Abuse by priests causes spiritual wounds
Is it possible to get some kind of dispensation from the need for priests in the spiritual life of a Roman Catholic ? That you don’t need to ‘avail’ of the sacraments which can only be administered by an ordained priest, when it can be that all they are for you at times are triggers to earlier, more recent and it seems constant recalls of spiritual, emotional, psychological and sexual abuses ?
In the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church, a dispensation is the suspension by competent authority of general rules of law in particular cases. Its object is to modify the hardship often arising from the rigorous application of general laws to particular cases, and its essence is to preserve the law by suspending its operation in such cases. When a person so abused seems incapable, though not for want of trying, to find any real peace in heart and soul in that practice of the faith that can often seem endless reminders and revelations of betrayal.
This in no way suggests or is meant to imply any kind of negative feeling towards, perception or judgement of all the really good men and women, priests and religious in the Catholic Church, past and present.
When the true spiritual welfare of the individual is at stake, which impacts everything else, is there anything in Church law that would allow a person to live as Catholic, even having faith to a degree in the sacramental aspects of the Church as being of benefit for others, without the requirement to avail of those sacraments ? Would it suffice to try to obey the commandments of God in seeking God with the all, and in and through that searching, learning to love neighbour as the self. In this being all the law and the prophets – the keys to the Kingdom within and around us.
I’ll give in part just one example in an attempt to give some context and understanding.
The priest uses you for sex. Then he sends you off to another priest to have your confession heard and be given absolution. The other priest to whom you confess does not see something untoward. Another third priest you later ask about reporting all of this, again in the context of the confessional, suggests that to report such behaviour is not the responsibility of the person being abused – you. It’s up to the ‘the bishop/superior’ and that never happens. That’s just some of it. There was more regarding confession at different times over years and other abuses through other sacraments. It kind of lost its sacramentality for me anyway – the sense of sacred encounter with Christ as we are led to believe it’s meant to be. Indeed could be I believe – in another life time perhaps.
‘ When two or more are gathered in My Name’.
Would God understand such a person unable to trust in these situations, not able to find real peace and for those reasons – damage to spiritual and other aspects of health, not wanting, feeling able very often to go to Mass, confession etc ?
Should Canon or some other law/s within the Church make allowances for such people ?
You are left so deeply conflicted and in a near perpetual state of tension.
What if it’s all true, the teachings on the need to avail of these sacraments for grace and salvation; and by not partaking of them you are disobeying God, being unfaithful to the ordinances of Christ and that this is something you don’t wish for yourself in any way. You don’t wish disobedience to Christ who has done you no wrong. You might even be condemning yourself to some outer darkness eternally. Can obedience be shown through disobedience in such an instance ? The Scriptures are all paradox. Is there a precedent ?
The reality for you anyway has been that you have not encountered Christ in these sacraments; rather abuse of power, violations, not least of trust to its core, humiliation and degradation – not only of the person and spirit, but of those very experiences that are supposed to be sacred, sacramental.
Christ has been sacrileged too and not only by the priest wishing to use for his sexual gratification. The other priests – fearing ‘scandal’ to the Church, to the Body of Christ which seems more about them than the entire people of God; and/or ‘scandal’ to the image of priesthood – have committed sacrilege too. There seemed little fear for your salvation or their own if what they professed and taught were true.
Your faith in Christ is not the issue though and never was. Though the damage can be severe, so spiritually profound the wounding, that you can truly believe one acting as ‘another Christ’ has done this to you – and through that left believing that Christ has abused your mind, body and spirit in those ways. It can leave someone asking for years to what purpose such can happen, be allowed to happen, other than God hates you with all the passion of which God might be capable. And when you fall into near despair you have no God to turn to for help.
In time if lucky and with the right help, which is not easy come by, and never came from the Church in my case – you can learn to embrace Christ again. But your faith in all the rest that is so much about the ‘Church’ – even sacraments, has been destroyed. Or so it seems.
You don’t want to be angry, to be perpetually conflicted and feeling the need to fight against the ‘rot and filth’ that is the corrupting temporal power in the Church. You don’t want to feel, when triggered, angry at all priests when in truth you are not angry at them at all, not all certainly. Those higher up that hierarchical tree you can hold in disdain, to a degree, the more you begin to see and to understand what these abuses are about.
