The Other Abuse

by Zoe Pollock

Kathryn Joyce reminds us it happens to adults too:

Adult victims could comprise up to 25% of all clergy abuse cases, estimates David Clohessy, National Director of [the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests], but often face considerable skepticism about their stories. “In the eyes of the law, victims like [Katia] Birge are adults. But that doesn’t mean that emotionally, psychologically, in the presence of a trusted, powerful, charismatic clergy person, that in fact they can function like adults.” Considering the abundant ethical and legal prohibitions against doctors or therapists having even consensual sex with patients, in recognition of coercive power imbalances in play, Clohessy notes, “none of us have been raised from birth to think that a therapist is God’s representative or that a doctor can get me into heaven.”

Joyce connects Birge's case to a larger issue:

[The accused Juan Carlos] Hernandez was just one of an increasing number of lay ministers and volunteers assuming formerly clerical roles in the Catholic Church, particularly in heavily Latino parishes, such as Denver’s. Facing a general shortage of priests, and a critical lack of ordained staff equipped to serve Spanish-speaking communities, a papal dictate was issued in 2003, calling for an expanded role for laity in the church’s ministry.