Along with most American Catholics, I am in shock, anger and pain over the things I read in last weeks Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. I am heartbroken over the abuse of children by priests and even more disappointed in the way that Church officials handled, or mishandled, reports from parents and children about the abuse. The fact that Church officials, Bishops, and their staffs, saw the children as the problem that needed to be solved rather than the abusive priests is indicative of a huge systematic problem. The statements of most Bishops and even Pope Francis’ statement today seem to be absent of knowledge that they are a part of that same system. It is as if they feel they are part of a whole other system, but that isn’t the case. That is why we are so mad because it is the same system. And while there may have been advances in some areas, there is still the system of fearing liability that overrules the mission to serve God’s people.
One of the things that I see being brought up is homosexuality. While I do think that the Church as a whole needs to have an open and honest conversation about homosexuality that is not either “who cares, let people be happy” or “gay people are trying to ruin your family”, I do not think that homosexuality has a place in the conversation about priests raping and molesting children and the response to that by Church officials doing everything they could to keep it quiet and cover it up. They are two separate issues. I say this as someone who was raped and molested for years beginning when I was five years old.
Rape and sexual abuse of children have nothing to do with sexual orientation or sexual gratification. The goal is not sex, the goal is power, control and to destroy another human being.
Most of my life I have been a sex abuse victim. I was raped at five years old by a straight mechanic who lived in the same house as me and my mother. While I have never been told exactly the level of their relationship, I can guess from memories that he and my mother were romantically involved in some way.
He molested me while watching the evening news and raped me at least three times that I remember. Once in the house, in his room, on his bed, as my mother cleaned on the other side of the house. When I was about six or seven, I told my mom what he had done to me in the best way I could vocalize it as such a small child. She freaked out, yelled and then I remember him bringing her roses and being told that I must have misunderstood what happened. “Right?” my mom said nodding her head. I was also told that we would have nowhere to live if we had to move out of his house. So, I did what any little scared kid would do: I took it back.
Since then every time that I attempted to vocalize what happened to me, I have been told it did not happen or it was not as bad as I think it was by someone. Including my mom who now says she has never heard of me saying Manuel raped and molested me in her whole life as if she has completely forgotten the many fights we have had over it and all the times she called me a liar.
The day that I stood in front of my abuser a couple of years ago as an adult, as a mother and as a grandmother, and looked him in the face to tell him I knew what he had done to me as a child, what I saw looking back at me was a man with pure joy in his eyes. His joy came from knowing he had marked me for life. He had destroyed me and that had been his point all along. Why he wanted that power over me, I will never know, but that is what he wanted. He did not just want to have sex with a child, he wanted to know that he has broken me and that I would carry what he had done to me for the rest of my life. And he got that. Because my abuse infects every part of my life. It destroyed any chance of me having a stable life way before I was even able to begin living.
Being abused as a child impacted my existence, my motherhood, my ability to love and inability to be loved, my need for more of everything, my obsession with drinking to numb myself and it directly impacted the destruction of my first marriage and led to the suicide of my oldest child.
The minute that straight mechanic raped me as a little girl, the foundation of my life was built on unstable ground. The house that is my life that was built on that unstable ground and was destined to crumble. And boy has it crumbled. More than once and I am tired of patching it up to fix it.
Anyone who thinks that is about homosexuality is dead wrong. I don’t need studies or reports to tell me what it was about, this is my life, it was about destroying me. That is all evil is ever about, destroying the human person. And evil does not care about the sexual orientation of its tool, it only cares if that tool is willing to destroy.
What we need are bold shepherds who will lay down their lives for their sheep to defend us against evil. We don’t need more statements, more apologies or more excuses. We need to be listened to and kept safe.