by Kathy Kane
I attended the trial on Wednesday. It was one of the more uneventful days with a lengthy cross examination of a detective regarding documents related to Fr. Brennan. Instead, I’d like to share what happened during the break. “Had it” whose name is Kate, flew in to attend a few days of the trial. We went to lunch with Beth, a frequent commentor on C4C, Steve, a clergy abuse victim and Bob, a retired school teacher and former seminarian. Steve attends the trial every day and Bob has joined a few survivors and family members at the lunch break each day. It’s an interesting mix: Beth, who is a practicing Catholic very involved on a parish level; Kate who has struggled with practicing her faith in recent years; a victim; and a former seminarian.
I wish everyone could have joined us because the conversations we had are the ones that need to happen on the parish level and probably never will. Steve shared that he was a former altar boy under Cardinal Krol and the honor he felt in that role as a child, and then later the sting of the rejection by the Church as a clergy abuse victim. When Bob was asked about the climate of St Charles Seminary in the 1960’s, he was very honest that he had a positive experience. He also spoke of his frustration when a problem seminarian he reported went on to be ordained. Beth who is seeking a pastoral response by the clergy to our victims, asked Steve if he would even want priests to join at the vigils with us. Kate shared her observations that a priest in court that morning, who was there to support Msgr. Lynn, seemed to literally turn his back in on Fr. Brennan. I guess pastoral concern is a pick and choose option.
I told Steve and Bob what Susan and I hope to accomplish with the C4C site and that we felt that the side calling all priests pedophiles is no different than the side calling all victims liars. When two sides of opposing viewpoints do nothing but scream at each other, no children are protected and no victims are comforted. Bob, who I just met today, seems to be a thoughtful, prayerful type asked me if I was still Catholic. I started to answer with, “well my kids…well I am angry…,” and then simply looked at him and said “I don’t know.” He answered, “I understand.”
When we left lunch we had to say goodbye to Beth who had to get home to her kids. We hugged her goodbye and Steve turned and hugged me. I told him I wasn’t leaving, I was returning to court with them. He said “I know I just want to thank you for what you are doing.” It was the same message I received from an abuse survivor a few days ago. “Happy Birthday. Thank you for caring about me.” It breaks my heart into a million pieces each time something like that happens. People who have been so deeply wounded, thanking people for simply caring about them. Thank you Steve, for what you do to protect children, my children, all of our children.
I am sure if the Archdiocese reads the comments under Susan’s post about the parish-based initiatives, they might roll their eyes and think we will never be satisfied. I hope they realize the anger in the comments is the anger and betrayal they acknowledge exists. Sample sermons, sample statements will never sound or feel authentic to anyone, priests or congregants. What we need is a human, compassionate response. Each time Beth talks with a victim she is literally ministering to them, I have seen her do this time and time again. Each person takes a little bit of her with them when they leave – a comforting word, support. “I believe you, I am sorry.” She has the freedom to do this without the fear of legalities and all the other strings attached to any response the Archdiocese offers.
I mentioned to a priest that I’m confused that Susan and mine’s relationship with the Archdiocese is perceived as adversarial when all we are trying to do is protect children and comfort victims. He said, “that is because you are doing things in a way they can’t.” I understand that now. I am not tasked with developing a program for 1.4 million Catholics or worrying about lawsuits, trials and suspended priests. I can meet in small groups with a variety of people like today at lunch, and have authentic sometimes difficult conversations. Those conversations always leave with a sense of healing…always. And those conversations find their roots in the Gospel, which had it always been followed, there were be no need to even be developing these new programs, sample sermons, and parish meetings.
The truth was always there in the Gospel, even though it was ignored in relation to children and victims, it was there. How do you recover from messing that up? I have no idea. Maybe these parish based initiatives will be helpful to some. Maybe without ever meeting victims and hearing their stories, people can go to a meeting or hear a sermon and can leave feeling that a massive wound is being healed. I can’t do that because unless I stand with the victims, the people who were truly harmed, betrayed and abandoned – then nothing would ever make me feel the basic tenets of our faith are being followed. And without that, then what are we?