Clerical abuse in the Church

In mid-August, a bombshell report from a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania to the Catholic Church revealed decades-long abuse of members of the Catholic Church, mostly children, by multiple priests throughout the state. Following the report, multiple other states announced that they would begin their own investigation, while in Germany there was another report of decades-long abuse.

In light of all of this controversy, the Catholic Church has been scrutinized for its part in the abuse. That is, many have held the Church accountable that members of the parishes were aware of what was happening, but didn’t stop it. Instead, the Church simply moved priests around from congregation to congregation, never alerting anyone outside the Church of the issue the priests were causing.

In light of these recent revelations, how has this scandal affected some of the members of the Church?

Courtesy of Noah Burns, ’20.

“It’s a sad part of our human experience,” noted Sister Kay Gaul.

As a sister, she has said her vows to the Church and has dedicated her life to working for it.

Hearing about this was disheartening for her, but she recognizes there is a “human element” to the Church. As such, she explains that such things are of no surprise to her because they are part of a culture that has been around for a long time.

“The Church is a place of grace, but it is also a place to grow in,” she said.

Sister Kay went on to explain her thoughts on the priests themselves. She felt that the priests who are truly guilty no longer deserve to be priests. Punishments such as jail and prison are also acceptable, but that should vary from case to case.

Another perspective came from Brother Nathaniel Gee. He echoed Sister Kay’s sentiments of feeling disheartened after seeing the news.

“Hearing it caused a deep ache in my heart and a pit in my stomach,” Brother Gee said.

He doesn’t feel that these incidents are indicative of the Church as a whole and are an antithesis of what the Church is. Yet, he acknowledged, something like this is not new to the Church, nor is it restricted to the Church either.

This is especially true when looking at what has been happening in the past year with the #metoo movement being at the forefront of the discussion. Something both Brother Gee and Sister Kay touched on was what we have to do to try and stop assaults, sexual or otherwise, from happening. One thing we have to do is create a friendly space so that more survivors feel comfortable coming forward. We have to welcome them with love and support, not shame and judgment.

Another thing is we have to start the discussion early on. If we as a society can educate children at a young age on not only the rights and wrongs of sexuality, but also the equality of men and women, we can change our culture for the better.

Finally, we have to have steps in place when there is an assault. This would take the form of rehabilitation programs for an abuser to help them deal with their problems. There would also be resources out there to identify and help victims.

As a society, not just Catholics, it is our duty to make the world a better place. Recent events have shown we have a long way to go before we are there. In order to fix the issue, we first have to acknowledge it’s there and start a discourse. Then we need to help the victims find peace and help rehabilitate or re-educate abusers. Hopefully, these actions will someday culminate in a better society and a better culture throughout the Catholic Church.