Friday greetings. The Midwest is sunny and quite cold this morning; possibility of snow showers tomorrow.
Last night, I watched the movie Spotlight. I rented it at home and watched with two friends. As you may know, I grew up in Boston. I spent eight years preparing for the ordained priesthood at Saint John's Seminary in Brighton, Massachusetts. I was not ordained and left the seminary after having earned the Master of Divinity.
When I left Boston for Florida, Bernard Law had been named as Archbishop of Boston, succeeding the late Humberto Cardinal Medeiros. When the Boston Globe's Spotlight team began to report on the clergy abuse scandal, I had already finished my time in Florida and was living here in Illinois. To be honest, I devoured every piece of information that was uncovered by the Spotlight team. I knew many of those priests; I swam in the Boys Club pool where some of the abuse took place between a priest and those young boys. I knew the parishes where these men had been assigned. And I knew the bishops whose letters and memos were exposed in the investigation.
I believe that one of the most positive things to come out of the investigation really had nothing to do with the Church. The investigation opened the world to the stories of childhood sexual abuse as told from those who had been abused. What was once considered a subject not to be breached suddenly was all over the media. I remember reading and listening to these stories and feeling such sympathy in my heart for these men and women who had been abused as children. The positive thing that grew out of all of this was an open-ness in many families finally to discuss what had happened in the lives of these men and women when they were children. When moms and dads read or heard these accounts, they recognized, too late of course, what had been going on right under their noses and in their own homes when their child was being "groomed." Never did it enter their minds at the time of the abuse that someone in a position of trust would violate the innocence of their son or daughter.
Suddenly, while being exposed, finally, to the stories that ultimately were told, moms and dads began to put two and two together. I know, for some, this meant an immense sense of guilt: "How could I not have seen or noticed what was going on?" We have to remember that most of this abuse took place in a time when we just never talked about this stuff; in a time when talking about sex was not part of a family's, especially a Catholic family's, usual day-to-day routine. I believe that what the Spotlight team did was to help break the silence and open the hearts, minds, and eyes of parents so that they became much, much more aware that the world can be a very dangerous place for their kids. And it also helped families be more open about all of this. Parents helped their children, in ways never done before, to recognize when an adult was becoming too close, and what areas of their own bodies were not to be touched by any adult. And parents were letting children know that their kids could come to mom and dad at any time if their safety was threatened in any way.
There is a deep sadness that lingers in my own heart about all of this. I wonder, often, how those baptized into Christ could have perpetrated such evil; could have snatched the childhood away from the most innocent.
The Church has done much in the intervening years to address these issues, and so much more needs to be done.
As I prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery in the next week, I will bring this heaviness to the cross and try to make sense out of something that is evil to the core.
Thanks for listening.
Gotta sing, Gotta pray.