I have been hit hard by the recent scandals in the church. It cuts especially deep when I have experienced sexual abuse by the hands of one of the clergy, and I have experienced firsthand a bishop dismissing not only my testimony, but that of two other priests, one of them the president of the college I attended at the time. This is not an easy story to write, and I share reluctantly. You may have seen this on Twitter, but if not, here it is:
Sticking it out amidst scandals is hard. I was groomed by a deacon for sexual favours when I was a young, naive adult (~19). Not unlike the seminarians, I suspect, who were groomed by McCarrick.
This guy’s bishop was informed by the priest who helped me through it (
#goodpriest) as well as the president of the theological college I attended, but concerns were dubbed inconsequential. As I understood it, I was not the only one whom he groomed.
I thankfully had a good therapist who took my broken hand and walked me through it; bringing the problem to light was part of how she helped. It was the bishop who decided it wasn’t worth acknowledging. I remember thinking ‘My only wish is for this to never happen to anyone else’
I am a voice of the voiceless. My testimony is often discounted because I am a woman. But abuse of position, especially of trust, is -never- okay. I have a very clear view of the clergy because of this, and I have nearly zero chance of putting any on a pedestal. This is good.
‘what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.’ Mt 26:13
Except, the apostles forgot her name.
What are the names of the other victims out there?
Who can say, because their voice has been discounted and their story generalized, like me. Like ‘the seminarians.’ Like ‘the children.’
But we are all individual people who have been violated. For every -one- who speaks, there are many more who are silent.
My hope rests continually in Jesus, who knows me and calls me by name, though he may be the only one. He knows my story. He knows the violations against me and is righteously angry and sad about them. And he still asks me to forgive, as he has done.
Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?
Here’s the thing: I recognise I am not a popular person. As much as I want to fight that, I also accept it.
You want to know how scandal is overlooked in the church? It is by not recognising or acknowledging the stories of those who step forward – exercised even today in sharing my own story in a public forum. Over 100 people read the tweet (thanks twitter insights) but only 4 acknowledged it. It was only when someone with influence shared the story that it gained more track. I do not begrudge this at all, but it does show where the weight of responsibility lies (sorry Darryl! ;)).
Because I’m not popular on this forum, I am ignorable. Because these people who were sexually abused by clergy members were not popular with the right people, THEY WERE IGNORABLE.
This is how scandal is ignored in the church: no one wants to hear that they are a part of the problem, but it is EVERYONE. Including my own failures. Did you respond to the popular person’s question, but ignored the nobody who looks like they have a history of PTSD? I’ve seen her. She’s on Twitter and no one responds to her (hint – it’s not me). Do you listen to the nobodies or only your friends? Now, apply this to real life situations instead of Twitter. This is how scandal happens.
How many others are out there? I am one person sharing my voice. There are many others who cannot share because being that vulnerable and being ignored has happened to them already and they don’t want to risk it again. It is painful enough that people contemplate suicide over it (or have followed through). Putting your story out there is a very risky thing.
If you believe otherwise, then you’ve not been placed in a position like this before, or not seriously enough. Apparently I’m just the one ridiculous enough to do it again for the sake of those who don’t speak (I suspect the Spirit is the one who maintains the drive in me). Listen to the nobodies – make friends with them and hear their stories (if they choose to share), as Jesus did.
No one likes putting themselves out there on social media, especially when the chance of being ignored is high.
But God has a preferential option for the poor, just as these. And so should all Christians.
The quote that has helped keep me sane over the past several years comes from Mother Teresa:
He [Jesus] has his heart opened wide to receive you. Then when you feel miserable inside, look at the cross and you will know what is happening. Suffering, pain, sorrow, humiliation, feelings of loneliness, are nothing but the kiss of Jesus, a sign you have come so close that he can kiss you.
If you are not in these things, you’re not that close to Jesus. He is on that cross still today, still crucified. And this is where he’s called you to be, in order to be with him.