Your silence is screaming, Part 3

While I kind of doubt that anyone really noticed, I have had a long internal, guilty struggle over not writing this blog post. The third part of a series of posts (see Part 1 on Penn State or Part 2 on the Boy Scouts) discussing institutional failures to address child sexual abuse will focus on the Catholic Church. Before going any further, I have to confess (Catholics are big on confession!) that I am both a practicing Catholic and a feminist anti-violence activist. Gasp! Yes, we do exist. You may think this is the equivalent of being a unicorn, but it’s actually not so strange that people within our movement balance multiple, sometimes conflicting identities. That discussion is probably one for another day.

This identity is tough for me, because it seems to run deeper than my identity as a Penn State student, or my past life as a scout. I had no trouble bringing myself to write about institutional shortcomings in those arenas. When it comes to the Catholic Church, I definitely don’t agree with all of the church’s teachings and stances on many issues. However, I do have a deep connection and ongoing spiritual dialogue with the faith. I am deeply saddened and troubled every time I learn of an instance where public examples of awful and unethical decision making by my spiritual institution detract from this experience of faith. Very often, these institutional shortcomings are related to priests committing child sexual abuse and church officials covering it up.

You may know that Catholics across the globe are watching a gathering in Rome, where a new pope will be selected. SNAP recently released a short list of the potential papal candidates whom they described as not making the grade when it comes to confronting child sexual abuse in the church. Church officials have basically dismissed this list and this advocacy group as irrelevant. This dismissal, teamed with our Pope Emeritus’s alleged involvement in cover ups, and the numerous cases of child sexual abuse by priests screams of a pervasive institutional ailment.

For a spiritual institution to really address the problem of child sexual abuse, it has to respect the voices and experiences of the people who disclose abuse. It is vital that the institutional system holds members who commit child sexual abuse accountable for their actions. It’s never about how bad it will look to bring it to the surface. No matter who you are, what you believe, or how you identify, every single person has the moral and ethical obligation to cure institutional shortcomings and promote healing for individuals and communities ailing from child sexual abuse.

As an anti-violence activist and as a Catholic, I hope with all my heart that the next pope will make the whole Catholic institution accountable for preventing and responding to child sexual abuse. I hope that my faith community will heal. I hope that the screaming will stop.

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