This One Time, I Refused to Stop Talking About Abuse

Can I be honest with you? I’m angry today. I’m sick to death of people equating exposing sin in the Church with slandering Christ’s bride. I’m sick to death of people equating exposing sin in the Church with hindering the gospel. I’m sick to death of people equating exposing sin in the Church with tarnishing our “witness” in the world.

I hate to go all cliche on you, but the people who say these things, frankly, don’t get it. They don’t get it. They are so awash in their ignorance of how the world really works, what the Church is called to be, and what unbelievers really think about and talk about that they actually think that silencing victims of abuse, protecting abusers, and refusing to publicly acknowledge harm done by institutional decisions is exalting Christ’s proverbial bride.

Right? Because if calling out criminal abuse and criminal church activities (i.e., not reporting abuse, which is a crime in many states, especially for clergy) is slandering Christ’s bride, then—at least for those who rail against us would-be temple cleansers—the opposite must be true.

Hiding/covering up pedophilia and abuse = building up the Church

Hiding/covering up pedophilia and abuse = advancing the gospel

Hiding/covering up pedophilia and abuse = increasing the effectiveness of our witness in the world

Now, no sane person of faith is going to look at the above statements and argue with me that they are true. And yet … every time they defend people who have covered up abuse, every time they accuse victim advocates of “slandering the bride,” every time they silence another voice or insist that their public sin is a private matter, they are proclaiming with their lives and their deeds that they DO believe the utterly asinine statements above. And if living out those toxic beliefs doesn’t actually in fact lead to slandering the bride, hindering the gospel and tarnishing the church’s witness, then I don’t know what does. And that’s the irony. These people simply do not get it. They do not get that they are the ones in sin. They do not get that they are the problem. They do not get that they shame us all. They do not see it. They do not want to see it. They are burying their heads and plugging their ears and still proclaiming in the face of all evidence to the contrary that the world is flat. They might be able to recite the Romans Road and the Four Spiritual Laws, but I doubt they’d know the transforming power of the gospel if it were staring them in the face.

These are harsh words. I’m aware that they are. But I am disgusted by those who take it upon themselves to “protect” God’s Church, when what they are doing is contributing to its decay with their black mold false beliefs and their termites of empty rhetoric. I try not to judge another person’s salvation. In fact, I am decidedly against the practice of sitting around and talking about who is in and who is out. The practice revolts me. But I confess that when it comes to these individuals I am forced to wonder.

I cannot say that I am convinced we serve the same God.

Because my God despises hypocrisy and hidden sins. My God despises pride. My God despises the harming of those who are vulnerable. He showed us over and over and over again in the Old Testament—in ways that are so vivid they make some cringe and look the other way when these stories are told in church—that He does not abide these things in His people.

He does not abide these things in His people.

So I will not be silenced. I will not be belittled as bitter or marginalized as divisive. I will not be quiet so that you don’t have to feel uncomfortable when you scroll through your Twitter feed. I will not be told to watch my tone with you, the patriarchy of fundamentalist evangelical Christendom, because too many of you are failing miserably at your self-proclaimed calling and it is time you listened to people who are not on your payroll. I will not stop talking, even though so few—so few—in the church will take the time to listen.

I will continue to warn you that His wrath is eminent. I will continue to warn you that you will be held accountable for both your actions and inaction.

And I will continue to pray that you will turn your face in humility and humble yourself before the Lord and His people and beg forgiveness—from all of us—for dumping your buckets of disease-ridden mud all over the bride and then pointing the finger at someone else.

________________________________________________________________

Note: I am so pleased that a watch group for abuse in the Catholic church picked up this post. I feel a kinship with those who have been fighting (for so long) for justice in that arena. However, I thought I should mention two things to clear up any confusion:

  • I am a Protestant, and this post was written in response to abuses at the hands of Protestants and subsequent victim-blaming/advocate-slamming by Protestants and Protestant leaders. Some of my most wonderful friends and many women I admire are Catholics, but I am not.
  • I am so glad that the sentiments here are resonating with those who have fought for justice within the Catholic church. Protestants, former-Protestants, Catholics and former-Catholics … we should all be working together to end abuse, end victim-blaming, end abuse cover-ups in all churches. As I mention in a comment below, apparently this evil (pedophilia) did not pick a side after the Reformation.
  • Maybe together we can end organized Christianity’s historically inadequate (and too often grossly amoral) response to the problem.

