“Collateral damage is damage aside from that which was intended.”
There are many ways in which collateral damage has been and continues to be caused by the bishops of the Catholic Church as a secondary effect of its treatment of victims:
- When the Church acts like a sexual offender, re-abusing innocent victims in its attempt to avoid more court cases and settlements
- When bishops attempt to silence victims through lies (by applying the doctrine of “mental reservations”), intimidation, or threat of prosecution for court costs
- When they protect, defend, and re-assign credibly accused and even admitted sexual offenders who cannot be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations
- When they refuse to follow the guidelines they themselves have
… when they do any of these egregious things, they hurt not only the victims, but many, many others.
First of all there are the victims families, whose trust in the Church and in God is violently assaulted not so much by the original abusive behavior of one sick priest but by the ongoing systematic, cold-blooded, legalistic, un-Christian, sometimes illegal behavior of the organization which purports to be led by God’s representative and to be Christ’s presence in the world.
Then there are our friends, our co-workers and our clients, these people all become personally, if indirectly, exposed to the evil perpetrated by the Catholic bishops and the Vatican . They all become part of the collateral damage. If they remain faithful to the Church they will feel a conflict of loyalties, and may find it necessary to cut us out of their lives. If they are family this will cause a fracturing of the family unit. On the other hand if they are Catholics and remain faithful to us, they may find their support of and participation in the Church becomes untenable and their faith in God questionable. They may, like us, suffer spiritual trauma.
What happens when you rip the soul out of someone’s life? What happens when you destroy someone’s hope in a loving God? What happens when you tear someone from their support community, from their rituals of comfort and consolation, renewal and restoration? What happens when you emotionally or physically lock someone out of their spiritual refuge?
What happens is that people die — from the inside out.
Their soul shrivels, their hope disintegrates, their sense of belonging evaporates. It feels as if the hand of God that was holding them through life’s trials and losses is withdrawn, and they can fall into an abyss of depression, alcohol and drug abuse, relationship-destruction, self-destruction.
There have been many physical deaths among the community of victims and victims’ families, but there are many more spiritual deaths. One aspect of survivor support needs to be a spiritual outreach of some kind. We need to find ways to foster hope, dialogue about our understanding of God, share rituals of renewal and enrichment. We need to combat the spiritual death that is part of the collateral damage of the sexual abuse crisis.