This is how scandal is ignored in the church

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 () 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.

Are you?

About jane

Loving God through my family, friends, and interactions in my world.
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19 Responses to This is how scandal is ignored in the church

  1. Judy Gatin says:

    Jane, I am so sorry to hear that you have lived this experience. It makes me angry, sick, sad and discouraged that our church is broken in these glaring ways! The fact that bishops have known of abuses and not acted swiftly and decisively is so horrendous. Be well & keep raising your voice for those who need to hear it.

  2. Erin Manning says:

    I just want to say that I hear you and I’m listening. I’m sorry for what you went through. I hope your abuser was removed from ministry.

  3. Christine Taylor says:

    Jane, I have heard you. . Praying for you my friend and all who have suffered abuse. I’m not using the word victim because that has a certain connotation of powerlessness that I believe silences voices and stops up ears. May your words bring you and others healing; as well as bring transformation to the Church whose mission is hurt each time sinful acts are hidden and those who perpetuate them are not held to account.

  4. YVETTE GAREAU says:

    Jane, you have so gently expressed your feelings. I have added you to my prayer list.

  5. Giselle Jakobs says:

    Thanks for having the courage to speak up, Jane. You’re definitely not the only one – and you’re right, a lot of us don’t speak out. I remember one seminarian (now a priest) who pursued some of the female students with extreme tenacity. Is he any different now, as a priest? Unlikely. But people (bishops. parishioners) see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear.

    It doesn’t start with the Pope… it starts with each one of us who know/hear/see something about a priest/deacon/brother. It’s called “social response”… it’s about listening to the victim, hearing the victim, affirming the victim and then doing something about it.

    Because sure as shootin’, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Imagine firefighters who see smoke in the forest and say, “it’s inconsequential… not worth worrying about”. WTF?

    The thing that gets me is that everyone is freaking out over Pennsylvania and… that is only one state. And it’s not unique. Where are the other grand jury investigations from the other states? And what about Canada? Maybe we need a #MeToo campaign… for the ones who were used by some of the clergy… and for the rest of the clergy who knew/saw/heard/suspected things and never spoke up. Who saw the smoke and walked away and pretended it didn’t exist.

    • jane says:

      I’ve had to wait until at a computer to respond; I hate typing anything lengthy on the phone.

      Thank you, Giselle, for responding here. I feel like you have one of the most untinted views, and though I don’t know your history, I suspect you’ve experienced trauma at the hands of the church as well (hasn’t nearly every woman in ministry?). And I believe you are right – it is not just a US problem – the silence has just not yet broken on the churches in Canada. I hope it does, because it is a poison.

      I’ve found Elizabeth Scalia’s articles to be accurate representations of how I’m feeling about all this. I’m glad people are listening to the abused in the US – I hope that trend continues here in Canada too.

      Thanks again for sharing your perspective, Giselle.

  6. Michele says:

    Jane – I am so sorry to read this. Thank you for sharing – and if it helps – I am totally a fan of AJK2! I do ready your post but I don’t always comment…. and I liked your recent CM beatboxing post 🙂

  7. Theresa Goudreau says:

    Thank you so much for your bravery Jane!

  8. hawaii52 says:

    Figured as much…. Namaste

  9. Linda Funk says:

    Just read your blog, Jane. Thanks for inviting me. You’ve expressed your thoughts so clearly. May God give you courage to move ahead with this. I’ll be praying.

  10. franciscanmom says:

    Oh my goodness, Jane … thank you for your courage. My social-media time has been spotty of late and I didn’t see this originally. Know that my prayers are with you right now, and I will try to give that little extra when I am on social media to hear the voice of the one who isn’t being listened to.

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