I am so angry. So (insert your own expletive here) angry.
Angry, disgusted and hurt.
I am a Cradle Catholic and am raising my son as a Catholic. We do our very best to hit the Catholic cardio and make it to Church every Sunday. The recent revelations of the wide spread sexual abuse of children by priests in Pennsylvania makes me sick to my stomach. To think that the men we put our trust in to shepherd our faith and to help us to become closer to God have been systematically ruining lives is absolutely revolting.
It’s not like this is the first time a story like this has presented itself. Each time it happens, I am shaken to my core.
But this time, it’s different.
It’s not just the sheer number of innocent boys and girls that have had their lives irreparably damaged. This time, I’m a mother. I’m a mother to a little boy.
My dear innocent little boy told me, before we left for church, “Mommy, I love going to church with you.” No lie, my sweet 4 year old said that. When we arrived, he waved at the Crucifix and said, “Hi Jesus.” As we sat, he tugged at my shirt and whispered in my ear “I love Jesus.”
These statements should have made me weep with joy and instead, I felt the stinging tears of anger. In my mind, I was preparing myself to arrive at Church and have them ignore the whole thing. I was preparing to see people going on as if nothing had happened.
We walked in, late of course because … well … 4 year olds. We sat down, right in time to hear the sermon. To my surprise, our very brand new priest said exactly what we were all thinking.
The abusers are evil. The abusers and their conspirators deserve to be held accountable. The Church must be cleansed.
My worry that this would be glossed over was assuaged. But, my mind was still troubled. I saw it on the faces of all the mothers in Church. They clung to their children and looked into their eyes as their own filled with tears.
My job on this planet is to protect this beautiful soul that I grew in my womb. What if I can’t? What if I put him, even unknowingly, in harm’s way?
The thought terrifies me.
I saw a nun walking around the church and I searched her face for her understanding of what the men of the church had done to her children. Her face spoke sorrow.
As I walked up to communion, my gaze moved to the Blessed Mother. Her face was filled with inconsolable anguish.
As I watched their faces, my soul cried out. What have these men, these trusted men, done? They have destroyed trust. And, they have often destroyed faith.
I had long ago made the decision that I would not let my little boy become an altar server. My sister and two brothers both served in this fashion, and I wish that my little guy could too, but I just won’t take that chance. I am so angry that I even have to think about that. The Church and her priests are supposed to be a place of refuge, trust and safety. I don’t fully trust that now.
Make no mistake, I trust in God. My faith in God and Jesus is not shaken.
My faith in his priests and bishops, however, is shaken.
As a mental health professional, I know and have seen the damage that childhood sexual abuse has on an individual throughout a lifetime. Sexual abuse is devastating to the individual and all around that individual. Making my son aware of his own body boundaries has always been high on my priority list. Now, I need to make it even more crystal clear that there are no secrets between us, that there is NO ONE above the law, even if he is speaking for God.
I almost feel like this is moving me towards paranoia. I want to trust in the Church and her priests. Maybe in time, I will again.
But right now, I just cannot.
We will continue to go to Mass, but I will remain vigilant. I pray that the victims will find healing and that the Church takes proper actions to bring the abusers to justice. And I will search for ways to be of service to those who are suffering. In 2013, Pope Francis said “prayer and action must always be profoundly united.” Never was that so profound as in this current instance. May the Church make the changes it needs so that this NEVER happens again.