Sexual abuse of children by priests and others in positions where children ought to be safe is an old story. When it hits close to home it feels different.(More)
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By way of an overview, cities from Boston to Los Angeles, Fairbanks to Savannah have had lawsuits over sexual abuse by priests. The church has spent $2.5 billion on abuse cases and “there have been nearly 17,000 victims of clergy sexual abuse since 1950 and legal settlements for their suffering continue to climb.”
My cousin is an attorney in Missouri who has represented victims. Her stories of the trauma of the victims and their families are horrific. They are hard to hear without both anger erupting and tears flowing. This reaction is for people whose names I don’t know and who I’ve never even met.
I am not a Catholic. My oldest son married a wonderful Catholic woman and converted. They have three little kids. The older two go to weekly faith formation classes. The kid appropriate social justice projects they do are really cool.
This scandal is hitting closer to home for me. Minnesota Public Radio has done a solid job of investigative journalism which has basically broken the story of abuse in Minnesota wide open. Part of the reporting listed the names of priests and the name of the churches where they served. One church was in southern Minnesota where I served as a bridesmaid for a very good friend right after college. Another suburban church is the one my son’s family attends today. The dates listed for the abusive priest were way before their time but still. What’s a non-Catholic mother, mother-in-law and grandmother to say or do? My grandchildren know about good touch and bad touch but would they report a priest? I sure as hell hope so but I’m sure that most parents and grandparents of the victims hoped so also. Sadly I know from some of my cousin’s stories that some parents did not believe their own kids.
I want to know specifically how their congregation is making sure that it can’t happen there ever again. I basically have little hope that the Catholic church as a whole will address this. I’m rooting for the congregations to stand up for their kids. How much can I ask, I wonder. I don’t want to stir up fear but I am big on proactive prevention strategies.
My discomfort is in no way eased by a headline that reads Police: Archdiocese not cooperating with clergy abuse investigation. I like Pope Francis from what I have read about him. I wish he would turn some of his charm and focus onto the issue of abuse and coverup. What will it take? How many bankruptcies will it take before the question of moral bankruptcy is addressed?
I realize that I have more questions than answers. I realize that I lurch from the systemic to the personal. I realize that this is not my church but that it is my family’s church. I cannot think my way through this. I don’t think that praying about it will do much good. Surely all the abusers and the people who covered for them are professionals at prayer and look what they’ve come up with.
Update: Dec. 17 Archbishop John Nienstedt (Minnespolis, St. Paul metro area) has temporarily stepped aside as allegations against him are investigated. The diocese is preparing plans for bankruptcy. MPR.