In November,a report from the Nebraska attorney general’s office identified hundreds of victims who’d made “credible allegations of sexual abuse against 57 Catholic Church officials in the state going back decades,” according to The Associated Press ― including “many that high-ranking church leaders knew about and didn’t report to the authorities.”
Also in November, a lawsuit was filed against the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, as well as the bishop of the diocese, claiming that “a child was sexually abused by a priest at a Catholic church in Myrtle Beach between 1990 and 1994,” per the CBS affiliate WBTW.
Robert Greene, director of the Netflix documentary “Procession,” sums up the experience of being sexually abused by clergy when he says:
“The thing to know about this abuse is not just being sexually abused in such a tender age, it’s being abused by an entire belief system. The Catholic Church indoctrinates believers into a worldview which is demonstrated by these rituals and symbols, and so it’s a level of abuse that is just very difficult to comprehend.
There’s no fixing that. There’s no giving back to these guys what was taken from them. All we could hope to do is move forward.”
As a survivor of five years of child sexual abuse at the hands of a Catholic priest in Philadelphia, I have had over 30 years to process my lived experience of abuse within a powerful, male-dominated religious organization.
There must be systemic change in the structure of all-male leadership in the Roman Catholic Church.
While I am certainly not the only victim of a priest’s abuse, I also belong to a smaller subset within that community. In the spring of 1993, seven years after the abuse ended, I was ordained a Catholic priest myself.
Instead of running away from the Catholic Church or adopting a different religious tradition, I dove into the institution. As a child, my siblings and I were taught to love the church. Our family life and traditions revolved around its worship and rituals.
In a real sense, I bonded with the Catholic Church at a level that drew me into its life, despite the sexual abuse. When I entered the seminary at the age of 18, I suppose this deep level of bonding prevented me from acknowledging that the institution and one of its ordained representatives was hurting me.