Thank you for being in this space with me and a bigger thank you to those who are in the trenches as survivors and/or advocates, no matter what your faith background.

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33 thoughts on “This One Time, I Refused to Stop Talking About Abuse

  1. This one time, I knew this amazing woman. She had an incredible gift for cutting right to heart of the situation, pointing out the fallacies and the phonies, and calling on us all to open our eyes and our hearts to the possibilities.

    You may be angry today, but I am inspired. Thank you for putting words to your heart, and mine.

    • Wow. I blush … and the tears are coming. This one time, I knew an amazing woman too and her name was Erica. Thank you for reading and thank you for your kind words. They mean a lot to me, Erica.

  2. What I came to understand from my situation, at least:

    The church leaders don’t think, “We’re covering this up,” but rather, “We’ve got to protect our members from these evil ideas!” or “What if others start acting out because they have this problem, too! We’d look bad!” or “It’s obviously rebelling against leadership. God hates insubordination, so we should, too.” … and so on.

    A sense of complete doctrinal understanding pushes these leaders to do things that do (at times) make them feel squeamish. Behind closed doors, they may argue over whether it’s really the right thing, before agreeing to show solidarity. They ask the victim to feel sorry for them … for forcing them to this extent … and often they receive compliance as a result, which makes them feel better because the problem “goes away.”

    They really can’t imagine any other way, because this is how God’s love looks to them. And the reason the relational abuse may not seem to be abuse in their eyes is because it is often the outcome of the same theories as the leadership style they apply to the church as a whole.

    They would have to admit to a great many faulty applications of Scripture in order to come to the conclusion that the victim they have expelled from the church wasn’t “in rebellion against God” but instead one of the oppressed that they’re supposed to help and protect.

    It really is systemic, which is why I’m so relieved to find people like you who tell it like it is. I’ve started to write up my story for the same reason. Somebody needs to explain the other side of the story … and not many do. Thank you, again, for thinking as you do … and for sharing it with the world. This gives me courage, too.

    • Thanks for your insights from your experience, Dreamer. It is a maddening system, that’s for sure. In my experience, the blindness of leaders who fall into this category–with their false paradigms for healthy leadership and church–is really hard to to heal. We can throw them glasses and free access to laser eye surgery all day long, but they are still going to prefer their blindness because it’s what they know. They feel safe in the dark, I think. Maybe because everyone they know is right there with them. I wish they could pick up the glasses now and then and see that there is another–much better–way. Interesting what you said about arguing behind closed doors before agreeing to solidarity. I think you are right that a lot of that goes on, which is actually pretty frustrating. Because it means that people who knew the right thing to do–who recognized it and felt it and knew the abused was the one they should have been most concerned with–caved to the pressure to do the wrong thing. And that is really, really sad. I wish that they would stop caving.

      • So true, Tamara. When my “insider-friends” let me know that some of the committee had disagreed and then caved … I felt more betrayed by them than the ones who really believed they were doing right. They had the conscience and a voice to make a difference … they KNEW … (well, who knows what threats were implied, but that just shows how ugly the system is)

      • That would be really heartbreaking. I can’t–and yet in some ways I can–imagine. I’ve been reading a bit of your story on your blog today. Thank you for sharing it. I’m sure you are letting many others know that they are not alone.

  3. Tamara, praying for you and so many others. The actions you describe defy logic. It can only be the enemy. What else could keep the church so mystifyingly blind? I am so grateful that the church was a refuge from abuse for me, and I ache so for those who have been so damaged by it. If only these officials could live a day as a victim of sexual abuse. To feel the fear and shame and confusion. To see the flashbacks that still play in 3D even after 40 years. I don’t think they spent much time behind closed doors praying and asking for God’s leading. Keep beating the drum.
    <3 Tammie

    • Thanks, Tammie. I’m so grateful your experience with the church was different also. It definitely gives hope. Thank you for reading and thank you for your support.

  4. I don’t totally have words for how I want to respond. I guess I will say that about a third of the way through an Amen! welled up in my gut and grew louder and louder. You are right, and thank you, thank you for pressing on. It needs to be said.

