|Not exactly what I had in mind for alternative church services in the parking lot.|
There have been a ton of topics I could have written about, but unfortunately I didn't seem to have any time to do much about it last week. Things have settled down somewhat, at least for me, and here I am back at it. Of all the articles I did manage to read in the last week, the one that stayed with me was one written by Jamie Manson for the NCR. Actually, there were a number of very good articles posted in the NCR last week, like Eugene Kennedy's latest, but Jamie's really stuck in my head. It may be because although Jamie was writing specifically about the passivity of the Catholic laity, I could see some of the same phenomenon operating in the faces of the Japanese people, especially the disassociation.
The following is the part of her article which really resonated with me:
...."The sexual abuse crisis is not an issue like women’s ordination, married clergy, or the inclusion of gay and lesbian Catholics. Those concerns are critically important issues of justice.
But the sex abuse crisis is much deeper and darker. It’s about the rape, sodomy, and psychological abuse of children and adolescents by priests. It’s about church authorities going to great lengths to cover-up and to protect predators. The hierarchy cannot use the Bible, Canon Law, or tradition to defend themselves against these crimes.
The comment sections of the NCR columns on the Philadelphia scandal offer some great suggestions for protesting the offending hierarchs. Many agree that the only way to get the church to respond in a decent and decisive manner is for the laity to withhold its money.
Much as I agree that such a tactic would work, am I the only one sickened by the fact that depriving the church of financial support is the only way to shock them into acting with integrity? (No, I am way with Jamie on this one. The fact we laity think money is the only voice we have is a statement in itself about what we really think about our leadership.)
Again, I ask, how is the church still surviving amid such a legacy of sexualized violence? What other institution in the U.S. would still persist amid corruption of this nature? What is it that keeps all Catholics from calling the hierarchy to accountability for the crimes that they have committed against children and adolescents over many decades?
Perhaps it is the passivity that characterizes Catholic inculcation that keeps us from believing that we have a voice, and that we, as baptized faithful, have a right to demand integrity from the church that we support and fund.
Or perhaps we’re suffering with garden-variety self-centeredness. If it didn’t happen to our child or in our parish, we don’t really have a stake in the issue. Often we continue our relationships with unjust or harmful institutions when the injustice or harm does not affect us directly. We separate our parish community from the wrongdoings of our overarching authority. (Or saving our own souls is more important to us than the fact our 'saviors' are destroying the souls of others.)
Or, perhaps, there is an even deeper psychological reaction at play here.
At the recent conference “Lost? Twenty-Somethings and the Church,” Dr. Lisa Cataldo, assistant professor of pastoral counseling at Fordham University, spoke of the role of dissociation in the responses of the clergy and the laity to the sexual abuse crisis. Cataldo explained that when parts of our worldview are threatened too much, they have to split off from our consciousness so that we can avoid dealing with them.
Dissociation usually occurs in response to trauma, and allows the mind to distance itself from experiences that are too difficult to process. Is it this psychological safeguard that has allowed the laity, whether intentionally or unintentionally, to continue to enable the hierarchy by attending liturgies and financially supporting the church?
Even if the reasons behind the laity’s continued involvement with the church are psychologically complex, Cataldo believes that we would be remiss if we did not recognize that the church’s crimes have had an indelible impact on young adult Catholics.
The evidence presented at the “Lost?” conference suggests that these repercussions have been sadly underestimated. Most young adult Catholics interviewed for the conference cited the sex abuse crisis as most damaging to their relationship with their church. Twenty-something panelist, Patrick Landry, summed up the thoughts of many when he reflected:
............If young adults cannot find much to respect about the institutional church, older adult Catholics should at least give them a reason to respect the laity. If we have felt unaffected enough by the crisis to keep silent, the wounds of young Catholics -- both past and present -- should inspire us to raise our voices.
If we truly believe that the Eucharist we receive is the body of Jesus, we must find the courage to oppose the religious leaders who continue to inflict harm on the body of Christ.
So often we lament the lack of integrity in church authorities. But if we continue to remain immobilized by denial, weariness, or complacency, we may leave the next generations asking, where was the integrity of the laity?
The comments to this article were disheartening to read because so many of them betrayed the very passivity Jamie describes. Too many asked "what can we do". Obviously there won't be any 'no fly zone' just as there won't be any international tribunal looking into issues of a global criminal conspiracy or a UN Security Council declaration of crimes against humanity---although the last two have actually happened in the case of far fewer victims. There doesn't seem to be any higher authority to intervene unless the occasional secular legal authority chooses to do so, as happened in Philadelphia. So what's a lay or concerned religious person to do?
Lots of us have left or are in the discernment stage leading to leaving, and lots of us have stayed, and stayed mostly sullen and silent. This isn't all that different from most families who experience abuse from one or both parents. It is really really hard to deal with this kind of betrayal from the authority figures of our childhood. In the case of Catholic priests, that authority was confused with divine authority and that makes it even more fear inspiring. Disassociating is a very real solution for a divine problem.
One of the comments I found intriguing mentioned that out of a reported 1.1 million Philadelphia Catholics, a whopping 50 showed up for Cardinal Rigali's official mea culpa ceremony. I wonder how many might have shown up if an alternative 'unofficial' ceremony would have been held by a priest of known integrity in the parking lot. Most of the Catholics I know who have left, have not rejected the Eucharistic aspect of Catholicism. They have rejected the authority structure. They have rejected what passes for Episcopal authority because it's bankrupt in it's integrity, and unaccountable for any of it's acts. The stench inside the doors is too much. It covers up that which is hidden with in the doors. The only Catholics who seem oblivious to this are either somehow above it all, or whose fear of hell keeps them solidly in denial. The rest of us are stuck somewhere out in the parking lot. Sort of in our own evacuation zone outside the toxic spiritual pollution. If that's the case, maybe we should just have Mass out in the parking lot, celebrated by priests who feel the same way. I'm sure the collections would be large enough to support the priests out there with the rest of us and there would be one other side benefit. We wouldn't have to use the new Mass translation.
In the meantime the desperate true believers and their unaccountable leadership could continue to desperately try to save a clerical system which is beyond salvation until they see they have to bury it for their own good. Kind of like another situation that readily comes to mind.