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The lay person and the Catholic Church Sex Scandal - one mom's opinion.

Crying angel

Judeur1957 @ Flickr, licensed cc. 


This week I did the unthinkable. 

I deliberately took a few hours to sit down and read a few hundred pages of sensational sex crimes, in detail, for free and online. 

Even more unbelievably, I think if you're an adult Catholic in the United States, you should too. I'll even give you the link.  Grand Jury Report on Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church of Pennsylvania. 

It is graphic and specific and shocking. It's not written in legalese. It's actually technically a very simple read. Emotionally it was much harder. My emotions were raw and numb after about an hour.  I was beyond disbelief and anger. Maybe the modern vernacular to what I felt was "woke." I am now "woke." 

What I wasn't was surprised. Anyone who lived through the dark days of 2003 and the resulting programs that came out of it can't be surprised that we just skimmed the surface of what was going on. We knew there was a disease process going on. We knew that disease was malignant. We just didn't quite know how deep and putrid that cancer was on the body of Christ. We still don't although the picture is coming into more focus. 

What's clear is this is not over. It might not be over for a long time. 70 years of sexual abuse isn't going to disappear in one year or twenty. Maybe three generations will pass before it becomes a historical footnote. Then, of course, the danger will be that it repeats itself if we don't learn the lessons well enough this time around. 

That's what I am concerned about. 

How did this happen?

"If I saw an Angel and a priest, I would bend my knee first to the priest and then to the Angel."  St. John Vianney. 

I remember reading that quote a few years ago. I understand where the dear 18th/19th century saint was coming from. But I don't think that quote makes sense in the 21st century. 

In the last century, this attitude is what allowed parents to let priests come into their homes and literally, molest their children in their own beds, or take their sons on camping trips, or abuse them in church and school. In the last century, we had role models like Bing Crosy in the Bells of Saint Mary. But it wasn't true. Priests and deacons are men. Men are sinful. We all are. The laity should have been on guard, but instead, they were neutered, told they were not as important as these men who had given their lives to God and taken a vow of celibacy. Except the abusers hadn't done either. In one misogynistic twist of logic, it was explained that it was sex with a woman that was sinful and vile- that's why it was okay to target young boys. 

What to do?

My sister is going to teach Sunday School this year. She has to get her Virtus Training first. Mr. Pete was told that he has to catch up on his post-Virtus training online. When we first took our Virtus Training back in 2004, we grumbled about it. Why should the laity pay for what was a clerical problem? 

You can read my thoughts from then here, here and here

I have since had a change of heart. I think such training is important and necessary - for everyone.

The Virtus training is excellent. Once you've taken it, the red flags continue to pop up whenever you see them in everyday life. It's not that you're surrounded by abusers necessarily, but that you are more aware of the possibility. 

As I was reading the Grand Jury report and how so much of this abuse happened with the parents' trusting lack of oversight, I can see why having trained adults would be so beneficial. I can't imagine any mother who has had Virtus Training allowing a grown man to be alone with her child in his bedroom in her house!  It just wouldn't happen. 

In my own life, once I learned the ways of a predator, I was able to recognize them. My own cousin used predatory techniques to prey on my parents  - not sexually but emotionally and for financial gain. A predator, is a predator, is a predator - the target and the goal might be different but the techniques were much the same. If I had been Virtus trained just 6 years earlier, maybe I could have saved my family a lot of time, trouble and money. 

I heard on the news this week that there have only been 2 more cases of sexual abuse in Pennsylvania since the first scandal broke in 2002. Hopefully, that means that the programs put in place to stop abuse early are working. But that also means predators keep trying. 

If your parish or school or place of work offers training on how to spot an abusive predator, my advice would be to take it. The Virtus Training offered by the Diocese of Cleveland is only 3 hours long and the online training offered afterward is pretty easy to read through. Maybe this is the one area of the Catholic Church where the laity absolutely must take a leadership role, to guard the hearts, minds, and bodies of its faithful.  









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