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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Abuse in the Catholic Church is more than sexual

Recently demoted Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke. He has blamed the sexual abuse crisis of the Catholic Church to be related to the feminization of the Church in the 1960's.

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke

He is quoted as saying,

There was a period of time when men who were feminized and confused about their own sexual identity had entered the priesthood; sadly some of these disordered men sexually abused minors; a terrible tragedy for which the Church mourns.”

This is a clear attempt at revisionist thinking suggesting that the sexual abuse of children by priests and other clergy only dates back to the 1960's. How wrong that is. One need look no further than the profound pattern of sexual abuse that occurred to Aboriginal children in the Residential Schools of Canada. Those abuses have now been documented to have gone on as far back as the early 20th century. Edmund Metatawabin, in his profoundly moving book, documents his personal story of abuse. It is a tough read but perhaps Cardinal Burke might want to read it. He will see how extensive the abuse was. His is one of a series of books that tell these painful stories. They also tell of the price that Aboriginal children, their families, their communities and subsequent generations have paid.


Pope Francis was obviously right to demote this man.

But there is a large error in the story about sexual abuse in the Catholic Church - it ignores that epidemic of physical abuse that also occurred. Many, like Metatawabin, experienced both. There are millions who experienced the physical abuse only. No one victim is better or worse than the other. Abuse in the Catholic Church was a daily occurrence in schools, churches and orphanages run by priests, nuns and brothers.

Brother Hull sent them outside without jackets. It was a cold day for Vancouver. There was even snow. They were made to hold their hands up so that the blood would run down and the hands would be cold. Then they were strapped (Personal memoir of the author).

The stories are everywhere. The Church has become fixated on one form of the abuse. But strapping, hitting, whipping, name calling, put downs, shaming were all tools employed every day by clergy. The Church is not talking much about that.

I was sent out to that hallway by Brother Bates to await my strapping. It would be the third time this week. I had again been caught day dreaming (Personal memoir of the author).

A problem with highlighting the sexual abuse is that those who suffered the other forms of abuse feel as though they cannot talk because their abuse is less than those who were sexually abused. For those physically abused, they too carry the legacy.

I tried to tell my mom about always getting hit. She wouldn't listen. She said that if I got into trouble that it must be my fault because the brothers were close to God (Personal memoir of the author)
The strength of the abuse was in the constant fear but also in the inability to tell anyone who would care. The full extent of abuse in the Catholic Church needs to be spoken about - all the survivors, regardless of what form of abuse they suffered, deserve both a voice and an audience.


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