Thursday, August 30, 2018

"You're as sick as your secrets"

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As we have gone through these revelations of sexual abuse and cover-ups in certain places in the Catholic Church lately, I am always glad that these things, as horrific as they are, are coming to the light of day. The victims need healing, the public deserves to know, the offenders need to be punished or sanctioned or whatever is appropriate, and the Church itself needs healing and cleansing. The only way any of those things can happen is to reveal them publicly. 
I can speak of this with a bit of experience as I was a victim of sexual abuse when I was 11 years old (NOT by anyone in the church). But I didn't tell anyone until I was 50. As I think about that I wonder what was wrong with me. Why didn't I tell my parents or some other trusted adult? Why did I keep this a secret? I believe there were two reasons: 
1. I was ashamed. I constantly ask myself, even today, how I could have been so weak and stupid. 
2. My dad tried to teach us to be tough. That worked pretty good on my two younger brothers but not on me. I thought if I told my dad he probably would have blamed me for the whole thing. In retrospect, I don't think that is true. He would have been angry and yelled a lot but things eventually would have gotten taken care of in a good way.
I tell you that little story now because many of the cases that come up are very old. Persons in their 40's or 50's suddenly make these accusations. Assuming they are credible, I understand why they didn't say anything at the time. But eventually it needs to come to the light. In my own experience, I could go for many months or a year without even thinking about the abuse I suffered but then something would be in the news and it would all come crashing back in on me and it would effect me as if I was 11 years old all over again. Once I spoke about it and prayed about it and went through an exercise of forgiveness I finally found some peace. It's one of the reasons I'm sharing this publicly - so more light can shine and the healing can continue.
I imagine the same thing happens to many victims of abuse in the church. They just want to forget all about it - but it NEVER goes away. My spiritual director tells me "you're as sick as your secrets" and he's right. Those things we repress and think we can handle on our own NEED to come to light and receive the healing balm of prayer, understanding, compassion and the care of a good and loving God so the pain of those old wounds can be alleviated.
Are you the victim of abuse - either at some time in the distant past or right now? For your own good find someone you trust - a counselor, a friend, a coworker, a police officer, a priest, a pastor - and tell them. Allow them to direct you to the right places so that you can receive healing and that, if possible, justice can prevail. In my case, the person was long dead before I talked about it. Maybe that could be different for you if you start the process NOW.
Above all, if you are in a situation of ongoing sexual abuse, no matter who the perpetrator is, get some help immediately. Call 911, talk to your school counselor or a teacher, tell a trusted adult friend, but do NOT let it go on another minute. You are a child of God and deserve to be treated with the dignity that goes along with that title. If someone at St Michael Parish (or your own parish) can help, let us know. We have staff members and clergy who stand ready to assist in any way needed and will walk with you through the entire process - whatever that turns out to be. Don't hold on to sickening secrets for another day - get help and get it NOW and let the healing process begin.