We Should Welcome Abuse Investigations, Not Fear Them (My Piece for Our Sunday Visitor)
Right after my participation in the press conference regarding the Wisconsin attorney general investigation, I receive a kind note from an editor at Our Sunday Visitor, who thanked me for my words and asked if I would consider writing a piece for their publication. I was honored to be invited, and grateful for the opportunity to share this message with a broad Catholic audience.
I haven't received a lot of feedback about the article, but my hope is that at least a few people will read my words and be challenged to think about this issue - and our responsibility as Catholics - in a new way.
On a warm Tuesday in late April, I stood in front of the Wisconsin State Capitol building alongside sexual abuse survivors and fellow advocates while the attorney general announced an investigation into abuse by Catholic clergy and Church leaders throughout the state.
I was there because I had been invited to speak at the press conference on behalf of Awake Milwaukee (the grassroots Catholic organization I lead) and because I wanted to bring a compassionate Catholic voice to this public conversation.
But really, I was in Madison that day because God led me there, and I’ve learned that when God calls, it’s best to just say yes.
Believe me, three years ago I never could have imagined myself standing with abuse survivors in front of a sea of news cameras. But the same God who drew me to work in parish ministry — coordinating Vacation Bible School and leading Bible study and pouring my heart into the families at my parish — led me to a new ministry that involves listening to abuse survivors, speaking hard truths and standing up for justice.
I know that many Catholics might greet news of another investigation of the Church with concern, frustration or even anger. For those of us who love our Church, it’s hard not to feel defensive when the issue of sexual abuse in the Church is brought up, especially in such a public way. We want people to remember all the good that is done by our Church and all the progress we’ve made in keeping children safe. We worry that renewed attention to this issue will drive even more people away from our faith communities. We tell ourselves that abuse in the Church is ancient history, that we’ve learned and changed and are ready to move on. Honestly, we’re tired of talking about this difficult topic. We wish that this would all just go away.
But the truth is...
Please join me in praying for a spirit of humility among all Catholics, especially those in the state of Wisconsin, that we might be open to facing hard truths and listening to the voices of all who have been harmed.
Lord, soften our hearts, overcome any feelings of defensiveness, and help us to be people of true courage and compassion. Amen.