Editorial: Broken trust, decades to heal

Posted 11/15/18

When deep trust is broken, it is gut wrenching, soul crushing, life altering. When the trust is broken by someone not only in a position of power over us, but someone who holds our deepest …

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Editorial: Broken trust, decades to heal

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When deep trust is broken, it is gut wrenching, soul crushing, life altering.

When the trust is broken by someone not only in a position of power over us, but someone who holds our deepest spiritual convictions, someone we believe has a special relationship to the Creator, it threatens our very bonds with God.

How could it not?

This is what happened when Catholic priests sexually abused young people over the course of decades.

And so, it should not seem beyond reasonable belief that the children and teenagers who were violated by the very people they looked to for instruction about God would bury such abuse so deep it would take decades to remember it, acknowledge it happened, talk about it. Because to talk about sexual abuse, no matter who did it, means going through the hurt, self-doubt, shame, anger and betrayal all over again.

To talk about it, even today in some small rural New Mexico villages, is to still risk ridicule, disbelief and denial by one’s friends and family.

One such man is taking that risk, courageously and publicly telling his story in hopes that others who were abused will seek help.

Priests are not the only people in positions of power, in whom we place trust, who have been guilty of sexual abuse or sexual violence.

Each time the trust is broken — by a boss, a parent, a physician, a friend — the aftermath is phenomenal in its scope. That’s been on display in the progress of the #MeToo movement. Sexual abuse has lifelong impacts, and causes, according to at least some limited studies, more severe post-traumatic stress than that experienced by people in war. Susvivors struggle with depression, addiction, and other physical and mental health problems.

The ripple effects from such sexual abuse stretches across generations. How many hundreds, if not thousands of people have lived lives wrought with anxiety because of this? How much of our generational problems with addiction, poverty, struggles in school, might indeed be linked to sexual abuse? How many cut their lives short because of it? How many faithful lost their bond with the church, and perhaps, even with God?

Healing doesn’t happen in a year or two or even 10 or 20.

The church has made major reforms up to the highest echelons in recent years to address this history of sexual abuse, reaching out to survivors, vetting would-be priests more thoroughly, offering counseling. But it has done so reluctantly and in some cases continues to be less than proactive in reaching out to possible victims.

At its root, “healing” means wholeness. We must account for the state of affairs in full — survivors, accused and the church, in that order. Perhaps as the church finally and fully recognizes its own part in this terrible saga, there may eventually be true healing.

We hope so.

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