Monday, December 6, 2010

Child Abuse and The Catholic Church…

If you think the church has done enough to stop child abuse, please do not continue reading as I do not want to offend anyone.  This might be my biggest pet peeve.

As a child, I used to find a sense of peace and hope when I walked into the church. I looked at the priests as “holy” men who lived their lives according to the laws of God and set good examples for all of us. Well, imagine how I felt about 8 or so years ago when the child abuse scandal broke out? The disappointment, disillusionment, anger/outrage, was tremendous. Almost 6,000 priests was accused (and we know there had to be a lot more) and in addition, all the higher clergy who covered it up, transferred them around and allowed it to continue for many more years instead of reporting them to the authorities. How many precious and innocent lives were forever ruined?

The story broke and like many Catholics I was horrified. My children were attending religious instruction at the time. They were involved in girl scouts. It turns out that two of the priests accused of abuse were actively involved in both these activities and had access to my girls. I can’t them begin to tell you how angry I was then and still am. As far as I am concerned, the Catholic Church has not done anything to prevent this from happening again. I know that they have paid out millions to the victims over the years to settle lawsuits and keep them quiet. But what actions have they taken to cooperate with authorities and punish these priests. Where are all the abusers? How many of them are still in our churches and have access to our children?

My outlook on the church was forever changed by that scandal. I do not regard it as a religious institution any more, I look at it like a business. They are there to make money, and they make plenty of it. I have to wonder what do they do with all the money they collect? I think I would be appalled by that too. Maybe it’s better that I don’t know. But, they aren’t accountable to anyone. They don’t even have to pay taxes. I really believe that should be changed.

About two months after the scandal first broke, I received a letter from the pastor of our church. He was asking for substantial donations for a new roof for the church. He sent along pamphlets with Bible quotes about how we should be giving 10% of our income to the church! I was livid. Were they going to use that money for a new roof or for legal fees and settlements on the abuse cases??? I didn’t trust anything they said. Instead, I wrote a very long letter to the pastor telling him that he would not be receiving one penny from our family unless and until I had gotten some satisfactory answers about what the church was doing about the abuse that had been going on. I refused to give any money at all for fear it was going to a defense fund because there was no defense for victimizing hundreds or thousands of children. And, I made my own pamphlet to send back with my letter, with Bible quotes on how Jesus said we should treat children. I ended with a place for signatures for both my husband and myself. My letter was so strong, my husband was afraid to sign it for fear they would not let my younger daughter be confirmed in three months. I told him if they did that I would call every major news network and tell them my story. After a couple of days he signed it.

I was waiting for a response from the pastor and I got one. Unfortunately, it was a form letter, which only served to outrage me more. I followed up with another very long letter ending with, if you do not want to receive any more letters from me I suggest that you do not send me any more from you. That just about ended the communication and my relationship with the church. However, I am still angry that absolutely nothing has been done about this since it came out in the news years ago. My husband said they would just ride it out and if enough time passes, people will forget about it. Well, I never forgot about it!

I used to enjoy going to church this time of year. I loved the decorations, the poinsettias and the huge manger they set up of the holy family. It used to be comforting and joyful. Not any more. Now it’s just a lot of hypocrisy. They preach one thing and do another. They commit the most vile of criminal acts, cover it up and allow it to go on. I cannot set foot inside a church again.

I’ll always keep “Christ” in Christmas and in my heart, but the Catholic Church has failed to do so.

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