Q. How do you square clergy abuse and trust in the church?
A. I don’t.
Even the Christ did not entrust himself to men.
He knew what they were capable of.
Q. What does your faith look like after clergy abuse?
A. Nothing like it did before. No thing. I cannot take part in the traditions of the faith that fractured me and my family. After extensive processing, I have decided that Christ be true, even if much of Christendom has been false.
Q. How do you handle the hypocrisy you have seen in Christianity?
A. I have come to the conclusion that as far as it is up to me, I will become what I understood a Christian was to be: true, transparent, wise, informed, gentle, kind, loving… and that will simply have to be enough for me.
Q. What if you are wrong and Christ is all a made up fairytale?
A. That’s fine. I like a good story. Christ is the best fairytale I have ever read and even if I’m wrong, believing He’s true makes me truer. I can live and die with that outcome.
Q. How do you process that ambivalence in the church over clerical offenders?
A. Unfortunately clerical abuse is as old as time. There are so many facets as to why the faith communities are safe havens for offenders and commonly catastrophically unsafe for victims. Clericalism and elitism are alive and well. As a community of believers we naively assume that everyone who says they trust in the triune God — is trustworthy.
We also blindly assume that as brothers and sisters in the same faith family, that we each not only ascribe to the same values, but act according to those norms. Nothing could be further from the truth. So I suppose, that I battle that ambivalence with understanding and efforts in public knowledge translation (and I cuss a lot about it in private.)
Q. How is clergy abuse different from other forms of abuse?
It has helped me to understand the phenomena that is clerical abuse, the dynamics that surround it, and the crushing outcomes from it. Clergy refers to anyone who represents the Almighty in their faith tradition. That could be a worship leader, an apologist, a pastor, a priest, a rabbi, spiritual director etc…
The late Dr. Anson Shupe suggested that clerical malfeasance can occur financially, sexually, and spiritually. He also submitted that a cleric could abuse others for money and or sex independent of each other, that either of those forms of abuse, always create a spiritual wound.
I concur completely.
In fact, the spiritual wound is the worst of this whole bit. In all other abusive situations, victims can call on God as they understand him/her in their respective faith traditions. When a religious representative sexualizes the sacred, this type of abuse conflates the Almighty as an abuser. The wound is as deep as it is wide.
It has also assisted me to see that this type of abuse of power occurs across both sacred and secular domains. The church is particularly vulnerable to infiltration by offenders due to the immense power that religious representatives have, with very little (if any) accountability, screening, or training. Holy writ, tradition, and culture ensures silence, enforces obedience, and demands trust.
We have an enormously long way to go to make places of worship safe for victims and dreadfully unsafe for offenders.
Q. Are you part of a faith community now?
A. Unfortunately not. Many victims find that they have experienced extensive DARVO (denial, attack, reverse victim and offender roles), nearly to death. My family and I are not able to attend worship in our faith tradition, as it is simply too much, too triggering, and too traumatizing. It is too much to even try to explain to well meaning, under informed individuals, the catastrophe that is clerical abuse. Anonymity is difficult to come by when you have been victimized and vilified by a high level evangelical elite. So for the foreseeable future, we cultivate a quiet faith life.
I will say that if I personally should ever seek to be part of an organized faith community again, I would seek a small fellowship whose good works were evident and whose egos were not.
We still have a very long way to go.