Saturday, June 25, 2011
The Other Victims
A friend of mine had worked as successful chaplain in a school in a northern diocese, then it was revealed his predecessor had who was in his sixties had as a newly ordained priest working in another school abused a boy. Everything started to collapse. He, my friend, felt the staff in this Catholic school started to exclude him, treating him as the enemy, numbers attending the voluntary Masses dropped away, children looked at him with suspicion, graffitti started to apear directed against his predecessor, and priests in general, then finally him. Again it was guilt by association, his friends cared for him but the bishop just wanted assurance there was no smoke without fire.
Another priest friend returned to his diocese having tried his vocation in a religious community, for a while he was left to do nothing, then the Bishop appointed him to an industrial chaplaincy, he was feeling pretty raw, the rawness was increased by the coldness and suspicion with which he was met in his new post. It took quite sometime before he discovered his predecessor had been removed because he was paedophile. I think it was when his trial happened. The bishop and those involved in his appointment had not considered it worth telling my friend.
Another friend was sent as a young newly ordained priest to a parish where there was a much loved, avuncular, older Parish Priest, some even named their children after him. In the Presbytery, however, he was a cold, secretive domineering drunk. He, with his housekeeper lived apart, from the assistant priest, barely talking to him, some people suggest she was his mistress. My friend complained to their Superior about the Parish Priest's "disfunctionality" but was ignored, eventually he was sent on the missions and succeeded by some other young priest. After Parish Priest's death it emerged that he committed paedophile acts whilst working as teacher and the Superior had known about it for some time.
There has been a lot of talk about official cover-up, some of it was obviously deliberate, even criminal, in other cases simple stupidity; bishops or religious seem caught like rabbits in headlights. I don't know if that is the case of the Rosminians and Fr Myers, it seems like it. Many clergy would suggest that our vulnerable adults protection policies seem to be dictated more by insurance companies and box ticking than by a genuine spirit of repentance, a desire to make reparation and a firm purpose of amendment. In the case of my three friends no one in authority has shown the slightest interest in how their experience has effected them, maybe that is bit touchy feely but apart from box ticking aimed at prevention of future cases, have we learnt anything?
If anything I think we have gone backwards, there is less pastoral care of clergy than there was before the "abuse crisis" broke. There is a tendency for some bishops to regard their clergy as potential liabilities, causes for the inflation of insurance premiums, rather than disciples or co-workers in the Lord's vineyard, or co-cross carriers. A previous generation might have introduced fast days or litanies or a feast of Our Lady into the calendar for the healing of the Church and all victims, but we,we just produce more paper.
I was struck by Cardinal Kaspar recent remarks about Diocesan Synods happening every ten years, it made me wonder how reflective we are as a Church. Our critics see us as arrogant, unfeeling, and certainly not as seeking mercy, forgiveness and reconcilliation. I wonder, is it this penitential spirit that is absent in today's Church. A blindness that stops us, for example, being able to assess and evaluate the lapsation or poverty of catechesis, or the expereiments of the last fifty years. The problem is that if we make this evaluation today it would be from a sociological perspective not a spiritual one.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake