I saw this post linked on a Twitter feed: “The Other Victims of Clergy Abuse: Faithful Priests.” Does this convince you?
Some people simply hate priests because of what others have done. They are yelled at, cursed at, have children protectively pulled away from them on sidewalks, are spit at in airports and much more.
First, I try to be careful and accurate about the distinction between victim and survivor. I have known several people among my close friends and family members who have suffered abuse. Some of them are victims still to some degree. Others have transcended their suffering in a variety of healthy ways and declare themselves survivors.
That said, some people do stupid things to otherwise innocent clergy. In attempting to lash out at priests, they get everybody: abusers and innocent, and even a few guilty bystanders in between. Is it wrong to attack a group for what one person has done? Is it right to suggest a group change certain aspects that indulge and hide the guilty in their midst? Should the group of shepherds step aside to reveal the wolf in their midst?
A person is not a victim because of stupid behavior. But in bearing such behavior, there is a solidarity to be found. Solidarity does not mean adopting the same label. Being spit upon in a transportation terminal isn’t the same as being raped. Both are violations. One is gravely serious and has lasting consequences. The other happens to a mature adult who is better equipped than a child to deal with behavior much more deeply sinful.
Sometimes, suffering is better borne in silence. A complaint about a sliver or a headache or a muscle cramp isn’t fare for the emergency room. These are not the same as broken bones, internal injuries, or concussions. When a friend shared her experience of being molested, it would not have been appropriate for me to say, “Oh, I had another girlfriend once who was also abused. But she broke up with me.”
That would have been unbelievably lame.
Better to share the small experiences of insults with one’s brother priests, and especially the bishop. And not take a lot of time about it.