Thursday, October 15, 2015

Why Was I 'Chosen' to be Abused?

Why was I ‘chosen’ to be abused? This is the first question I wanted answered. The fact is that I was not chosen for whom I was, but for the opportunity, I presented. This perpetrator did not go to find me on the street or break into my house, but unfortunately, due to my Catholic upbringing and the trust it fostered in me for all things Catholic, I delivered myself to his literal doorstep. In most priest-abuse cases, there is a proper and trusting relationship that develops before the abuse. In my case, I made contact with my abuser because I was eager to learn about the priesthood, since it was vocation that I was seriously considering. He did not abuse me the first or second time we met. It took a number of interactions where I now realize that he was grooming me for that ‘perfect’ opportunity. He leveraged the fact that I had spent a significant portion of my childhood listening to him every Sunday morning delivering mass on the radio and that I believed he was a priest that represented the values that I believed were universally Catholic and had been instilled in me through my weekly attendance of mass in the various parishes of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe I had belonged to. I thought him to be the ideal person to confide with in reference to my aspirations of following the Sacrament of Holy Orders. In fact, because of the years that I had heard him on the radio, when I first met him in person, it was as if I already knew him. As is with every crime, there needs to be a victim, a perpetrator, and the necessary circumstances so that the crime can occur. In my case, because I was an altar boy since the age of seven and had great trust and faith in the church, I was the perfect victim. I created the opportunity because I had translated that trust and faith of the Catholic Church and Archdiocese of Santa Fe to a priest whom I hardly knew and he seized on the opportunity to exploit it for his own perverse pursuits.

Why was I chosen? Simply put, this long-time perpetrator could not pass up on abusing a child who he knew was indoctrinated to trust the actions of a holy priest without question. Even more significantly was that he knew that there would be no consequences for his actions, after having abused so many others before me. Even when his superiors became aware of his reprehensible behavior, he knew that he would not suffer any retribution because silence and secrecy was how the Catholic Church operated and unfortunately how they still operate today. That is why I was ‘chosen’.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Will the New Pope End the Secrecy?

Falling to Sentimentality

Because I spent so many years as a Catholic, I can still fall prey to the sentimentality that a symbolic event such as a Pope visit can illicit. As an altar boy, I had dreamed of becoming the Archbishop or maybe even the Pope, so those childhood dreams are still rattling around in my my memory banks. I caught myself watching the feel-good Pope coverage and listening to testimonials by the faithful, so it did cause me to me to feel a bit nostalgic for my Catholic roots. This had happened to me before about the time when the Pope was originally installed.

 A Bit of History

Coincidentally, a short time after that Pope Francis was named, I realized that the life-long emotional issues I had experienced were most likely related to the trauma of childhood sexual abuse by a priest. Given my fragile emotional state, I deferred to what was familiar and decided to visit the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and discuss my abuse with their Victim's Coordinator. For the first time ever,  I disclosed to her that I was the victim of a priest who I had gone to in search of vocational counseling since I believed that I might want to pursue the priesthood. The result of that meeting was that the Victims Coordinator told me that the priest that had raped me had died and that I should pursue spiritual counseling, which she would be glad to provide. Being curious about the priest's death, I searched the internet and found that the perpetrator priest had in reality not died and because of this fabrication, once again I felt victimized by an official of the Catholic church who I had gone to seek advice from. I had been hopeful that a 'new' Catholic Church would magically be awaiting for me, with the installation of a new Pope, but I was definitely wrong.

Resisting that Which is Comfortable and Familiar

The Catholic religion is full of ceremony and ritual and if you are indoctrinated in it, there is always a danger of falling back into its clutches because it's what you know and what you grew up with, even if you have been victimized by it. The Pope's visit was exactly that: one big performance of rituals and symbolic gestures that were mostly meant to persuade the millions of Catholics that have now become dormant to return to their roots and his charisma and humble charm even worked on me for a bit. He understands how powerful symbolism is and he used it at every opportunity during his visit to imply that the Catholic church was changing and that he would be a progressive leader, but unfortunately his symbolism does not match his actions. It is becoming clear to me that he is trying to use his stature and reputation to increase the number of total Catholics, since their numbers in America are decreasing according to a 2015 Pew Survey. He is doing little to to change those things that he could change, which is well documented in a National Catholic Reporter article from October 1, 2015. It reads in part:
  "In matters of child sexual abuse, Pope Francis has no constitution, no Congress, no Senate and no Supreme Court that could restrain him from changing canon law. He has no obligation even to consult anyone. He is the last of the absolute monarchs.
He can take out his pen at breakfast, and write on his napkin an instruction to abolish the pontifical secret in cases of child sexual abuse and to order mandatory reporting everywhere. He can instruct it to be translated into Latin and to have it published on the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. It then becomes canon law."

What I Have Realized..Again

In short, the Pope's visit validated something that I already knew, but had forgotten: the Catholic Church is built on a two thousand-year-old tradition of secrecy and one pope is not going to change that. In fact, it is unlikely that any pope will change that. It is important that I use data and results and not pomp and circumstance to judge the Catholic Church, which I already know buries its dirty laundry and refuses to air it out. Given that realization, about the only thing that can force the Catholic Church, and more specifically, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, to be more transparent about their problem with child sex abuse is the utilization of civil authority in the form of a jury trial. See you in court come August of 2016!