Just for some balance here, I want to say that there is a lot of good in the Catholic Church. For example, Dorothy Day, founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, is an example of the “good” in the Catholic Church.
“As for ourselves, yes, we must be meek, bear injustice, malice, rash judgment. We must turn the other cheek, give up our cloak, go a second mile.”
“I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.”
‘The most significant thing is community, others say. We are not alone any more. But the final word is love. At times it has been, in the words of Father Zossima, a harsh and dreadful thing, and our very faith in love has been tried through fire.”
“We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we know each other in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone any more. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.”
I vacillated about the title for this post, beginning with, “Catholic Evil.” But I decided that sounded too one-sided because it could imply that the words are synonymous and I don’t believe they are. I write this last sentence and part of me laughs inside, because today I was provided with evidence that the church knew about my abuser years before I reported him.
How do we — I say we because I still consider myself Catholic — how do we reconcile this double evil of abuse and denial with our faith community? The answer is — we don’t! It is not possible to reconcile evil with good in any context, and we shouldn’t try. It is important not to try to rationalize away the evil perpetrated by the pedophile clergy or the evil perpetrated by the obfuscating bishops and provincials. We need to recognize it and name it. It doesn’t matter that the priests received absolution; it doesn’t matter that the bishops were trying to take care of their spiritual “sons.” The facts are that hundreds of documented pedophile priests didn’t stop what they were doing, despite spiritual counseling and sacramental absolution, perhaps because they learned that there were no consequences other than geographical ones. The facts are that bishops chose to ignore repeated crimes and growing numbers of victims. Instead of going to prison the priests went to another parish.
The abuse was evil; the cover up was evil. No amount of financial settlement can heal a victim’s life, it can only help to provide care as they struggle to survive. Sadly, I have personally known victims who took their own lives after a settlement was received, maybe because it felt like a hollow victory or maybe because it just didn’t take away the pain.
“Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’ ” Lk.18:16
Is there a special place for priests to go when
they die? Because I don’t want to go to that place,
(From Hurt to Healing, PublishAmerica, 2004)
I have struggled a great deal with the notion of God’s forgiveness and the Catholic theology of heaven. I know that if there is an eternity awaiting us I don’t want to spend it in the company of my abusers. But, if they “made a good confession” and were absolved of their sins before they died, don’t we believe they are forgiven and will enjoy the presence of God for eternity?
This is where we have to step back and realize that God exists beyond our sacraments and our doctrines. While it may make absolute sense to us to talk about the economy of salvation and the theology of the atonement, we have to humbly acknowledge that any attempt at theology is as fruitful as someone taking a photograph in a pitch black room then showing it to a blind person and asking them to interpret it. So I have to trust in God’s justice and forgiveness and trust that whatever happens when I die I will not have to experience abuse and fear ever again.