As a lifelong Catholic, I am disheartened, embarrassed and chagrined as I read the continuing parade of shocking revelations about sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Church. The focus must be on the needs of the victims, with the perpetrators, apologists and deniers, made to work the hardest to fix what they have broken.
I now believe that the church related sex abuse cases from all over the world are only the tip of the iceberg of destruction that has been occurring over a very long period of time.
The horror list is significant.
Cardinal George Pell from Australia was just sentenced this week to six years in prison for molesting two boys.
Monsignor William Lynn of Philadelphia was the first senior official convicted in the US for covering up a sex abuse scandal.
Cardinal Bernard Law, the former archbishop of Boston resigned from his position in 2002 after investigations showed that he did not punish priests who were sex abusers.
French priest, Pierre de Castelet, was convicted of sex abuse in 1993.
In Illinois, Catholic officials have publicly identified 185 clergy with credible allegations against them.
New Jersey’s Catholic diocese released names of 188 priests accused of sexual abuse.
Catholic nuns are speaking out about being raped by priests.
The South African church defrocked three priests over sexual abuse of children. Since 2003, 35 cases of abuse involving priests have been reported to the church in South Africa.
The full list of perpetrators and victims is probably longer than any of us can imagine.
I am trying to make sense of all of this. My mind jumps to the defrocked former Cardinal of Washington, DC, Theodore McCarrick. The Vatican punished him after a church trial found him guilty of sexually abusing minors.
But, this case strikes a particular chord because years ago, I met him.
For nearly 28 years, my mom served as the Executive Director of the Office of Black Catholics (she retired in 2002), working for James Aloysius Cardinal Hickey, the wonderful and great church leader who preceded the disgraced McCarrick as the head of the Archdiocese of Washington.
As my mom was on Cardinal Hickey’s personal staff, I had the honour to meet this good man numerous times over those years and found him to be the real deal; one of the most dignified, inspiring, insightful, and learned people I have ever met. He died in 2004.
I am blessed that he graciously agreed to baptise my daughter in 1992. But, the great Cardinal Hickey retired in 2000 and then, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, McCarrick, took over.
As my mom was still working there, when I visited home (I was living in Germany by then), I met McCarrick. I was never inspired when he greeted me as I was used to the warm and kind Cardinal Hickey.
Reading reports over the last several years about McCarrick, I feel sick and can only say a prayer for his victims. The very fact that the now defrocked and disgraced McCarrick, walked the same hallways as His Eminence Cardinal Hickey, turns my stomach.
Many priests, nuns, deacons, lay church leaders and a bishop, fill my childhood memories. While I know it is unreasonable, nevertheless, I wonder if any of them were secretly hurting innocent children.
I entered kindergarten at my parish elementary school when I was 4. I graduated from a private catholic girls’ high school at age 17, and then, I entered university. My learning time in catholic schools were some of the best years of my life.
Our household was Roman Catholic – mom, a graduate of Catholic University, earned her church executive job after being a public school teacher, Sunday school teacher and church lay leader for decades. Daddy, who attended the same university as mom, was a conservative catholic, raised in the old school catechism teachings of 1930s as his parents were Catholics as well.
Receiving the sacraments were major events for me and my siblings; I married a Catholic and happily raised my kids in the faith. And now this sex scandal haunts my church, leaving my head spinning.
The Pope just held an important meeting in Rome about sex abuse in the church. But, it could be years before the talking translates into tangible action.
Side point: For those who are always negative about Catholics, I say: Paedophiles and sexual predators lurk everywhere, not just in a sacristy.
Warm memories of the clergy from my past, ease my heart, including the great Cardinal Hickey who helped the poor and was openly against the right wing repression occurring in Latin America in the 1980’s. Back then, during conversations when visiting my mom’s office, I spoke with him about my anti-apartheid work and I remember him being adamantly against white supremacy and colonialism.
In addition to my faith, I hope that those memories keep me connected to my Church. However, the reality is this: either faith plus good memories will sustain some of us through this scandal, or it will not.