Do Victims Matter?

Do Victims Matter? July 21, 2019
Source: pexels.com

It is the apparently tenuous question so much of the debate with the sex abuse scandals surrounds:

Do victims matter?

I was just informed by the host of a popular podcast for Catholic women that we in fact don’t; at least, we don’t when it’s uncomfortable and inconvenient for other Catholics. I have followed this podcast for at least a year and was a subscriber on its email list. Yesterday morning, an email in my inbox from the podcast described this week’s episode (concerning the Church’s teaching on birth control). I skimmed to the bottom to see if I recognized the interviewee’s name, since I have a few times in the past. What I found instead made my stomach clench. 

My alma mater, Franciscan University of Steubenville, was this episode’s sponsor. When I pointed out (both in private message and publicly on the podcast’s Facebook page) that having a university with an abusive past (and present!) was hurtful to victims, the response was sickening.

Shown below are screenshots from the discussion:

 

Yes, my response to this was pretty salty, but I feel that it was justified.

To say that victims’ experiences don’t measure up to all of the countless good that a university has done is dismissive, and I would honestly like to know: how many victims are necessary to make people realize Franciscan is not the perfect Catholic kingdom that it claims to be? 

My own experience took place five years ago, but there are much more recent victims as well as victims from several decades before I even got to campus: read Karen’s story here.

How do I know?

Because friends have shared their stories with me, both while I was a student and after I graduated. That’s often the first step in healing, just telling another person who won’t judge you or blame you. 

Every single one of these victims matter. The Catechism clearly states that “Being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not something, but someone” (357). Regardless of anyone’s comfort level, that’s a core teaching in our Church and must be treated as such. Sure, it may be incredibly inconvenient when searching for podcast sponsors, but you can’t pick and choose when people have dignity. And blatantly ignoring victims’ pain isn’t upholding their dignity. 

You also can’t pick and choose when victims’ experiences matter.

Suddenly Franciscan University claims to care about victims, after ignoring our cries for years, by opposing Cardinal Blase Cupich to come speak at the invitation of the USCCB: united-states-conference-of-catholic-bishops-stop-card-cupich-from-attending-youth-summit-7-31-8-2. Also the archbishop of Chicago, Cupich has been known as a more “progressively-minded” bishop, which doesn’t bother me at all. I appreciate that he makes a point to treat all people with respect, especially the most marginalized. Take a look at his statements here: https://www.archchicago.org/cardinal-cupich-s-statements. I assumed his stance that our LGBTQ brothers and sisters should be treated respectfully was the reason Franciscan University opposed him as a speaker, but then I saw a fellow alum’s impassioned speech about why you should sign the petition:

 

What’s the focus here? “The very life of our Church is at stake”! *gasp of horror* Sure, that statement may be true, but I think it has more to do with the ongoing sex abuse crisis and lack of respect for laity. That’s a post for another time.

There’s no mention of how victims of abuse feel about this; in fact, there’s no mention of them at all – just a passing reference to Cupich as being “identified as a clergyman who covered up for priests involved in the recent abuse scandal”.

I’d personally never heard this before, so I did some digging of my own and the most I found was that Cupich was in fact accused by Archbishop Vigano as being appointed by ex-cardinal McCarrick. You can read that whole shitshow here: https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-met-letter-vatican-mccarrick-cupich-career-20180827-story.html 

I don’t consider Vigano a reliable source of information, considering his track record with the truth. America Magazine gives a good summary here: viganos-accusations-what-we-know-and-what-questions-they-raise. Yes, it’s possible that Cupich was involved in some sort of cover up, just as it’s possible that any cleric or layperson is complicit.

I believe that we have yet to hear the last of the sex abuse scandal in our Church and pray that the truth will come out in the end. However, the point is that those who oppose Cupich aren’t all that concerned about justice for victims because justice for victims is not their reason for speaking out. They’re speaking out because Cupich is known for his controversial words and actions regarding immigration, abortion, homosexuality, and other hot button issues.

This obviously doesn’t jive with such a conservative campus that would appreciate you keep your gayness in the closet, thank you very much. 

The university is free to complain about a speaker they don’t like and never asked for, but it’s insensitive to say the least to tack on the possible abuse speculations as another reason to hate this man. To my knowledge, Franciscan University has never once apologized to the countless students it has victimized over the years. When I reported my own experiences (being stalked by a student on campus and touched by a friar), I was sternly reprimanded by both the secretary and director of campus safety. I’ve heard worse stories from other victims. 

If Franciscan University wants to be taken seriously, it shouldn’t utilize victims’ pain for its own agenda. If the Catholic Feminist Podcast wants to advocate for victims of abuse, it should listen to us, rather than dismiss our pain.

We matter, and we’re here.

 

 

 

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/photo/art-back-view-black-and-white-dark-573294/

About Veronica Roltgen
A budding writer in the Minnesotan north woods, Veronica Roltgen creates stories and poems when she isn’t chasing after her toddler. She enjoys passionate discussions of feminism, Catholic theology, Tolkien nerdom, Spanish mysticism, Star Wars, and cheese. You can read more about the author here. You can read more about the author here.
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  • Eric Bonetti

    Victims don’t matter in most churches. In my own faith tradition, The Episcopal Church, there’s all sorts of empty chatter about the baptismal covenant, but no substance to it. Indeed, Bishop Susan Goff, who probably would consider herself to be a feminist, has even gone so far as to say in writing that perjury by priests is okay as long as they are not convicted! Good night!

    Consider me done, done, and done.

  • Emily Elizabeth Windsor-Cragg

    Victims place themselves in circumstances, and in those instances, they GET INDICATORS that, something is awry here. And when they ignore the indicators, something bad happens, right? Maybe victimization is about, paying attention to indicators. I dunno.

  • Joris Heise

    Your statement is horrible. You blame victims? You live in an alternate universe, not the one Jesus and I inhabit.

  • Christine Beaty

    Agree 100% with you Eric!
    Thank you

  • Christine Beaty

    I dunno is right Emily! You quite obviously don’t know so keeping your thoughts to yourself would be the smart thing to do.

  • Christine Beaty

    Well said Joris!!

  • st_seraphim

    I was becoming Catholic right when the whole Ratigan-Finn fiasco was exploding in our news. That fiasco caused me to reflect on my own abuse I suffered as a child. A very simple timeline of events in the Ratigan-Finn reveals that before Bishop Finn had heard even one word of Ratigan’s proclivities, no less than 6 “lay” people who legally qualified as mandated reporters knew of Ratigan’s proclivities and did nothing. Any one of those persons could have stopped Ratigan dead in his tracks long before the bishop heard even a word about it, but an over zealous DA did not care about that, she wanted the head of a sitting bishop on a platter as opposed to addressing the breakdown where it actually started. Mandated reporters that had strong suspicions about Ratigan were allowed to walk in exchange for Finn agreeing to a bench trial as the sole defendant. When I compare that to my own experience and then randomly pull cases listed at BA and research them on their own individual merits, I see the same dynamic: people know, people do nothing, all long before the bishop hears a word about it. And shortly after the bishop gets the memo, the masses are screaming for his head.

    “Spotlight” addressed that very dynamic brilliantly, but the masses that claimed to adore that movie are so goo-goo eyed over seeing Law vilified, they missed that part. Flew right over their heads.

    The problem started at the lay level, and that is precisely where it needs to be fixed.