Survivor Fatigue

I’m not surprised activists pounding on the Church’s lack of accountability have gotten tired over the past eleven years. It’s a thankless job. It’s as complex a tangle of issues as one can find. And there’s likely differences of opinion on strategy within the movement/s. Ann Hagan Webb’s comment struck me:

I went from trying to change the church to accepting the fact that they won’t [change], and anyone that’s still in the church has blinders on. At this point, my opinion is they are corrupt to the core and there’s not a single cardinal we can find who would be a good pope because there’s no such animal.

The American delegation to the conclave would seem to be tainted. The Frequently Misspelled One has a reputation in ruins outside of people who cheered his smackdown by Mother A. Cardinals George and Rigali have at times bypassed structures intended to watchdog abusive clergy. Despite his jovial approach to sooth controversies, Archbishop Dolan has also been knocked around a bit by those who question his management priorities connected with abuse settlements.

A few people I know who have been active in the political pro-life movement have also felt the burden of time–a few more decades. They generally benefit from the support of the institution. Bishops who have sided with victims and allies, however, are few and far between.

Another factor that might account for fatigue in the movement is the modern indulgence for victimhood. Note carefully the public language of people: those who suffered abuse, their allies, bishops, clergy, the media. Do they speak of victims, or of survivors. It’s not necessarily important that they know the difference. I’ve known many courageous people who were abused as children or adults, but who triumphed over the demons planted in them and who can say they are stronger today, not weaker.

People in power and people with power might find it convenient to refer to “victims,” as it can bolster their own sense of superiority and more readily dismiss the protests, and therefore the calls for institutional change.

I believe that abuse survivors and activists can point to more progress than political pro-lifers. Lay people have taken abuse far more seriously. There are teachers, administrators, lay ministers, and parents who are trained and are keeping close watch on suspicious behavior. Nobody is given a free pass these days–not bishops or pastors–not anyone. And the secular media is prepared to nose out a story and follow it to the limits.

These are all good things, and progress has been made that is noticeable and more importantly, is largely preventative. The ultimate goal is the prevention of child abuse, and we’ve accomplished that by the tens of thousands at least. And the College of Cardinals? They are only 115. For those entrusted with the direct and sacramental shepherding of the innocent? We number in the millions. We don’t care that bishops don’t get it. Eventually they will retire and die. And new people will move into their places. The worst case scenario is that they still won’t get it, but there will only be a few thousand of them. The drumbeat continues, and won’t stop, I believe. Not as long as there are parents vigilant for the welfare of their children, plus caring allies who have their eyes open.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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2 Responses to Survivor Fatigue

  1. John McGrath says:

    You have to hand it to the Vatican. They’ve proven Jesus wrong, leaving the pope as the only heavy weight religious authority. Jesus said you cannot serve God and Mammom, but the Vatican as Absolute Monarchy/Global Top-Down Corporation has managed to serve Mammon/Earthly Power while leaving some room for God (as a junior partner).

  2. Jimmy Mac says:

    The current issue of the English weekly, The Tablet, refers to the electors as a bunch of “elderly cosseted courtiers.”

    You can read the editorial here (it’s free to non-subscribers) http://www.thetablet.co.uk/article/163861

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