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by Jane Gilgun
Summary The Roman Catholic Church in Missouri has mounted an unprecedented legal attack upon a child sexual abuse advocacy group called SNAP. This article shows how these actions contradict the teachings of Jesus, which are supposed to be the foundation of the Roman Catholic Church. The clergy sexual abuse scandal is an opportunity for this church to demonstrate to the world what penitence is. Instead, they chose to silence the very people their clergy have harmed. About the Author Jane F. Gilgun, Ph.D., LICSW, is a professor and writer. She has done research on child sexual abuse and other forms of violence for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of the Catholic University of America and the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. See Professor Gilgun’s other articles on clergy abuse and other topics, and her children’s stories and books on scribd.com, Kindle, iBooks, and Nook for a variety of mobile devices.
As a woman, I may be unworthy to speak about Roman Catholic Church matters, but it seems to me that Jesus said that the greatest commandment is ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew, 36-‐39; based upon Deuteronomy 6:5 & Leviticus 18:10). Some of the bishops in the United States have moved so far away from this commandment that I wonder whether they have taken up the cause of Satan. I won’t go into the well-‐ documented cover-‐ups that bishops, cardinals, and even the pope have done regarding clergy sexual abuse over the past several decades. No, I’m talking about some bishops’ aggressive actions against the clergy abuse victims’ advocacy group SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). SNAP has been a major force in bringing cases of clergy sexual abuse to public attention. In their defense of two priests accused of sexual abuse in the dioceses of Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, lawyers for the Roman Catholic Church have gone to court to compel SNAP to turn over to them more than 20 years of documents related to previous cases of clergy sexual abuse. They also have questioned top administrators of SNAP for several hours. They have done this despite the fact that SNAP is not part of either case. Silence SNAP “If there is one group that the higher-‐ups, the bishops, would like to see silenced, it definitely would be SNAP,” said Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University. And that’s what they are going after. They’re trying to find a way to silence SNAP.” Professor Hamilton is an advocate for survivors of clergy sex crimes. SNAP as a Menace to the RC Church Advocates for the Roman Catholic Church support Hamilton’s views. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, has said going after SNAP is justified because “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.” Donohue also said the bishops are rethinking its past policies of admitting wrong-‐doing and offering compensation to survivors. Instead, they have made decisions to fight back against SNAP. “The bishops have come together collectively. I can’t give you the names, but there’s a growing consensus on the part of the bishops that they had better toughen up and go out and buy some good lawyers to get tough. We don’t need altar boys,” Donohue said.
Stop! Bishops are Taking Jesus Out of the Roman Catholic Church
“The church has been too quick to write a check, and I think they’ve realized it would be a lot less expensive in the long run if we fought them one by one,” Donohue continued. What Would Jesus Say? A lot less expensive? Fight them one by one? Is this the church of my childhood and young adulthood? Where I listened to stories of Jesus with rapt attention? In St. Francis of Assisi parish where I felt known and loved, part of something wonderful? Is this the same church that taught me to love others as God loves me? To take responsibility for my wrong-‐doing? To confess my sins? To do penance? To mend my ways? To trust God? To be good? The church that guided me to be a social worker (but wouldn’t let me be a priest)? That helped me see the suffering of others? That led me to learn about child sexual abuse and violence so as to help stop it? So as to offer solace and healing to survivors? I never heard stories where Jesus said to fight the very persons we have harmed. I heard Jesus say, repent, love one another, love God. I don’t think I made all of this up. Where has this church gone? I think it is still there, but it is not in the hearts of some bishops—and not in the hearts of other church officials. Fortunately, the Roman Catholic Church is not only the bishops who fight those priests have harmed. The church is far bigger and more loving than that. Whatever Happened to Love Your Enemies? SNAP is not the enemy of the Roman Catholic Church. Rather, SNAP has the role of prophet. SNAP spokespeople are calling priests, bishops, cardinals, and pope to be faithful to God’s commandments, just as the prophets of old have done. The greatest of the virtues is love, said Paul the apostle. Even if SNAP were an enemy of the Roman Catholic Church, Jesus said to love our enemies: But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:27-‐36). Conclusion The teachings of Jesus, the founder and bedrock of the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian religions do not justify the actions of the bishops in St. Louis and Kansas City, Missouri. These bishops and other church officials should be on their knees begging forgiveness for the wrongs they have done or have allowed others to do. There is no question that Roman Catholic clergy have committed thousands of instances of child sexual abuse. If church officials lived by the teachings of Jesus, they would acknowledge this, take action to comfort survivors, seek forgiveness, and change their ways. The officials of the church have an unprecedented opportunity to show the world what penitence is. If they
confessed their own sins and sought forgiveness, churches throughout the world would be filled with new and returning members. Human beings long for connection with others. They want to be part of something that brings out the best in them. Churches and other religious institutions can offer this. Sadly, far too many religious institutions, like the Roman Catholic Church, instead show the world their arrogance and refusal to admit wrong-‐doing. Such actions drive people away. Furthermore, such actions hurt others. This is the opposite of the commandment to love. References Connor, Tom (2012). Cardinal Egan: Ten years later. Connecticut Magazine. http://www.connecticutmag.com/Connecticut-‐Magazine/Web-‐Exclusive-‐ Content/February-‐2012/Egan-‐Ten-‐Years-‐After/ Goodstein, Amy (2012). Church using priests’ cases to pressure victims’ network. New York Times, March 12, A1, A3. Gilgun, Jane F. (2011). Child sexual abuse: From harsh realities to hope. Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/Child-‐Sexual-‐Abuse-‐Realities-‐ebook/dp/B0022NGUDO Gilgun, Jane F. (2011). It’s time for the Roman Catholic Church to Show the World What Penitence is. http://www.scribd.com/doc/54787575/It-‐s-‐Time-‐for-‐the-‐Roman-‐Catholic-‐ Church-‐to-‐Show-‐the-‐World-‐What-‐Penitence-‐is Gilgun, Jane F. (2011). Perfect: The bishop has no shame. http://www.scribd.com/doc/53136862/Perfect-‐The-‐Bishop-‐Has-‐no-‐Shame Gilgun, Jane F. (2011). Remove offending priests immediately: What was the bishop thinking? http://www.scribd.com/doc/62719870/Remove-‐Offending-‐Priests-‐ Immediately-‐What-‐Was-‐the-‐Bishop-‐Thinking Gilgun, Jane F. (2012). Sex abuse scandal at Penn State: Powerful men brought done for not reporting child sexual abuse. http://www.scribd.com/doc/71832329/Sex-‐Abuse-‐Scandal-‐ at-‐Penn-‐State-‐Powerful-‐Men-‐Charged-‐for-‐Not-‐Reporting-‐Child-‐Sexual-‐Abuse
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