See also www.http://www.annelinorrland.blogspot.com for more background on this author, old blogs

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is Lightness Bearable?

Much as we say we love light, we often don't.

Bertold Brecht wrote, "Mankind cannot stand too much reality."

I'm not always a big fan of reality myself. Harsh realities intrude on our summer moments, ugly truths rear their ugly heads and we're back in the thick of it.

I can't believe how much, how penetrating, and how important is the media coverage of clergy sexual abuse these days. Of course, we who are not Roman Catholic read with a certain illusory comfort: this is not our problem.

But, oh, friends, it is. It is it is it is.

My seventeen-year-old friends get it. Adults having sex with children, even adolescents, is wrong. It is even more wrong when those adults are persons with positions of trust and authority viz those young people. It is even worse when those adults are clergy, or preparing to become clergy, as we have acknowledged standards about sexual behavior, and about the appropriate use of our power, that are explicit. And at the heart of what we do.

It is wrong, so they tell me, for persons in positions of trust, power and authority to use that power for their own personal pleasure and benefit. Whether their victims are children or adults. It's all about power. The abuse of power. It is wrong. Like I said, seventeen-year-olds have this figured out. Why is it so difficult for church leaders? The behavior is wrong. Harmful. Manipulative. Contrary to our promises to respect and build up the people of God.

And it is even worse when the behavior is covered-up.

The Vatican is finally feeling the weight of all these failures to protect the innocent, by allowing offenders, perpetrators continuing access to vulnerable parishioners.

Their problem is ours. Our commitment has "eroded" in recent years, as one journalist put it recently. We have continued to cover up the sexual abuse, misconduct, harassment -- call it all of those things -- of our clergy. And allow them access, power, authority and access to persons who can become vulnerable to their sexual overtures, advances, and behaviors.

We do it. We do it. We keep fucking doing it. When will we learn? What will it take?

Meanwhile, when clergy are finally 'outed,' whether specifically for their sexual or covered over by references to other misconduct, the church rallies around them with good wishes, prayers, and strong warnings to avoid judgment, given that "we all sin." I have no problem with praying for broken persons, be they clergy or not.

But it is wrong, it is immoral and a failure of our Christian calling and unity as the body of Christ to not also lift up those who have become victims of that 'fallen' behavior. I find that completely absent from any recent news about clergy who are experiencing addictions and emotional distress.

Let's remember the emotional distress of their victims. Let's lift them up and make sure they are receiving the same level of expert psychological care we extend to the offenders. Let's lift them up, hold them close in our hearts, and, while protecting their confidentiality, make clear that the main problem is what happened to them.

Is lightness bearable? Not yet. Not in this church, not in a lot of places. When can we find the courage to tell the truth? When will we find the courage, and the compassion, to expose our whole lives to the light of God's grace (and the community's awareness).

Let's trust the laity of the church, let's respect them. Let's let the light shine.

If we dare.

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