A reader writes:
I appreciate your insights about how repression of sexuality helped create the climate fostered both the abuse and the cover-up. I think it played in another way as well, by ensuring that no one in position of authority to respond to these situations had a "typical" (i.e., parental) relationship with children. I can't help but think that if even one person sitting in those rooms, deciding what to do about an offending priest, had been somebody's mother, or even somebody's father, the outcome would have been different. This is not to say that non-parents can't have fiercely protective and sincerely empathetic feelings for children (I don't have them myself, and I certainly "get it"), but just to note that the parent perspective would have been an important part of the conversation.
I was a gay teen in rural Utah in the 1980s; miserable is far too inadequate a word to describe my teenage years in that place. I escaped to attend a Catholic High school where a priest everyone assumed was gay was one of my saviors compassionate, funny, profoundly spiritual; he treated students with such dignity that in a few conversations he saved my soul and my life.
He was handsome and charming and we called him “father what a waste.” A catholic priest saved my life - the Catholic church saved my life. He never once laid a hand on me and I pray to God he never once laid a hand on anyone else. As the seemingly endless flood of revelations of sex abuse emerge, I weep for the church, I weep that I find myself hoping against hope that the priest I so respected never abused a child.
Maybe, just maybe, the spirit of God is working in the world that these revelations are occurring in Lent should suggest it is time for the church to reflect on what truly matters, to give up what it must give up in order to bring itself back into accordance with the spirit of God.
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