More on Christ the Victim, And the Necessity of Speaking Out

More on Christ the Victim, And the Necessity of Speaking Out March 10, 2019


I was going to let the trolls take over the combox and retire on the click money.

However, I received a comment from someone whom I need to address personally. In public, because she addressed me in public.

It comes from a Disqus user named That name is not the secret email that I can see when I log in as a Disqus moderator; it is this person’s chosen public Disqus name, and that’s why I’m posting it here.

Philothea is responding to a post where I talked about why I think about Christ’s passion in terms of sexual violence due to what I know of the history of Roman Crucifixion, and how I will always view survivors of sexual violence as innocent because my faith teaches me that they are– that boys and girls, men and women who are victims of sexual violence remain innocent in the eyes of God. Only a person’s sin can make them guilty, not sins committed against them. I named quite a few different hypothetical cases of sexual violence, as part of a meditation on how God finds them innocent even when human beings blame them and call them guilty or dirty.

The commentator chided me thusly:

“Mary, I would suggest that during Lent, you meditate on Jesus’ words: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Put yourself in the place of “they.” You seem to be so obsessed with sexual abuse that you are ready to project it onto everything–and the worse [sic] kind. Tame your imagination! Stick to the facts, not speculations of an imagination out of control. The danger in this kind of projection is that it begans [sic] to make us believe it is true and to judge others and other events according to our own thoughts and imaginations. It can cause us to condemn and convict others, not based on truth or facts, but on our opinions and speculations. This is what crucified Jesus–lies and mob violence–unbelief in God and his love. This kind of mediation is not going to bring anyone to repentance or to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Talk about anger, your article is full of it, and that kind of anger can blind you from the truth. If you have been abused in any of the ways you mentioned, try to forgive your abusers. The only way victims can be healed is by forgiveness and healing–by refusing to see themselves as a victim anymore. Praying for you.”

First of all, Philothea, victims can’t help but see ourselves as victims, because that’s what we are. Those of us who survived are also survivors, but we remain victims. A victim is a person who was the object of somebody else’s violence through no fault of their own, and that doesn’t change by having a positive attitude. Nor does it change by forgiveness and healing. It’s just something you become when people are violent toward you. Furthermore, there’s no shame in being a victim. At Benediction, we sing “O Salutaris Hostia,” the sacred song that translates as “O Saving Victim.” “Victim” is one of the titles of our God.  He rose from the dead and is now in Paradise at the Right Hand of the Father, where we will all see His face, but He chooses to still be called a Victim. You may be ashamed of Him, but I am not.

You also may be ashamed to hear the stories of survivors of sexual violence, but I am not. I am glad to hear my friends’ stories, and to share them when they give me permission. My own rapist was not a Catholic, but I’ve gotten to know many survivors of clerical sexual abuse, and sexual abuse at Catholic schools condoned and covered up by Catholic laity and clergy, along my own path of healing. When I speak of Our Lord’s Passion, I do what millions of Catholics have done before me and use conjecture based on scripture, pious legend, and studying history. When I speak about sexual abuse, I’m usually talking about real things that happened to people I know or that I have taken from the news. Sometimes I fictionalize or generalize details to protect the victims, or because I’m talking about similar things that happened to more than one person. But I know men who were sexually abused by priests as boys and are unable to even call themselves Catholic now because of the betrayal; I know women who were sexually abused in the confessional; I know that an enormous number of nuns have been raped by priests and shamed into silence. I understand some of the trauma that can result from such events. So I talk about it.

Silence is how our Holy Catholic Church got into this crisis in the first place. The culture of priests abusing their flocks could never have been sustained if people had felt free to speak out about sexual violence, but they did not. They were shamed into silence, into helping to silence victims, into looking the other way. They were shamed by people like you. They were gaslit by being told they were “angry” and imagining things, making up abuse where there was really none. They were gaslit into thinking that forgiveness meant never speaking about sexual abuse, as you tried to do to me.

Many were probably given a lot of self-help mumbo jumbo about how they had to tame their imaginations and stop feeling like victims, and that would make their victimhood go away.

And I need to speak so very bluntly and harshly with Philothea about clerical sexual violence and not shaming victims for being victims. Because is listed several times publicly online as the email address for Lenora Grimaud, who leads the Magnificat Spiritual Enrichment for Women group at Sacred Heart Church in Palm Desert, California. And I’m terrified that one of my readers is going to walk into these spiritual enrichment lectures and have her heart broken by a callous victim-shamer who wants to silence survivors.

No one who represents the Church should be shaming victims for talking about being victims right now. We ought to have learned our lesson during the “long Lent” of 2001, but we didn’t. We ought to have learned last summer after the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report but we didn’t.  We ought to have learned after the Sexual Abuse Summit earlier this month, but we haven’t. The only answer is for survivors to cry out with a thousand tongues.

And for the record, I do believe in God and His love.

Praying for you.

(image via pixabay) 

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