The truth requires direct sunlight

2018 was quite a year.  A moment became a movement.  It began with revelations out of Hollywood and the media — powerful men, seemingly answerable to no one, using their fame or their positions to gratify themselves sexually (what my mom would call “getting their jollies”), with no concern for the lives they were forever damaging and discarding in the process.  As the stories came pouring out like a bursting dam, their number made one thing clear:  something was very, very wrong, and had been for awhile.

hands-me too

It was hard to miss.  NBC, CBS, US Gymnastics, Michigan State University, USC.  How could all this be going on, and for so long?  The conversation began to shift to the only answer to that question — the role organizations and institutions play in allowing sexual victimization to occur and/or covering it up.

Then came August.

A grand jury out of Pennsylvania documented how thousands of children were abused by over 300 Roman Catholic priests.  People began to realize that blaming it on “a few bad apples” or “homosexuals in the priesthood” meant that there were over 300 ordained criminals or gays in one state alone!  Or that the common denominator is the Church itself.

Pennsylvania was shocking to tens of thousands of Catholics in the pews who began to realize they were being lied to, that the feckless policies put in place back in 2002 had done little to rid the priesthood of perverts, and that their hard-earned money put in the collection each week was paying to cover-up systemic sexual deviance from the parish to the chancery.

The Roman Catholic Church is in a state of self-inflicted crisis, and the world feels an old wound that had scabbed-over ripped open again.  1000+ victims in 6 dioceses.  To put that number into perspective thoughtful reader, there are 32 archdioceses, 145 dioceses, and 1 extraterritorial archdiocese for the military services of the United States (serving members of the US Armed Forces and Diplomatic Corps around the world, those in facilities operated by the Veterans Administration, and all their dependents).  So, a total of 178 jurisdictions, each headed by a bishop.  By the numbers, 1000 in 6 dioceses works out to an average of roughly 167 victims per diocese, and 28,724 victim-survivors in the remaining 172 (arch)-dioceses; let me spell that out:  twenty-eight thousand seven hundred and twenty-four!

Pope Francis’ response to the evil festering in the ranks of the Roman Catholic clergy and hierarchy has been as pathetic as the problem has been prevalent.  In 2018, he began by accusing victims of slanderously making the whole thing up, but by April, facts forced him to do an about-face and apologize for what he called his “grave error,” and in August he expressed "shame and sorrow” through a spokesman after two whole days of silence following the Pennsylvania grand jury report without offering a mechanism to prevent predatory behavior amongst clergy in the future or to hold bishops accountable for knowingly conspiring to cover it up, let alone ascribing consequences to clerics who currently stand accused.

But the conversation changed in 2018.  The world began to listen, to really listen.  As people began to realize the ongoing and lifelong slow violence of sexual abuses, how they hollow the victim out, they demanded long overdue justice for victims and punishment for perpetrators.  In the US, Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey have both been charged with criminal sexual assault and will stand trial, and a judicial vicar for the Archdiocese of New York heard testimony just last week against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick who was banished in disgrace from the Roman Catholic College of Cardinals and stripped of his rank, while in Australia, Cardinal George Pell, a member of the pope’s inner circle (his nine-member Council of Cardinal Advisors), was found guilty last month by a 12-person jury which unanimously convicted him of five charges of sexual abuse in the first of two trials; he is to be sentenced in February 2019 for the first conviction while proceeding to trial on a second set of charges.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant

Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant, and we must resolve in 2019 and moving forward to let it shine on the rot in organizations and institutions that have allowed sexual crimes to flourish in the shadows for far too long — we must protect the vulnerable, help the wounded heal, and prevent power or prestige from protecting predators.  Truth flourishes in light; it withers and dies in darkness.

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