All abuse is about power. The abuse of power that runs throughout the Institutional Church corrupting its heart and could do so absolutely if given to absolutely. They blame society, culture, the people’s lack of faith, gay people and on and on till the day it all becomes something nebulous, unfathomable – a ‘mystery’.
They say a dog cannot smell its own foul odour.
You listen to all the excuses, the blaming and scapegoating. You grow weary, sick and tired in heart at the complete lack of honesty, of the capacity for real self-examination in some of these people, and the immaturity on so many levels. How could such people lead anyone anywhere towards any real spiritual growth! You are reminded, even today around here on one or two occasions, of the real potential for it all happening again. Priests on pedestals Christ never intended. The new ‘holy’ ones who seem to be looking to taking us back to darker times where they ruled rather than served.
One young priest, two years ordained, when asked why he thought the abuse crisis was the fault of the people, their lack of faith – being challenged replied, “I studied theology for seven years. I know what I am talking about.” Off he went with no thought or intent for further discussion.
I read the thoughts of someone else here today too and have to say if he is the future – I won’t be there. I’ve already been to that future and it took me to thirty years of spiritual hell where I was taught more in all of that than a life time in any seminary at the ‘study of theology’.
It’s scary. It really is and does not inspire the deepest confidence or sense of safety. Everything being done as regards making things safer are well and good and to be greatly commended. But when the wannabe ‘Pios’ get on those pedestals again, are allowed to, are put there and that’s a red flag if ever there were one. All are called to holiness – priests no more or less. It’s made very clear that all are truly equal in Christ.
But despite it all I did try very much to reconcile with the faith. I love the Mass. I love praying the rosary and a lot more again, or have done. But the reminders – those ‘triggers’ you may not know to watch for seem to wait at every turn. I read something about canon law yesterday. How the application of same in the recent past was being given as reason for bishops behaving as they did, or not behaving as they should, might have. Another something they can add to their bonfire of vanities – to the ‘blame everything else’ list. So you think they would, after everything, sort that out or make every effort to – this thing called canon law.
Then I am made aware of two ex priests, both abusers of males and females including rape, who’ve been convicted, served time and are in receipt not only of state benefits, but stipends from the bishop. This is happening today. A priest can rape a girl, not a gay priest mind you, and after/in serving his time – get paid for the privilege through the bishop’s adherence to canon law and misappropriating the people’s money. He, the bishop has a duty, obligation to offer ‘material support’ despite the fact that victims/survivors lives are near destroyed. Some lying in premature graves and I could take you to a few of those if so desired.
I understand the Christian ideal of forgiveness, healing and redemption. I learned to understand and forgive the priest who did what he did to me. RIP I could forgive the bishops/superiors if and when they learn, understand and know the meaning of honesty – truth – humility.
It’s a process – self examination, understanding, forgiveness and healing. Repentance is of course another matter. The priest in my case never apologised. But through my own learning, understanding of what may have made him become what he became, I learned to forgive. It was not difficult at all in the end. But forgiving the others is not possible – not yet, cause some do know what they have done, what they do and refuse for whatever reasons to look at that.
Forgiveness is not something to be imposed which the Church would try to do. The times I heard ‘the faithful’, waving rosary beads some times, repeat and even shout at survivors, “You must forgive. He without sin cast the first stone…. “
I wonder they’d have been so quick to judge if their child, brother or sister, uncle, aunt or parent had suicided, been driven to despair and were lying before them in a coffin.
Paedophiles deserve forgiveness, healing and redemption too. All abusing clerics do. We all do. But it should not be made to happen at the expense of the innocent, or the very faith of those innocents – a faith that might keep, have kept them from giving wholly to despair and premature death. As well as the faith of their families, friends and communities. Every one of you has been challenged in your faith with it all.
Cardinal Levada earlier this year on the Support of Priests:
“In addition to continuing education and spiritual support of his priests, the Bishop has the responsibility to provide appropriate material support for his priests, including priests accused or found guilty of sexual abuse, in accord with the norms of canon law. While the Bishop is able to limit the exercise of an accused cleric’s ministry, as warranted by circumstances even during the preliminary investigation (cf. CIC can. 1722; SST art.19 [2010 rev.ed.]), as a father and brother he also has the responsibility to protect the good name of his priests, and should make every effort to rehabilitate the reputation of a cleric who has been wrongly accused”
Do you realise that your money may be getting used to give financial support to convicted criminals? It can all be done in the cause of fraternal/paternalistic love of the bishop for his ‘sons’. And the other children are left to founder.
