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Society's Challenge - Answering the Scandals with Personal Holiness

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Message Debby Bodkin
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Society's Challenge
"Answering the Scandals With Personal Holiness"

As a cradle Catholic, when the clergy sex abuse scandals erupted in 2002, it hit hard. Afterall, how could so many communities of faith, all located miles apart, possibly be experiencing the same type of sex abuse problems, with similar surroundings and circumstances, always involving sex abuse by a member of the clergy or a trusted employee of a religious institution.

It is tough to accept the public allegations of clergy sex abuses and it is tougher to accept the "institutional denial" of the wrongs that have been committed against precious children and their families.

It is now evident that the Church hierarchy and its legal advisors truly believed the band-aid approach would confront the sex abuse scandals in the best interests of all the faithful; unfortunately, this is the furthest thing from the truth.

No matter what hat you wear in life, what educational degrees you may hold or what worldly wealth you may possess, the scandals hurt; sometimes to the point of wondering if it would be easier to play the ostrich and join the forces of "institutional denial."

Just think... if we could all deny the wrongs that were committed against children, as a society, we would not have to worry about protecting children in the future from sex abuses and, we would be free from accepting the horrific truths, free to live without moral accountability, free from supporting those who have been destroyed, free from worrying about the monetary losses caused by the lawsuits, free from supporting due process, justice and healing. Sounds good -- institutional denial -- but is it really what Jesus would do and is this what we want our children today to witness?

Soon after the scandals erupted, Fr. Roger Landry's "Answering the Scandals With Personal Holiness", was published in the Catholic World News on February 13, 2002. Fr. Landry's writings provided insight to answering the scandals with personal holiness and leaves the choice to each individual, to respond to the scandals privately or publicly.

This is when I started listening to the personal stories of abuse victims, that were committed against children in my community, children who also attended the same schools and churches my children attended.

Suddenly, the sex abuse allegations were not just stories, with political or defensive views of the Church hierarchy, printed in newspapers and posted on the internet.

For me, there were two survivors that initially changed my life's path after listening to their personal stories of sex abuse. It is haunting to look into their eyes and the eyes of so many survivors of abuse and their families. Afterall, these girls and boys were just like my four children who attended the same Catholic schools and churches our family attended -- and yet, not once was I warned that sexual predatory employees and priests were employed and repeatedly transferred to various parishes and schools.

Why did our family get lucky by escaping sex abuse crimes in a religious school or church community?

No reason for the so called "luck" of escaping clergy sex abuse. However, as a parent, my life experiences, faith and children are the most precious of God's gifts in this world -- do we honor the teachings of Christ by supporting all the clergy sex abuse survivors and their families in their public outcry and fight for justice?


Should we be thankful no one in our family was sexually abused and then join the world of institutional denial, to save face as one of the faithful and guard our church and worldly possessions from lawsuits and policies to protect children in the future?

Are we morally free to wash our hands clean of reaching out to survivors of sex abuse, those who have suffered in shame and silence, alone and ostracized from communities of faith?

My deepest fear from the abuse scandals is that my children, who attended Catholic schools and churches most of their lives, will join the institutional denial mentality because of their strong Catholic education and background.

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As an amateur writer, mother, wife and legal secretary for the past 25 years, my passion for the courage of clergy sex abuse victims, their families and mandated reporters, who made a choice to protect children, before their own career security and (more...)
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