Every day the reports appeared, they described the unraveling of a great institution, once a place of sacred healing and truth.
In 2004, 1,000 Alleged Abuse by Priests
~The Washington Post
Priest Guilty in Sex Abuse of 11-Year-Old Altar Boy
~New York Times
Priest Suspended After Sex Abuse Accusations
~New York Times
The fallout, which began in earnest in 2002, was staggering. "The figures released yesterday," reported the Washington Post on February 19, 2005, "bring the total number of alleged victims since 1950 to 11, 750, and the churches' expenses to more than $840 million. Three diocese have declared bankruptcy."
As the reports continued to appear, the numbers became even more staggering.
"The church's cumulative expenditures on child sex abuse claims in the United States are now approaching $1.5 billion," reported the Spokesman Review.
How could an institution that we trusted, that we looked to for guidance, that held the salvation of our souls, be responsible for such horrors? Like a dam bursting, cover-ups, lies, and deceit resulted in a catastrophic gush that overflowed the banks. It eroded the deception, exposing that which had been buried, like the corpses of victims, once silenced, hiding in the shame of secrecy, could now speak. Their voices lifted, and a deafening cry was heard as the multitude of violations was proclaimed.
How could this be -- the church churning out sex offenders, each accusation more horrid than the last? Questions were asked, answers sought. Is it the environment? Are the priests gay? Words such as "pedophile" and "ephebofile" appeared in TV anchor scripts. But what did all this mean? How do we understand such atrocity?
Is there a specifically sexual component in church life that has caused such sexual acting out?
To understand priestly sexual misconduct, we must recognize that priests are no different than other individuals in terms of sexual development. Like all children, they develop their sexual templates through their sexual experience -- conscious and unconscious, overt and covert.
The things that were done to a priest were done by the usual suspect --his childhood caregivers-- and in ways I have described throughout this book. The question is not only "How can a priest have done such a thing?" It is also "How can someone have done such a thing to a priest?"
The fact that the offender is a priest does not create a separate class for his kind of sexual acting out or offending.
And if that parenting was abusive, what in church life encouraged its unhealthy growth? Like all abuse survivors, young priests live and react from their shame core. If they are survivors of abuse, they do not have the tools to be self-empowering and accountable. Not having a positive sense of self, they will characteristically react as having been victimized -- by everything bad that happens in life -- in the church and out. The adult wounded child goes into a victim stance as a way of coping with his lack of personal skills and power.