I have always loved living in Pittsburgh. It is a friendly city with deep roots and lots of unique qualities. However, something happened just this week to cause me to feel intense shame, Pittsburgh was tied to a ring of pedophile priests. It was a massive cover-up that went back decades. It was made possible by local priests, various clergy, the once highly regarded bishop, now Cardinal, Donald Wuerl among many others. A plethora of information has now been released. You can read all 1356 pages of the report online, you can watch interviews and hear the sobs of those directly affected, you can read the gruesome and heartbreaking details of what these children endured. Though I recommend it, as I do not think post people understand how absolutely horrifying this really is, I will also warn you- that it is not for the faint of heart.
One quote that jumped out at me came from a letter written by one of the victims. He has since died of an overdose as he became addicted to the painkillers he was prescribed after suffering an injury to his spine while he was raped by his priest. The words of the victim were as follows. “He killed my potential and, in doing so, killed the man I should have become.”. To me this serves as a reminder that though the physical pain of abuse is significant, the psychological components are what can destroy your entire life.
I can’t imagine what it feels like to be physically or sexually abused as a child. I was fortunate to escape my younger years without this time of trauma. As an adult I was not as lucky, but still, there is something different about it being a child. The innocence that is stolen away. Preying on someone who thinks you care for them. Destroying their ability to trust. I think most of us respond differently to child abuse versus the abuse of an adult… unless you are a part of the Catholic church.
Within the walls of the church anything is possible. You can rape a child, confess it and you are forgiven. Sure, you might get sent off to another church, but that just means a new group of children to abuse. In one article it was stated that after finding out about his sexual misconduct, including the abuse of an 11 year old boy, Pope Francis sentenced U.S. Prelate Theodore McCarrick to “a life of prayer and penance” which means that absolutely nothing happened. It amazes me how many of the rapists can have their names redacted from the list and the paperwork. If a regular citizen sexually assaults someone not only will it be all over the news, but they will have to register as a sex offender. For Christ’s sake there are people who dated a 17-year old when they themselves were 19- years old that have had to register as sex offenders, but the priests can save face because religion has its own rules and are treated special in our society. This must stop.
Another thing that has boggled my mind is where is the public outrage over this? Where are the protesters? Where are all the Catholics denouncing their faith? How can anyone still want to be involved in the Catholic church (or any church) after hearing about this? I am unable to comprehend it. My brain does not have the ability to flip this around into a positive experience. Lots of people say that they still identify as Catholic but simply don’t attend church anymore. In fact, during an online chat I saw someone say “I don’t go to church, but I hold much of the catholic faith still, even after being one of the victims of molestation by a catholic priest who they moved around. I still have faith I just keep my faith away from the buildings.”. So, this person knows firsthand of the abuse that can come as a result of the corruption within the church and still believes that Catholicism is the standard on which to base your life. They believe the same bible these priests read from is the best book from which to learn what is right and wrong. They have had the fear of God beaten into their brain to the point that nothing, not even this, can break the grip religion has on their life. The power that religious indoctrination can have over an individual is simply outrageous. And if people keep finding ways to justify it, those in power will continue to do it.
Don’t be fooled, this is not a new problem and it is not a problem that will go away just because some 300 priests have been outed. The abuse of children has a deep and dark history within religion and it isn’t just the Catholics that are at fault. Do not be naive, this is not the power of the priest at work, it is the power of “God”. There are individuals from all religions that have been guilty of this crime, and all of those criminals know someone will cover it up and that they can likely shame their victim into silence or simply threaten them with the wrath of God. Most of the victims and their families will never receive any justice. The statute of limitations has made it possible for these men to walk away with no punishment at all. So, what can we do? We can push for our legislators to change the laws that involve child abuse. We can let victims know that they matter and that regardless of how long it takes them to speak out their strength is meaningful, and something will be done. We can stop letting churches make their own rules and hold them to the same standard as everyone else. We can make more resources available for our children to report abuse, even if doing so anonymously, so that these abusers are being watched and not flying under the radar.