How are we ever meant to learn to trust again?
You are at times and certainly justifiably angry. When you give voice to that anger as it can often and in reality be the only way to be heard, to change things, rather than internalise and self-destruct; it can seem like an attack on the good priests too, hurting them, undermining their faith and confidence. And the truth is that you don’t want that. You don’t want to hurt anyone as there’s been more than enough pain and suffering.
As human beings the priests and religious are as worthy of the deepest respect as are all. As priests and religious they deserve respect too from their congregations, if true to their vocations, to their human decency, to Christ and to the other – the neighbour.
I have nothing but respect for all the good men and women who devote their lives to the service of others. I know how demanding and thankless it can be. Not in the sense of priesthood.
When we speak out, wish to be heard, we are not attacking you in any way, the good Catholic people or the Church as Body of Christ, and never the faith itself certainly. It seems that many people have that perception. I have seen that in some people, how they would appear to perceive any and all attacks from whatever source, on the very ‘rot and filth’ – the power of corruption – abusive power, as also being attacks and an undermining of their faith.
We don’t need rosary beads and holy water thrown at us in the hope we will burst into flames and disappear. Having some of the ‘faithful’ tell us it is a great sin to speak anything against all the ‘holy priests’. Reminding us of the words of some vision of saint whomever how evil we are for supposedly so doing – and that we are destined for hell. This just happened today again. If it wasn’t true you’d think it a very bad script for a William Blatty flick. Not to confuse our wish to work indeed with the good holy priests in exposing all the true ‘rot and filth’ permeating so much. “Love the sinner NOT the sin,” said Jesus.
Jesus also said, “The gates of hell shall not prevail.” Jesus is the Truth revealed through Peter on whom the faith in that Truth that is Christ rests. Hell will not prevail against the Truth of Christ – Truth. The ‘rot and filth’ that would cling to that Rock – like a stone gathering dirty moss, is what is attacked and should be, especially when it strangles true faith – spiritual life; not least in the most innocent, most vulnerable members of the Body, and at the hands of one acting as ‘Head’.
My faith never died and spiritual life was never extinguished wholly in me. I learned that I could relate to God through the truth of ‘the Word that is God from the beginning’ – which became Incarnate and through Whom, from the beginning all exists and is held in being. God can be known at some level through everything. I earned to find God, the life and love of Christ, in and through other faiths, traditions too – and at times through the experiences of non- belief. And in that seeking found my way back to the Christian and Catholic Faith. And it was good in many ways, and in many ways I could experience, relate to what I thought I knew and understood of the faith before, in different ways. See anew what I might not have seen previously.
But those reminders are always there. Seemingly.
When your trust is gone you can see the potential, and in this case, a real potential for betrayal and more abuse. I don’t see an honest examination, appraisal, understanding or tackling of the real ‘rot and filth’ that has been and will remain a challenge to the Faith, and to any real progress ‘Towards Healing’ in the longer term for many people.
Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they KNOW NOT what they do….. “
Knowledge and understanding are critical. I don’t see a real desire to know, examine or understand what I see and understand as pertinent in all of this – actual causes. I see a desire only and rather to scapegoat and hold to the status quo – ordained to lord over than to serve. Not all. Not even the ‘many’. But this is at the heart of it all too. Power – the power of a Caesar as much as a Christ – and at times it’s not easy to tell the difference. But tell I have to anyway, or try to, and then render to the Caesar what belongs to him for my own safety, sanity and spiritual health.
You can find at times more peace in a Mosque, maybe a Synagogue and I am sure a Tepee or even a field, relating to the Creator in and through all of those, and outside all of those places too. I’d love that peace in the soil where I was originally planted.
I learned that many victims can not relate to God again, to Christ or any representation of Christ – the ‘male’ – God, as Father. And that impedes greatly any return to the Catholic Faith especially. They need to be allowed, assisted even, to see God ‘imaged’ through other elements of the Creation, in and through all that the Word has made and holds in existence, as John tells us.
