(Trigger warning- clergy abuse)
A bunch of kids from my neighborhood were murdered by priests when we were young. Their minds and bodies grew into adulthood, but their sweet innocent souls were murdered, at age 6, 8, 10, 11… by the very men who were supposed to be protecting them, and leading them to salvation.
Soul murder. The catholic church has been committing it for ages.
A child’s soul is murdered once by each act of abuse, and then again and again for the rest of their life by the church’s silence and lack of accountability. Their outright denial or cold indifference. Their reluctance to criminally prosecute the abusers, which puts them above the law, makes them untouchable, and leaves the victims no recourse for justice or for peace.
The institutional and cultural mechanisms of the church make it a perfect place for abusers. They teach of the sanctity of priests, and demand respect and obedience. The shame that they preach around human sexuality leaves no room for them to teach about bodily autonomy and agency.
Children learn that we are all sinners in need of redemption, and that their priests are the only ones to offer absolution. Unless they confide in, confess to, and honor these men, they will not be allowed to participate in community traditions and sacraments. And they might even end up going to hell!
The abusers take advantage of faithful, fearful, innocent children who are only in search of kindness, attention, and ultimately god’s love. They take advantage of their ignorance around sexuality, and the natural human desire for pleasant physical experiences. Then they capitalize on the fear of going against a trusted and revered community member.
The fear and shame and guilt remain with victims long after they ‘age out’ of the abuse cycle. Most victims don’t even realize that what happened was abuse, until they are much older, when they finally begin to learn about the things they were never taught. Only then can they begin to process what was actually done to them. How they were manipulated by fear and shame. How their trust was betrayed. How they were preyed upon. And once they come to terms with what was done to them, where can they turn? All of the adults in the room revere these men of god.
Speaking the truth brings the fear that no one will believe them. It brings the fear of betraying every single thing they were taught to be true. The fear of shaking their community to its core, and bringing their shame upon everyone. And that shame eats away at the soul. Soul murder.
The good thing about souls is that they can be resurrected. Again and again. Day after day. Every morning is another chance to live, to do the necessary work to repair the damage. The bad thing about souls is that they can be resurrected, so every day is another chance for them to be murdered. Again and again. Over and over.
Memory is a loaded gun, ready to go off at any moment. Each time the trigger is pulled the wound can get deeper, until it eventually bleeds out and the body and mind can no longer survive. Each time the trigger is pulled there is also an opportunity to learn how to dodge the bullet and give the wound some more time to heal. Dodge the bullet, and do the hard work of healing, through peer support, professional help, pursuing a lawsuit…
Avoiding the memories, trying to bury that loaded gun, leads to a sort of purgatory. An existence based solely on finding ways to numb the pain and dull the shame. Living life like a zombie. Caught up in a cycle of self preservation that commonly presents as self harm: alcoholism, abuse of illegal drugs, overuse of prescription drugs, over-working, perfectionism, other obsessive/addictive behaviors. It can also present outwardly as relationship problems, vandalism, pyromania, kleptomania, fighting, repeating the abusive behaviors on others.
And oftentimes, it leads to death. Either slowly from the ravages of addiction on the heart, lungs and liver, or abruptly from the recklessness of speed, intentional overdose or suicide.
The heavy weight of the catholic church can be too much to bear. And in the end, it is catholicism that kills them. The twisted form of catholicism their souls were taught, in private moments, by their parish priests.
This church, these men that take people’s money, and claim to be able to save their souls have blood on their hands. They cannot be absolved until they confess all of their sins. They must publicly admit their longstanding, systematic, enabling of abuse. They must criminally prosecute all living abusers. They must make changes to their organization to assure it never happens again.
Until then, the blood they continue to serve up on Sundays is the blood. of every. single. victim. ever.