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Author Topic: Crucifying the victims  (Read 1952 times)
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« on: July 15, 2013, 01:48:16 PM »

I wrote the following back in 2010, when Pope Benedict was making statements about the sins of the Church relative to the abuse crisis, but with no action to follow up on his words. I submitted it to a couple of Catholic periodicals but did not get even a response, though I have to admit that I was not surprised by that. With Pope Francis having just made some comments about cleaning things up I will be watching with interest to see if he really has the heart, and the power, to blow this thing open and reconcile things once and for all.

The New Crucifixion: How the Church has failed itself and the victims of sexual abuse

The ever-widening reports over the last few months of the depth and breadth of the clerical sex abuse scandal--and more importantly how the Church has dealt with this scandal—have generated great confusion and a wide spectrum of emotions from both those within the Church and those in the outside population. There is a wide degree of disagreement as to what has and should be done, but one call has been fairly clear from most sectors: the call for transparency. This is of particular and primary concern to most of those victimized for whom acknowledgement and sincere contrition are paramount to their healing. When confronted with moral failings and challenges to power, however, few in institutional religion have risen to the level of “practicing what they preach,” at least not until circumstances leave them no other choice. One would hope in this case that the Church could learn the lesson learned two thousand years ago when Jesus himself walked the earth.

The Jewish religion at the time of Jesus was heavily legalistic with a powerful hierarchy that placed heavy burdens on its adherents while protecting its own status and power. Those deemed unworthy by that hierarchy were simply dismissed as “unclean” in some way and if they constituted a great enough threat would find themselves stoned outside the walls of the city.

On to this scene comes Jesus, however, proclaiming a message of forgiveness and a loving Father who sought “mercy rather than sacrifice,” turning the purity code of the time on its head. When challenged by the religious establishment he responded with the scathing “woe to you Pharisees” passages which stand in such stark contrast within the gospels, the only places where Jesus seems to condemn.

What were the religious leaders to do with such a man? What happens when the voices crying out against power and control start to escalate and become a threat to the status quo? The initial attempts were the normal plays of attempting to trap and discredit him. Of course each of these was overcome by Jesus with those setting the traps being the ones ensnared. As this went on however it became clear that more drastic measures would be needed. Eventually the chief priest would sum it up that it was necessary that one man must die that their religion would not be destroyed. The protection of “the church” became the rallying cry against which no rational person could fight and the religious leaders were able to create an angry mob willing to ignore all reason and evidence to cry “Crucify him!”

Fast-forward to our present time. Unspeakable evil has been done by some within the Church, whose reason for being is to nurture and protect God’s children. Perhaps worse, those with the greater responsibility for the protection of the flock instead moved the predators silently from one pasture to another, at time between countries, as the number of wounded sheep continued to grow. As the abused began to gain a voice and came forward they were challenged at every turn. They were dismissed as lacking credibility or lacking enough proof to prevail in court. They were bought off when the evidence was too great, but only with a vow of silence. As the voices continued to mount and the story became more public however the media frenzy began and sweeping things under the rug was no longer an option. At least in the U.S. the bishops were forced to take action to put in place policies that would prevent such things from occurring again.

That was good as far as it went. What it didn’t do was actually make it much easier for victims to come forward and look for healing since at the local level most dioceses still made it exceeding difficult for victims to be considered credible or to be made whole in any way. More importantly it didn’t provide the one thing that the victims so desperately needed: the acknowledgement of the Church that its policies had been wrong, coupled with an apology. The Church instead continued to deny the existence of any policy of secrecy.

By 2010 the news of the scandals erupted again, but now on a global basis, and the pressure once again intensified. With a different Pope and the overwhelming evidence, based on both documents and the identical actions across an extended period of time and occurrences across the world’s geographical boundaries, there was hope that maybe the Church would finally acknowledge what everyone already knew. Instead a campaign was mounted attacking the media as “persecuting the Church” for daring to bring the Church’s sins to light. A “mob” was created to bring down those who were described as trying to destroy the Church. Those in the pews were told the Church did nothing wrong and were victims of a smear campaign.

 Were all the charges or all the speculations of the media legitimate and well-founded? Almost certainly not, but the essence of the story appears to be accurate and the questions being asked are legitimate: who knew what and when, and what did they do about it? The answers given once again were that there was no policy and nobody covered up anything or told anybody else to do so. While a few small exceptions, the silence from the top relative to the real issue continues to be deafening.

Has anything really changed in 2000 years? When the Jewish establishment was confronted by one they couldn’t seem to silence they eventually decided that protection of the institution was paramount and crucified the one who dared to point out that it was God’s church, not theirs and their priorities were not His priorities. Today we have the mounting voice that those in power see as a threat to destroy “their” church and feel they must silence that threat. That the voices must die so “the Church” won’t be destroyed. 

Just as the Jews did so many years ago they first attempted to trap and discredit the voices, only to find themselves looking worse for the effort. With each of these attempts, and with each denial of the wrongdoing that occurred, they crucified again the very children they allowed to be abused to begin with. With each opportunity to admit to their sins and failure to do so they again hung those victims up on the tree in unbearable pain. With each statement that it was only a few priests, and really only a small number of victims, and “hey, we’re not the only ones with this problem”, they stuck another lance into the sides of those victims already hanging there in agony.

Finally some cracks seem to be opening within the official silence though. A few in high places are joining the voices calling for justice and repentance. The Pope himself has made a statement that it is the sin within the Church that is most likely to destroy the Church rather than the voices from without. But still we haven’t heard the one acknowledgement that can actually begin the healing. We haven’t heard that admission that can make the words of contrition genuine rather than just empty statements to make things go away. We have not seen the actions that make the “zero tolerance” proclamations real by removing those who should have done the right things and didn’t, except in a few token cases. We have not heard that admission of wrongdoing at the highest levels that allowed the very souls of so many of our vulnerable children to be stolen from them as predators were moved about rather than removed.

Until we do many of us will remain convinced that the Church is lacking in faith and doesn’t believe that God will protect it once it acknowledges its sins and turns it eyes back to Him. Until it is able to stop trying to sweep this under the rug more and more will become disenchanted with the hypocrisy of just another worldly institution unable to practice what it preaches and go elsewhere. Until the Church finally sets things right those precious children will just hang there on their crosses in agony, crying out “my God, why have you forsaken me?”, if they haven’t finally been driven to a point of wondering if He actually even exists. And they won’t be doing so alone for as St. Paul noted, when one member of the Body hurts, the whole Body hurts.

It took the Jews centuries of exile to finally become desperate enough to really turn back to God and away from their idols. How long will it take our Church to turn from its idol of self-protection and trust in the God of mercy?

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God."
This is the effect of true charity, to be on good terms with all men, to consider no one your enemy, and to live at peace with those who hate peace.--Robert Bellarmine
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