As a student at a Catholic college in the 1ate 1980’s I wrote a paper for an English Comp class on the downfall of the televangelists. Many will remember that era as a time when one sexual scandal after another seemed to rock the televangelist world. Sexual assaults, “consensual” sex with congregants, hiring prostitutes, the preachers did it all. It wasn’t so shocking that these dramatic men preaching the Gospel, while having their hand out for donations, turned out to be frauds. What shocked me was the loyalty of their congregation. They looked at the media as “attacking Jesus, attacking people of faith.” In reality they were just exposing con men who used religion as their draw.
I’m sure the paper that I wrote was tinged with sarcasm at the naiveness of the congregants. Even when the cold hard facts were presented, they just couldn’t see it. I was so relieved as a young Catholic college student that nothing like sexual assaults or sexual misconduct happened within my religion.
Eyes Wide Shut
When Susan and I started Catholics4Change in 2011, we were moms in our early 40’s and both had two children in Catholic school. Two Grand Jury Reports investigations of child sex abuse in the very Archdiocese where our children were educated, played sports, received their sacraments, were published for all to read. My children are only in their early 20’s and when they began their Catholic school education there were over 60 predator priests roaming free in the parishes. This is not an issue of the long ago past.
I buried my head in the sand and believed the Church after the 2005 Grand Jury report. Not so, after the 2011 Grand Jury report. When I became involved in the issue of clergy sex abuse it was to protect my children. My focus was on children.
In the early years on this site I made many comments that since the hierarchy obviously didn’t report the crimes to the police for many decades, they should have at least sent the abusive priests to live at the seminaries. Not realizing that there was a history of young men in the seminaries being preyed upon. Even if their physical safety could be assured, why would I ever think that housing predators with young men who were in formation for the priesthood would make any type of sense?
When commenters would sometimes point out that priests often don’t keep their promise of celibacy and some have “girlfriends,” I would chime in that what adults did was up to them. We weren’t here to throw stones, that was between the priest and God. Our issue was not about “consensual” sex among adults. The bar was set so low in a Church that covers up the rape of children that now I was acting and behaving the same as the televangelist audience who accepted immorality and sexual misconduct against adult members from their pastors. The only thing missing was the 1-800 number that scrolled across the TV during the televangelists programs . Same deception, same hypocrisy, same criminal acts.
I am sure that some of my comments were hurtful to anyone who experienced abuse within the seminary or sexual abuse within their Catholic community as an adult. I apologize. I am sorry that you may not have felt welcomed to share your experiences.
In Spirit and Truth
A few years ago I began reading the stories of those abused by Catholic clergy as adults on Sara Larson’s blog and it was a very valuable learning experience. The stories of the manipulation of the faithful by con men in collars for their sexual gratification. It had been so easy for me to condemn the televangelists for seeking sex among their congregation, but not so with priests
Sexual acts between priests and laity is an abuse of their power. It is damaging. It is harmful. In some states it is criminal. It is always a violation of the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries or Code of Conduct for clergy.
I recently watched a documentary on the Hillsong mega church sex scandal and the same stories of sexual and financial manipulation of the adults in their community, showed once again that it is no different than what happens in our own Church. I watched the series, silently applauding the people who spoke up and pointed out the fraud and hypocrisy. I would never think of them as being self righteous or “throwing stones.” It is so easy to see clearly when it is not your faith community that is being exposed.
Within an institution when child rape is covered up there is a long, long history of corruption, adult abuse, and crime. Many times children were harmed because those with knowledge of the crimes had their own sordid history that they did not want exposed. People kept secrets because people had secrets.
The complicity of hiding the sexual misconduct in the Church is not just an issue with clergy. Some Catholic laity who make their living from their church affiliated businesses are playing the same con game. Sometimes the most “devout,” those closest to the Church, are just as unethical. Men and women preaching one message while living their own lie, or knowing of the sexual misconduct that harms others. Lining their pockets with the profits from products, while making a mockery of the laity. That’s an angle that remains almost untouched when peeling back the layers of corruption in the Church. Stay tuned.
4 thoughts on “Church Abuse Failures Put All Ages At Risk”
My story is sooo bad I would like to write a book on what happened to me .It is so bad it’s hard for some people to believe.I would like to talk to you about it ..
Thank you for reading In Spirit and Truth and for posting about your evolution on this issue. I appreciate your humility and your willingness to grow and continue seeking understanding. I think we all have a lot to learn in various ways.
Thank you, Sara. I had looked at it as priests misbehaving without realizing the adult victim on the other side of the actions. It’s always a disturbing, but necessary, learning experience to realize how the goodness and faithfulness of the laity is used to manipulate.
Kathy, your article reveals how hard it is for us to believe in the corruption within our own “tribe”. You remind me of the need for patience and understanding toward fellow Catholics who don’t yet get it, because it took years for my eyes to be opened. With Pentecost arriving shortly, I remind myself often that the Holy Spirit is called by Jesus THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH. Thanks for writing the painful truth.