Since I am going on a Grief to Grace retreat 02/16/2013 – 02/20/2013 and will be dealing with so many people who have very real issues with their ability to trust because of the abuse that they have suffered I have already begun thinking about what I want to say in the homilies I am going to give. (There will be another priest present to learn how to be the priest/facilitator for future retreats.) Hopefully the other priest will take the homily during the closing mass…but I digress….
The number one issue that abuse survivors have, as I see it, is an inability to trust. This is true even after the retreat has ended but participants are leaps and bounds ahead of where they were. As an abuse survivor I still have trust issues. That is probably because even after the retreat I am in a situation as a priest with other priests and in a diocese where I have been betrayed over and over again by members of the clergy.
A friend of mine, a priest in New Jersey, once relaid a story to me about an alleged friend of his who kept canceling out of plans the two of them made. This went on for over a year. My friend, “M”, finally had enough and told this individual that they were no longer friends. My friend, “M”, told him that he wasn’t mad and didn’t hate him, they were just no longer friends. That is sooooo healthy. I’m going to check this out with my therapist. Taking that advice I applied it were I could with people I deal/dealt with in my own life.
Why constantly have people in your life that traumatized you again? Why try to trust a person that has proven that they are not trustworthy?
Now apply that as a Catholic to the Catholic Church. Were we betrayed and are we continuing to be betrayed by some of the bishops and the priests in their offices? Sadly the answer is yes. Not only were/are the victims of clergy abuse betrayed, (not just sexual abuse), but all of the faithful were betrayed, the teachings of the Church were betrayed and so many of the men in charge abused the trust that was given to them to be shepherds.
My job as a priest is to try my best to teach the truth and try to help people develop a relationship with God and then grow in that relationship. Now all the clergy are tainted by the few who did not act in any way as leaders and teachers of God’s will and the Church’s teachings. (It is a separate issue how faithful the ‘Faithful’ actually are.)
Life can be difficult enough and heaven knows it isn’t easy being a good Catholic but then to have people who are supposed to be faith leaders tripping all over themselves to blame the victims and then blame everyone else and also perverting the teachings of the Church, is it a wonder we can’t get the people in the pews to listen to and obey God. And it is about God. Somewhere that got lost. Personally I could not care less if you like me or don’t like me. It is not about me or any priest or bishop. It is about God. It is about coming together to worship God. That needs to be emphasized and remembered.
Fr. Lunnes, Thank you for bringing up an issue that confronts all survivors. It IS hard to trust that things will get better in the face of tons of evidence those in positions of authority in the Church
cared more about the Church’s image than children’s safety. As we see from Gomez’s public statements regarding Mahony change is coming. Slowly but surely, the Church is coming around.
Praise God, it’s about time!