Tag Archives: American Priests

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture
priestly abuse

Grieving the Divides

In her face, I witnessed my sorrow and somehow could feel it. My friend conveyed simple pain over her (natural) father’s ongoing failures, a man she wanted to love but could not trust. All she could summon was pity. And now grief as she witnessed him unraveling before her eyes.

Strange. Since this prayer/fast for a Church shackled by abuse, I have been overcome by grief, a loss I cannot shake. Outrage over cover-ups and talky inaction has given way to disappointment, an abiding sadness for her, this Church, MY Church for whom I left all other churches in order to know her more. For she is the first and last and most coherent champion of a culture of life for persons– from conception to childhood through puberty onto adulthood– whose gendered gifts can become fruitful. And she has been taken hostage by a filthy few. Predators in the mercy pool have polluted the waters for many. I grieve. A recent survey claims up to one-third of all American Catholics are considering leaving the Church.

Yet she is still my Church, my champion, founded on the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as her cornerstone (Eph. 2: 20). Called and capable of integrating lives, her abusers have divided them. I recall a conversation with a young man cut down in his most formative years as a pre-adult by a former colleague of mine who, in the true meaning of diabolical (Gr. ‘to tear apart’), divided this boy right down the middle. Before jail time, a wolf tore into this sheep and rendered his body alien to him, a foe. In our meeting, the young man acted vagrantly. Instead of helping him secure a masculine home, that minister made him destitute.

So I grieve. I cannot give that young man back his dignity. He distrusts me as much as he does his predator. Unable to make him ‘right’, I grieve. I grieve for all the men who as teenagers were divided by priests. According to the John Jay Report, 3-6% of American priests allegedly abused 11,000 children, 78% male teens, between 1950 and 2002.

I ask God to make my grief good. Maybe He will do so by channeling inaction into prayer. I can lament along with the Psalmist: ‘We have become the reproach of our neighbors, the scorn and derision of those around us…Do not hold our iniquities against us; may Your compassion come quickly, for we are brought very low.’ (PS 79: 4, 8)

And we can ask Jesus to raise senior shepherds who are lion-hearted, courageous in their discipline of spiritual sons under their charge. 1 Samuel 2-4 describe better than I can the consequence of fathers not curbing their kids’ bad behavior. If you recall, Eli’s sons acted immorally in the temple, neither respecting God nor the people they served (1 S 2:12, 22); these young men did not heed their father’s warning and kept on defiling God’s house. As a result, God withheld His blessing from the Israelites and they suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Philistines (4:10), including the death of Eli’s sons.

Swift discipline helps us all. How else can trust be regained? As we pray for its outworking, we do well to remember that Jesus created this Church in His image, not ours. I’m grateful. A visiting priest joyfully asked us: ‘Aren’t you glad your ways are not God’s?’ Utterly, I thought. This padre grabbed my attention, held it.

Jesus’ way for the Church isn’t mine. This same priest reminded us that ‘faith was imputed to Abraham as righteousness who believed even though he did not quite understand what was happening.’ He closed: ‘Aren’t you grateful for the riches of our Church? Aren’t you glad to be Catholic?’ Taken aback, I saw the light of Jesus beaming on his 80-something-year-old face and I smiled, nodded within then returned to prayer for her healing.

Please take time to watch our new video and become ‘Chaste Together.’

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Little Monsters

The ongoing outing of men acting badly (Les Moonves of CBS, new evidence against Weinstein, Cardinal McCarrick and his cronies, hundreds of American priests who abused in the second half of the 20th century) may tempt us more to disgust than self-examination. I refer here to my brothers who may not be big players in the Catholic hierarchy or media but who are familiar with sexual disintegration—ways we have squandered our powers of life and love.

The cycle is all-too-familiar: high stress, low significance, mounting pain, decreasing words, sensational pleasure, greater shame, riskier business, escalating shame, huge-consequences-if-caught, SILENCE. Until exposed. Then the glare of public scorn burns off hope of restoration.

We may never have coerced another person sexually but our sins of omission and commission have doubtlessly wounded others. And fractured our dignity. We thank God that we are not felons yet we share in the wound of corruption common to men, disordered desire which results from mistaking random sexual release with power. Then the delusion: ‘it’s what I need’, or ‘(s)he likes it.’

This is especially tragic when paired with religion. Many of the abusive priests were orthodox in their understanding of purity. They just failed to become what they believed. Mastered by lust and shame, they learned to compartmentalize, to live elsewhere, to tune out the lament of a dying conscience and conjure an unreal world. Then religion becomes part of the defense against reality. I dreamt last night of a priest who wrapped himself tightly in scholarly and spiritual vestments; instead of guiding or cleansing him, these garments protected then mummified him, hastening a shameful death. ‘If religion does not make you better, it can make you a whole lot worse’, to quote C.S. Lewis.

What good purpose can these monstrous sins have? They can reveal our little monsters, men, and invite us to do urgently and persistently what Weinstein and Moonves and McCarrick never did: we can expose ourselves before the throne of grace and receive grace to help us’ (Heb. 4:16) so that our little monsters stay small and cease to govern us. Rather, we tame them, and learn to direct our sexual energies in alignment with the dignity afforded us by God and His friends.

We must be the first to confess our sins, to reveal our monsters before we are silenced by shame and dwell in darkness. Presumption and pride fall away, and the narrow way which leads to life becomes lit for our brothers. That is precisely what we as men accomplish together in Living Waters. We live in the light of mercy for 6 months of daily accountability; connection rather than shameful isolation begin to define our lives.

In the shaking, the exposure of monstrous things, we can fall on the Rock before it falls on us.

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