Saturday, September 8, 2018

Why Silence is No Longer, and was Never, Good Enough

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

The culture of silence in certain quarters of the Catholic Church is deafening, and now it’s coming from The Top. It sends a bellowing message that careens within the psyches of abuse survivors affected. It is a blight on God’s holy church. But am I, as a representative of God’s evangelical church, any less culpable? I’ve abused people. But… there is a big but coming:
There is a big difference between abuse that has taken place and been confessed and repented of — that has been forgiven — and abuse that has not been confessed and repented of. A monumental difference. I wouldn’t be writing this article if I felt there was abuse I hadn’t confessed or repented of.
There is a massive difference between sin
that has been acknowledged, confessed, repented of, and forgiven.
On a whole other level is the sin that is hidden,
that is unacknowledged, unconfessed, and not repented of.
The premise of this piece is not the sin done, for we have all sinned — not that that is unimportant, because it is still lamentable — but the principle I’m exploring here is the systemic covering up of significant and repetitive abuse.
The silence that meets survivors of abuse is an abomination.
But silence is not the half of it. If an entire organisation propagates silence that its leader has issued as a stance by edict, then the survivor feels scapegoated. And down the spiral of traumatic machination does the survivor go. If the abuse was one thing, and the silence was something entirely deeper and pathological, we can only imagine the additional depths and manifestations of trauma a survivor faces.
When a leader decides they will meet what they discern as “division,” because it appears someone is “seeking only scandal/destruction,” “even in the family,” we have to wonder what kind of family it is that the survivor is part of, and the cost they must bear for revealing the truth by uncovering the sin. And this is division? This is scandal? Do these just seek destruction? Vindication is certainly sought. But how on earth can any of these scandals now be handled privately? What tenuous position does that then place the survivor in?
Why are the powerful, in this context —
who are alleged abusers, who are hiding the alleged abuse —
always given positions of privilege?
The Pope appears to be so interested in the truth as to discern when to speak and when to remain silent. Certainly, wisdom is about discerning when to speak and when to remain silent. But truth? The only time we would consider remaining silent when it comes to the truth would be when we’re concerned we’re on the wrong side of the truth. But shouldn’t the church be leading the way in truth and advocacy for the abused and oppressed?
Jesus came to bring good news to the poor,
to proclaim release for the captives,
the recovery of sight to the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
(See Luke 4:18-19)
So, there is a mismatch between the tenets Jesus stood for and the tenets the Catholic Church, in this situation, stands for. And it appears it isn’t just the Catholic Church. It happened at Willow Creek, too.
But there is still silence.
It is reprehensible, even unbelievable.
And yet here we are!
Some obviously don’t believe Jesus’ words
when He said ‘the truth will set you free.’
Silence is no longer good enough because we live in an age where common humanity has a voice, where worthy causes go viral, and survivors of abuse are no longer constrained to silence.
God is using social media to bring much darkness out into the light. And yet I hear so often empathy for those who abused minors decades ago, because it was a different time, as if those people thought they would always get away with it.
It makes me realise that silence was never good enough.
It is good that we are entering an age where survivors of abuse will have their day in court, where they may be believed, and perhaps for the first time, receive the support they should have always received.
None of us can imagine the kinds and amounts of atrocities done by so-called righteous people over the centuries. If we even had a glimpse into some of these accounts, we might be traumatised simply to bear witness to them. And we haven’t lived these lives. The survivor that reads these words, who knows all too well the requirement for and cost of silence may manage a wry smile to conceal a quivering chin as a solitary tear rolls down the cheek, and that is just the visible tip of the iceberg. A whole being lives beneath the persona, and only the person can know how hellish it is to bear what can seem impossible to be re-written.
Silence costs the survivor in myriad horrifying ways,
because repetitive trauma makes trauma complicated.
There must be severe retribution for any of those who are guilty of horrendous abuse and, ten times worse, for those who managed the system that covered it up, that protected the perpetrators, that promoted them, or moved them on, without having faced the consequences their crimes deserved.
Survivors need to believe that God’s Judgment,
which is final and everlasting,
will generously placate their grave concerns.
A lack of compassion shown to survivors of abuse is having a boomerang effect. There is no compassion for those who wantonly abused children, and especially for those involved in cover-ups. That is simply a consequence of the kind of evil we’re talking about.

Protectionism against ‘division’ in the church must always be viewed with suspicion where there are allegations of abuse.

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