    • Thank you for reading, Meredith. Thank you for the amen. Every comment here gives me more hope that one day the voices who say such things about “temple-cleansers” (if you will) will be so tiny we can ignore them and move on with justice and grace for victims.

  5. Oh my heart beats faster today, in reading this! Sometimes I feel so ALONE when I speak up, as you have today! I just want to commend you for your passion, for your commitment – THANK YOU!!!

    And thank you for retweeting me today, as well – because that’s how I discovered you and your website! :)

  6. I’m just discovering this blog today and it makes me feel like I want to know you more. Honestly, I’m skimming over posts with tears welling, yet filled with curiosity for who you are. There’s people I want to share blogs like this with, but can’t since their own church experiences tell them it’s best to put on a good face and forget. That to be loved by Jesus is to be healed and to be healed is to act like it’s all better. Even if those who love them most can see it all right there, crawling underneath their skin, burning to destroy or be set free – but quiet they remain. At nobeautyqueen.com we try to live in this tension of grit and grace. But it’s a delicate balance, too often swaying too far into grit when no one stops to offer a little grace.

    • Wow, you are speaking my language, Heather. I will definitely be checking our your blog. Thank you for reading and for the encouragement. I think there is great healing in simply admitting you aren’t yet healed. I live by that and the healing is happening. Thank you!

  7. Thank you for standing up to the powers and principalities that think they own the right to speak for God and the Church.

    You’re absolutely right when you state that they worship a different God. They reproach their maker when they oppress in the name of their false god.

    • Thanks for your passion and for reading. I’m glad to know others see this strange behavior and recognize it as not congruent with our God.

  8. To think that abusive priests and nuns AND members of the Hierarchy, who support them, are “The BRIDE of Christ” is patently RIDICULOUS! Any 2nd grade communicant is endowed by God Almighty, with a sense of right and wrong, knows that! The are more like, “The Bride of Satan,” and I’m sure that he’ll be welcoming them into His dominion after death! Are they in for a SURPRISE!

    • Thank you for reading, Jeannie. Yes, I fear many will be in that tragic category crying “Lord, Lord” and hearing “I never knew you.” It’s very sad, actually–and very convicting–that one can be so close to God and yet miss Him entirely.

  9. Here is a song that can go to the tune of the Patriot Game (Irish song). Mount Cashel was a boys’ orphanage in St. John’s Newfoundland. THere is a movie about it..on you tube…called Boys of St. Vincent’s.

    BOYS OF MOUNT CASHEL

    The boys of Mount Cashel lie wetting their beds
    They wait in the dark for the footsteps they dread
    Too stunned and ashamed to show where they have bled
    The boys of Mount Cashel are crying tonight

    The fine Christian Brothers so saintly we thought
    Some really were and some really not
    They’d have gone on forever except they got caught
    The boys of Mount Cashel are crying tonight

    The men of Mount Cashel are going berserk
    Raring to throttle each pitiful jerk
    But the magistrates say let the law do its work
    The boys of Mount Cashel are crying tonight

    Lives without promise lives without hope
    How they must hate us how will they cope
    I will follow this trail if it leads to the pope
    The boys of Mount Cashel are crying tonight

    I want to be there when the blame comes around
    Sure there’s plenty enough for us all to be found
    And I pray to high heavens that God hears the sound
    Of the boys of Mount Cashel who are crying tonight

    • Wow, Mary. What a powerful song. I will have to check out the film. Sad to hear of such horrors. Thank you for reading.

    • I went to a conference where some of the victims of Mount Cashel spoke. I couldn’t stop crying..i also met parents of boys raped by priests who killed themselves.. (the boys killed themselves as young men).. I met a woman lying in a road outside the Montecito ymca in santa Barbara/Montecito.. who wanted to be run over by a car and die (she was raped by the catholic priest in her first communion dress on her first communion day and had just remembered.. (was able to help her connect with others raped by the same priest.. it goes on and on and on.. it is evil ..(the church has become or maybe always was a haven for priest /clergy rapists).. Jesus is not there…

      • Wow, Tina. What tragedies. How incredible though that God had you there to intervene with the woman in the street that day. What a heartbreaking story, but what a powerful reminder that we never know when we might encounter a deeply wounded person who needs our compassion (and advocacy). Thank you for sharing that.

