In Spirit and Truth News Roundup: September 21
Welcome to the latest summary of important news related to the twin crises of sexual abuse and leadership failures in the Catholic Church. Thank you for taking the time to read and become better informed!
(As always: I strive to share only articles I find both thoughtful and helpful in understanding the twin crises in the Catholic Church. However, sharing a link does not mean I fully endorse of every word in that article. I do believe that reading broadly, from many sources and perspectives, is a valuable way to become better informed and, thus, more able to respond with wisdom and prudence. The top three reads below are a great place to start!)
** YOUR TOP THREE READS **
Challenging words from one abuse survivor:
"Despite all our promises and spiritual vigor, I guess the sexual abuse scandal is not the hot topic anymore. This is one of the many issues with the media. A big deal is made of an issue for awhile, people get tired of it, and we move on to the next big thing.
So, if we're not hearing about it as directly as we were in the past, is it over? Is it time to move on? The silence is exactly what I (and other abuse survivors) feared back in 2018 and exactly what the corrupt priests, bishops, and cardinals hoped for. They hoped the day would come that the scandal would die away. That time seems to have, once again, come."
I am not moving on. There may be less attention on this issue now, but please count me among the Catholics that is committed for the long haul. We're not giving up and we're not going away.
Important reflections for those who are serious about preventing child sexual abuse.
"Abusers groom the community as much as they groom victims. Abusers cannot function unless they can depend on a cushion of trusting allies around them, willing to ignore or explain away or excuse or even defend their behaviour. Abusers go to great lengths to make sure people know they are good guys, to get people used to seeing them around kids, to think of them as the last one who might harm a child.
When they groom allies, they know that even if the child does speak up, there will be not only their own defense, but the authoritative voices of the rest of the community to shout the child down, saying he’s lying, he’s exaggerating, he’s misunderstanding, he’s making things up, he’s psychotic, he’s dramatic, he’s looking for attention, he’s troubled, he’s perverse. Abusers depend on this chorus to back them up.
A whistleblower who recognises this community grooming and refuses to be part of it can prevent or stop sexual abuse of a child. They are willing to become unpopular by siding with the classic unreliable narrator, a child, against the guy that everyone knows and likes and trusts, because they are willing to listen to that tiny interior voice that tells them, 'Something isn’t quite right here.'"
This editorial is more than a month old, and we still know nothing about when the McCarrick Report will be released. I remember last December, when some church leaders said the report would hopefully be coming early in 2020. And 9 months later - crickets. We can't forget about this or let it go.
"As we publish this, it has been one year, 10 months, and six days since Pope Francis ordered a report on the Vatican's documentation about how Theodore McCarrick was promoted through the ranks of the Catholic hierarchy for decades, despite multiple, then-secret reports of his sexual misconduct with seminarians.
And it has been six months and six days since a Vatican official last gave a public update on the status of the report, when Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin told the Reuters news agency that work on the text was done, awaiting only a final "go" order for publication from Francis... We are quickly reaching the point where continued delay becomes unexplainable."
** THE REST OF THE NEWS **
I posted about Theodore McCarrick above, so I'm also sharing this article by Richard Sipe, who was one of the first people researching and speaking out about the problem of clerical abuse, long before most of the Church was paying attention.
Here is the important thing to note. This article, which outlines clear patterns of sexual abuse by McCarrick and includes evidence from legal documents, was written in 2010.
2010. That's a year before McCarrick was promoted to Archbishop of Washington D.C., and 9 years before this predator was removed from the priesthood.
We have to recognize that something has gone deeply wrong in our Church, and it goes far beyond the crimes of one man. (Trigger warning: Explicit descriptions of sexual abuse.)
This is important news, and I'm glad this allegation is being taken seriously. But note this little paragraph in the CNA story: "Press releases from the Vatican and from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did not state a reason for the bishop-elect’s resignation."
One line in this post hits me like a punch in the gut.
This is the family member of a survivor, describing the reaction of a community of Norbertine priests when a light sentence was given to a sexually abusive priest:
"It is hard to believe that the Norbertines would be high-fiving each other in the parking lot of the courthouse in sight of the victims and their families, but they were.”
Lord, have mercy on your people.
It seems the problem goes deeper than one man. Sadly, it always does.
"A retired priest who was a regular at the weeklong program, George DeCosta, had been sued by at least six men for alleged child sexual abuse in his home state of Hawaii, Henson learned, with the first lawsuit filed in 2012. An attorney for the men said five of the cases have been settled.
'I distinctly remember [DeCosta] at morning prayer, evening prayer, sitting up front,' said Henson, who attended the Music Ministry Alive (MMA) program as a high school student from 2015 to 2017. 'How was that allowed to happen?'"
I'm sharing mostly because this vigil is a unique way to draw attention to an issue and stand up for survivors. In case anyone's looking for ideas in their local area. :)
"Those taking part in the vigil each took a turn standing in silence for one hour at the walkway to the church. It was a quiet appeal to the church to do what they believe is the right thing."
(I would recommend you watch the video rather than just read the transcript at the link.)
I haven't started listening to this podcast yet, but it sounds promising. I'm putting it on my list.
"Karna Lozoya, the host of a new podcast documenting the clerical sexual abuse crisis in the United States, has said the message those behind it want to send is that while important steps have been taken, it is far from over... Speaking to Crux, Lozoya said that 'at the end of the day the message we want to send is that the sex abuse crisis isn’t over, we’re still in it.'...
One of the questions the podcast tries to answer is how the Catholic Church got to the point of such scandal, and how in 2018, over 15 years after abuse scandals first rocked the U.S. in 2002, it was possible to still have stories as shocking as these come out."
As always, I will close this blog post with an invitation to prayer. I encourage all of us to bring everything we just read to the merciful heart of God. If there is a specific story that you found moving, hopeful, painful, or unsettling, please place those thoughts and reactions into the hands of Jesus and ask Him what he is calling you to do in response.
God, please give all victims of sexual abuse your healing, justice, and peace.