as celibate clergy.
  • I remember

    Trish lived down the hall from me when I was 19 years old and in the dorm at the University of North Texas. She was a dear friend, but though we kept in touch for several years after college, we eventually lost track of one another. I hadn’t heard from Trish for about 30 years when, out of the blue, I got this email the other day:


    Since I met you, I have admired you for your courage, intellect, risk-taking and compassion. What you have done in the past few years to openly confront the sexual abuse that you and others have suffered is so powerful! I am so proud of what you have done for yourself and many other victims of clergy abuse.

    I will always remember the bravado in your voice (probably due to our over-consumption of homemade Kahlua) and the pain on your face the night we sat on the floor of your Bruce Hall dorm room and you first told me about what you then referred to as ‘your affair.’ I know I was a na├»ve little twit and my jaw fell open, but I was still so shocked and sickened that you blamed yourself and not the married minister and that there was no one who could/would counsel or support you. I ached for you as you described how you felt you were unworthy of love and respect and were so distressed that you had lost your connection to God. Despite all of your academic achievements and global travels, you buried your victimization so deep, but I always felt this abuse was the reason for your despondent and sometimes suicidal phone calls. For years I was haunted by the loneliness that was revealed in those phone calls and prayed that you would never give up hope. That you have taken the damage that has been done to you to help others heal is so inspiring.”

    I sat and wept after reading Trish’s email.

    I remember that girl – the girl Trish is talking about – the girl who, for years, couldn’t find any meaning for much of anything.

    I remember that girl -- the girl whose whole sense of self disintegrated after she was molested, sexually abused and raped by a Southern Baptist minister when she was a 16-year-old church kid. I’m grateful that Trish remembers her, too.

    In truth, I have no memory of sitting on the floor in Bruce Hall and telling Trish about “my affair.” But I expect Trish’s memory is more accurate than mine. I was probably totally sloshed.

    What I do remember is that, several years after college, Trish had the misfortune of calling me on the phone one night when I had the pills on the counter and was already half-drunk and was trying to get up my gumption to down them. Trish figured out what was going on and she stayed on the phone with me for hours. No telling how things would have turned out if she hadn’t.

    I remember only that one suicidal phone call, but again, I don’t doubt that Trish’s memory may be better on this than mine. There were probably other calls.

    And then there was the night I finally went through with it . . . and woke up in my own vomit.

    I remember that young woman – a young woman whose life should have been full of promise but instead seemed so void of meaning that she saw no reason to continue it.

    I remember that young woman – a young woman whose emotions were so deadened that the only thing she felt was disgust at the smell of vomit and anger at her own ineptness.

    That’s what clergy sex abuse does to many of its victims.

    For people who are raised with faith, faith and meaning become intertwined. The two are often so fused that, when faith gets twisted into a weapon, meaning itself is destroyed.

    I was lucky to have a friend like Trish. Many other abuse survivors are not so fortunate.

    My youth minister abused me. My music minister silenced me. My childhood church abandoned me. My faith betrayed me.

    But my friend Trish was true.

    I am profoundly grateful.

1 comment: