I type the name into the address bar, and breathe in. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…hold 2, 3, 4…
I’m beginning to recognize the physical signs of an impending panic attack, and have learned to use breathing techniques to ward them off. But it doesn’t always work.
Fuck. Forget triggered. Try annihilated. Strangled. Dropped from a 50-ft cliff. The month of October is already a PTSD-triggering mine field, but this just set them all off at once.
A dear friend alerted me to the article, but I already knew. I’d been informed of the pending investigation and his removal weeks ago, and I’ve been harboring it in my closet like a rabid gorilla, eager to escape. I’ve vaguebooked about it. I’ve talked to family and friends in private about it. And now, I’m letting it out. My own personal feelings and frustrations. My voice. My perspective. Because in spite of what I’ve been told, multiple times, it IS my business. It is absolutely my business.
Rewind to October, 1999. I was 16. Relatively carefree and ready to take on the world. Until the 29th of that particular month in that particular year, when our world simultaneously imploded and exploded. My smart, sweet, spirit-filled brother Eric, just 29 years old, took his own life. Years of depression and mental health breakdowns finally revealed their underlying cause shortly before his death; he’d been molested at age 12 by our local parish priest. Horrific. Awful. Devastating. But those depths were only just the mouth of the cave where our family has crawled out of. That dark, seemingly never-ending despair of learning that your church, your beloved bedrock of belief in a higher power, a good creator, had actually enabled and covered up this pedophile priest’s actions. For years. Countless victims, and at least five subsequent suicides. (Read here for the full story.)
And guess what? More deaths can be traced back to that so-called man of the cloth. But those families aren’t ready to come forward. And they may never be. But I can’t blame them.
Because our family did. While I was a teenager and shied away from the spotlight, my parents stepped out bravely into the blinding eye of the cameras, the questions, the criticisms. They bared their souls, and beat the drum of policy change to prevent these same things from happening again. Across the country they flew, and spoke at conference after conference. Still a teenager, and still very much in need of my parents, my resentment grew. Why couldn’t they just stay home? Why did they have to wear my brother’s picture around their necks and picket in front of the cathedral? Why did my mom have to take phone calls at every hour of the day to speak with grieving parents and sexual abuse victims on the brink of suicide? I wanted my mom. I wanted my dad. I lost a sibling and two parents in the process. At least that’s how it felt at the time.
But now that I’m a parent, now that I have three precious souls of my own, I get it. I completely understand why my parents did what they did, and I see them as nothing less than absolute badass heroes. Sadly, my father passed 4 years ago, but my beloved momma lives on. She delights in my children, and she kisses the Bible every morning after her devotion. She takes in each new day as a gift from God, and she continues to be my hero by the fact that she goes on living after all she’s been through. But she’s tired. She beat this drum for so long, and as loudly as she could. She’s saved countless lives, quite literally, but the work isn’t done. It never will be.
So you see, when I heard that our local priest had been suspended because he’d broken protocol by taking a group of children on a hike, unsupervised, we were devastated. Protocols that were implemented to protect children were willfully ignored for sheer convenience. Did he have bad intentions? I have no idea, and I won’t speculate as to what his intentions were. But to me, it felt like a betrayal. How dare you even risk it? How dare you even cause speculation and doubt in your own parishioners?
And I want to make one thing very clear. I LOVE my Catholic friends and family. The people of the Catholic Church are beautiful, loving, generous, and for the most part, have supported my family during our journey out of the darkness.
But y’all, I’m mad at your church, okay? While I’m grateful that parishioners were told the truth about his absence, I’m frustrated that there were no public statements from the Diocese for weeks. WEEKS. “The Bishop was in Israel.” Okay?! And?! It’s called modern technology. Use it. Doubt and fear were allowed to fester. That’s not okay. It’s never okay.
Imagine this same scenario at a school. Students walk into their classroom one day to find a substitute teacher. A letter is read. “Mr. Smith is absent for an indefinite amount of time pending an investigation.” Your child comes home and tells you. You call the school, desperate for more information. “We’re sorry. The principal is out of the country and we’ll let you know more when he returns.” Weeks go by. Nothing.
Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me?!
You wouldn’t stand for that. And I’m not standing for this. Progress has been made in the way “these things” are handled, yes, but there’s a LONG way to go.
And yes, I read the article. I’m grateful for this. I am.
“My pledge to you and to all the people of the Diocese is to maintain a safe environment, one in which even the appearance of impropriety and potential scandal is avoided,” Wichita Bishop Carl Kemme wrote in the letter sent Thursday. “Father Andy’s lack of prudence and lapse in judgment on the day in question gave an appearance of impropriety and caused concerns.”
I see your pledge. I’ll take it to heart. And hold you to it.
Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/living/religion/article183785851.html#storylink=cpy
(And thank GOD for journalists. Your diligence and courage to tell the truth in spite of controversy, danger or fear has saved lives.)