A friend of mine posed this question on social media this morning: “If all the rapists from the Catholic diocese of Pennsylvania and all those that have covered for the rapists are fired, how many people would remain in the diocese?” If you’re unfamiliar with the story (or the latest specific instance of this all-too-familiar story), she’s referring to the 300+ Roman Catholic priests from 6 Pennsylvania dioceses who have been named in a grand jury report who abused over identified 1,000 children over a period of 70 years, with countless other church officials covering up the abuse.
Anyway. My friend’s question raised one in me: If all those who perpetuate or cover up or turn a blind eye to any abuse in the church were fired/excommunicated/whatever, how many would remain?
Setting aside the question, for today, the questions of when should someone be fired from the church and whether someone should be excommunicated from the church, really, how many would remain if those involved in abuse systems were no longer part of the church?
How many clergy/leaders have been directly involved in enacting abuse upon other leaders or parishioners?
How many leaders have been aware of such abuses by other leaders, and have helped to cover it up?
How many leaders have summarily dismissed reports of abuse committed by other parishioners?
The grand jury report mentioned earlier says that special agents had identified a series of practices that regularly appeared, a sort of “playbook for concealing the truth” and maintaining the ultimate goal of avoiding scandal:
Sound familiar to anyone? These methods are not unique to cases of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.
There is a saying that the church is a hospital for sinners, not simply a retreat for the saints. If that is true – if the church is a place for healing, growth, reconciliation, love, grace – then we must commit to the hard work of allowing a safe enough space for that to happen and for all systems of abuse to be dismantled.
So it's beyond time that we ask ourselves and our church: are we doing this work? Or are we complicit in the abuse as well?
If all those who perpetuate, cover up, or ignore abuse in the church were to leave...would we ourselves be among those who remain?
Here is it, y'all: love changes things 8/7/20
Good Friday in the Midst of a Pandemic 4/10/20
Wrestling with Faithfulness and Transformation (a sermon) 10/21/19
Healing of the Outcasts (a sermon) 10/18/19
Reckon-ciliation (a poem) 7/19/19
The Road to Recovery 6/26/19
Perpetuating Sins of the Church 8/16/18
It's Tuesday and I'm Overwhelmed 5/8/18
Music is a Language 5/3/18
Skipping a Meeting 4/10/18
Spark (a poem) 4/5/18
A New Old Song for Holy Saturday 3/31/18
Good Friday? 3/30/18
Who are the Leaders in Your Church? 1/2/18