Today I am beside myself with Anger…literally…it stands behind me and demands I write.
My mother knew about one abuser-priest, she admitted as much to my brother, that she had walked in on something in our house, a house we left when I was six.
She knew about the second abuser-priest because she was his victim.
How does a parent do that … know these things and yet expose their child to these men? How? I don’t know how. And then today I read of a couple whose child died with deep open sores under her arms, with feces that had been caked to her bottom so long that skin came off with the diaper – and I know. Parents are capable of horrendous evil, unspeakable crimes against a child, immeasurable depths of denial, at the very same time that they are capable of caring for other children in the family. And I shudder, knowing that my hurt was nothing compared to the pain and horror suffered by this child. And I weep. And my Anger fades inside again.
As my mother’s health declines steadily I have been dreaming about her and thinking about her with increasing frequency. I am told she whimpers and cries in her sleep and my heart breaks for her. There was much that she did as a mother that was at the very least inept: she sent me on car trips with a priest who was her rapist. I am a mother and I struggled to find anywhere in my own head for that information to fit. But upon reflection I understand. She was in denial. She had to maintain a very rigid denial, otherwise her whole world would have shattered. She had to hold her husband close and keep the family together. She had to bind us to the Church because her faith was the only source of strength she had. To have admitted to herself or to anyone else the crimes being perpetrated by the two priests in our life would have destroyed everything that was holding her world together. Everything. And she couldn’t risk that.
I have struggled greatly since first finding out about her rapes. But my shock, horror, anger, are fading now, as her life, too, fades. And what I feel is a tender sadness for all that she suffered at the hands of this man, and for all that she endured having to watch her husband’s struggle with his own teenage, then adult, abuser- her Parish Priest. Never telling her husband that she knew, never sharing the horror of her own rapes by the second priest. Both of my parents protecting each other – they thought – both of them engulfed in their own private hell.
And now I remember the little things my mother did for me. The poodle she knitted for me as a child. The Easter nests and Christmas stocking she lovingly prepared. The letters she wrote, the music tapes she shared with me. The prayers and the candles. I am thankful for those memories, and in turn I pray for her:
May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord look upon you with gentleness and compassion.
May the Lord grant you peace and take you swiftly into His loving arms.