By Paul Ashton, Psy.D., D.Min.
Consultant to the VIRTUS® Programs
“We rely on the power of God, who has saved us and called us to holiness.”
From the song We Rely on the Power of God – Richard Hillert
Much changed for us in 2002 when the media broke the news that the sexual abuse of children had been taking place in our Church and hidden from us. Protecting us from scandal led only to a larger, more catastrophic scandal for millions. There is no way around this fact. Many were initially abused and wounded for a lifetime, and the cover-up, even though it was done to protect people, instead turned into one of the most horrific disasters our modern church has seen.
Many still seek answers. Many still are hurt and wounded. Many have left the Church. Many are still angry. Many still do not believe. Many still are suffering and can’t move forward. Many cannot forgive or get to that place to even start the process.
And the list goes on—a painful litany in an endless search for peace.
The media was successful bringing the scandal to the world’s attention. We are in the media’s debt, and we owe them our gratitude. They opened our eyes to a truth, which needed to be exposed. The media led us to action and helped us embark on what has become our international mission for over a decade.
What would be helpful to us, as church is the wider reporting of what we have accomplished across the country since 2002. Our sins were named and our demons uncovered, and we immediately embarked upon a process to address child sexual abuse to help victims and to restore faith belief in our Faith tradition. In those dark days of 2002 we felt God’s presence in mighty ways and we fought battles to bring the message of healing and forgiveness to people, places and institutions across the country. Some thought, and still think, that they were exempt from the sins of abuse and the need to develop policies, programs and procedures to fight child sexual abuse and the victimization of vulnerable persons. Many of us, however, forge ahead and push and pray our way to proactive education and reaching out.
Some have died in this battle. A horrific and overwhelmingly painful consequence of our corporate sin is victims committing suicide. Perpetrator suicide has also taken place when those who were accused of their crimes were confronted. Stress and triggers abound in victim’s families and friends and church workers feel the pain of those they serve in acute ways. The carnage from all of this is overwhelming. Many die slow deaths from broken hearts, betrayed and crying out for help.
As a result of these abuses many people in retirement or close to finishing their church ministerial careers came forth and opened new offices for victims, creating safer environments and forging a new way for this ministry. We hear that what we are doing is not enough. We know this, because our 2,000-year history has taught us never to rest in the face of suffering. We are working diligently to repair the damage we are made aware of, and to assist each person who comes our way. Our work is tireless, but we still hear the cry for justice on behalf of those who are hurt and wounded. We forge ahead.
People have made the Church, sacraments and our beliefs a subject of ridicule. People mock our tradition and tell us that we are hypocrites. People tell us that we are not doing enough. There is nothing funny about any of this, but we use what humor we have to unite our efforts to bring joy to those who haven't glimpsed the happiness of the resurrection in a long time—person by person. This is how we accomplish the message of Joy.
I have been blessed to see so many people around the country trying to restore the trust that has been broken. The many good things I have witnessed, victim’s retreats, listening sessions, prayer services, vigils of atonement, countless trainings for prevention, awareness programs for children and adults, encourage me and I know God’s power in and through them. I have witnessed countless safe environments created and mandated everywhere in our Church communities. Thousands of ministers and volunteers have devoted thousands of hours to the care of victims, children and vulnerable adults.
Does this make it all right? Does this make it better? Does this make it go away?
We are trying very, very hard on all levels to get this right and to do the right thing. Some are not participating, but it does not stop us individually from trying to change and heal the Church from within—person-by-person, good deed by good deed.
I know you are fighting the good fight, and I know you suffer with doubt as I do, but please be encouraged by God’s mighty power working within us to accomplish as much as we can together, so when we hear the doubt in others we can pray with them and for them to be led to a place of peace and forgiveness.
We rely on the mighty power of God who will never let us face our perils alone.
Mary, Queen of the Church, Pray for Us!
Jesus, Healer of All Souls, Fill us with Love.