And with me, in time, I learned to see Christ again, imaged perfectly in and through His Mother. God is Love and Mary perfectly images that Love. “My soul magnifies the Lord….. “ I was safe there – and She helped me begin to understand that Christ had nothing to do with anything done to me or any other through any of the ‘representatives’ in any way. She inspired trust, confidence and a renewed faith. She was, is the Mother of that Wounded Healer who heals all and makes all new through His stripes/wounds.
“A sword of sorrow your own soul shall pierce also…… that the thoughts of many hearts be revealed.”
We need to be able to trust – learn again to trust. Mary as a true ‘Wounded Healer’ in this way and in this context can help us heal our wounds and through our wounds maybe assist others like us heal too – through their revealing the thoughts of their own hearts. Cardinal Brady is not a ‘wounded healer’. Will the ‘Church’ allow this – give us the ‘material support’ to effect the beginnings of such real and lasting healings of the Body of Christ – of some of those deepest of wounds that bleed over all others and over all. I’ve suggested it. But as they say, I am sure I am, ‘P’ssin’ at the wind’. ‘Scuse the expression.
How would you as priests and laity feel about such a proposal ? Survivors wishing, trying desperately to remain with the Church, with the faith, and maybe ‘trigger’ free practice of that Faith again , one day being offered ‘material support’ given to others – support towards training to become real ‘wounded healers’ for each other and the greater Body. Empower us to heal our own wounds and maybe some of yours in the process. Put those seminaries to other uses too. At present the offer seems the equivalent to band aids. Plastering over and not really dealing with the disease, causes or preventing recurrence.
Or we just walk and do it somewhere else.
I began in pondering how a return to practicing Catholic might get beyond triggering in practicing the essentials, maybe partaking of the very life giving sacraments, of Catholicism ? Do I need to be a practicing Catholic when it can seem in a very real way to be destroying my faith and peace ? When there is so little if any trust, and we are not truly ‘support’ ed in rebuilding trust, relationships, and taking our rightful places in the Body of Christ.
It seems a spiritual abuse in itself when you are left potentially to wonder, to worry that by not practicing or being able to practice your faith for its having been almost destroyed in you by those acting as ‘other Christs’. That you are not free, to be free of that anxiety/fear – through some action of the Church, a dispensation of sorts if needed they might grant- that you are not being faithful to Christ who did you no harm. That indeed you might be condemning yourself to some outer darkness or firey pit for not submitting to obedience and ‘carrying your cross’.
Is this just more spiritual abuse ?
When trust is gone and you can’t seem sure of having it back – does being rid of the ‘Church’ in that ‘sacramental/sacerdotal,’ priestly way mean being rid of Christ ?
How can a Catholic remain so without practicing the faith ?
Would trying to live the commandments of God on the ‘outside’ be enough ?
Could I love you more as Christ would have me do from a distance.
I know of very few others who have or try to embrace the Catholic faith again that way. The others left and I cannot fault them in any way for doing so. Many abandon faith in God. If they were ‘lost’ sheep in some way – who will leave the ninety nine to go in search of them – even one of them, that all others might know healing too and rejoice ?
Show them, or try to show them, that Christ did not abuse their hearts, minds bodies and souls. Can you do it ? Do you know anyone who can ? Introduce me.
I know that all of you good priests, in your ways, go in search and do just that in various contexts.
That one person though, male or female, who cannot relate to the male cleric in any way. Who cannot relate to Christ because of that and who might benefit from, need assistance is using other eyes to help her/him see again, maybe through less of the ‘father’ and more of the Mother ‘Church.’ To help begin again to see and to know who Christ might truly be – is. Certainly He is no abuser in any way of persons or souls. Of course those abused by religious women need another perspective.
It would allow for an entire study in itself.
Too much blind trying to blind and lead it seems at present.
Maybe I should walk to another ‘Church’ and give some real peace to a few hearts and souls.
One thing is for sure is that it’s one helluva an intense and steep learning curve – for all.
Need to sleep. Thank you for reading. Take care of yourselves. Faith makes well. I believe this. God bless you all. A Dios
Kevin (email firstname.lastname@example.org)
PS Always be wary of spiritual abuses of all kinds. They are myriad – and being silenced in any way is nothing less than true spiritual abuse. “Oh you can’t talk about that….. blah blah.” Jesus came to serve not lord over. By the fruits. If he/she can’t ‘wash feet’ ten he/she won’t be much use for much else ‘spiritually’ either.
Love knows only humility…… it has no choice. (Rumi)