      • I was driving with my sister in law one day by a school and we found a young boy lying in the street..we thought he had been hit by a car but he was just crying from the bullying he got every day.

      • What a sad thing. Bullying is such a serious and pernicious threat to the emotional health of our kids. What an amazing thing that you were there in that moment for him. I’m sure he won’t ever forget meeting you. Thank you for reading.

      • yes have been an activist exposing roman catholic priest rapes for almost 30 years.. I especially confront the Jesuit order for their crimes against men women and children.. that is how god uses me.. it is painful and isolating work but I have peace and the word to sustain me..

  10. Tamara you are a breathe of fresh air to me. I have been blogging for 12 years on this same subject. I have felt so alone also but you and many others are being ” Bold” now.
    We’re not listening to this preposterous dialogue from these pseudo intellectual freaks anymore ! We’re letting it be known in “Real Time”

    • That humbles me, Gloria. I’m sure you have learned so much and seen so much in the years you have been a voice calling for justice. I look forward to learning more about you and from you in the days to come.

      • Oh, but you are wrong, Kurt. I am a Protestant. Always have been. Victims of Protestant clergy abuse have been coming out of the woodwork for the past 20 years and probably longer, it’s just taken us this long to get some press. This post was written in response to a Protestant church leader (and others) who try to shout down anyone who wants to tell the truth about Protestant clergy abuse and abuse cover ups, calling us enemies of the gospel. This post had nothing to do with Catholicism, though I am thrilled that both my Protestant and Catholic (or formerly Catholic) brothers and sisters in Christ have found it resonates with them. I welcome both branches of the Christian faith with open arms. (And Protestants are not the only ones with Bibles.)*

        *Edited for gentleness. I don’t know your experience, Kurt. But some of my most wonderful friends are Jesus-following, Bible-reading, Scripture-memorizing, wonderful, wonderful Catholics. I appreciate that your experience may be different. I’m sorry for that. But the “bad guys” and the “good guys” exist in both Protestantism and Catholicism. There’s no story of pedophilia in Catholic churches that I haven’t heard of happening in Protestant ones too. Look into Protestant missionary boarding schools, for starters. The things that have happened are horrific and just as bad as any Catholic boarding school or orphanage story. Evil is not, apparently, interested in which side we took after the Reformation.

  11. Thank you Tam. for your sweet words. I am online everyday that I am able. I will fight for Our Precious Lord until He takes me home. Item: The Indignity of. (Monsignor) Donald McGuire ,Mother’Theresa’ s Spiritual Advisor. is in prison for ( 25 yrs) for being an active
    Pedophile. 2009. Has to say something about this woman’s discernment, especially when they say she did not feed the poor( they got gruel) the same as the. Lobster Thermadore she. ate. on. airplanes. Not gossip . It is factual. The.rcc. is arrogant ,elitist and lies to keep their status quo. I was 60 yrs brainwashed.I am now 84.and FREE IN CHRIST!

    • I am so glad, Gloria. I have many friends who have suffered abuse in Protestant churches who did just the opposite. They left the Protestant churches that wounded them with their corruption and abuse covering and found peace and a home that feels (to them) closer to Jesus in Catholicism. I know it probably seems so strange to you, because I’m sure you worked hard to get out. I can’t imagine what your experience was like, but it is interesting that wounded Protestants are finding solace in Catholicism and wounded Catholics are finding solace in Protestantism. It’s food for thought, that’s for sure. I remain a Protestant, but felt the most at home over the past few years in an Anglican church until we recently moved away from it, and it gave me some insights into why so many of my friends have been drawn to Catholicism. I like that it felt, looked and sounded nothing like the Baptist churches/leaders who’ve hurt me. I think the reality is that–unfortunately–there are corrupt leaders in both branches of Christianity. The key is to hold onto Jesus, I think. I’m glad you’ve found that, in whatever circle of Christianity you’ve landed.

  12. Matt 13: 11 seq.
    11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

    “Though seeing, they do not see;
        though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
    14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:

    “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
        you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
    15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
        they hardly hear with their ears,
        and they have closed their eyes.
    Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
        hear with their ears,
        understand with their hearts
    and turn, and I would heal them.

  13. Pingback: The Abused are Being Silenced and It Breaks My Heart | thetalkingllama

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