sexual assault, predatorial priests, and women in ministry

The Pope has acknowledged the sexual assault of nuns. Why is it only newsworthy now? Is it because the patriarchy has finally convalidated a despicable institutional secret? My gripe is not with the Pope. He’s alright, even if he’s mellowed out in recent months. I still like him.What I don’t like is the phenomenon that a woman’s truth is often subject to convalidation by patriarchal structure.

Pardon my euphemisms, but no shiftsticks, Sherlock, of course this is a reality! Sexual abuse of women in the church is not limited to abuse of vowed women in the Congo. It happens to married, single and vowed women right here in the US.

When I was sexually assaulted in 2005, I believed for many years that this was somehow my fault. I finally reported it in the summer of 2018, ironically the morning before the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report dropped. All I asked of the victim assistance coordinator was that the bishop of the diocese where it happened understood that this happened, and that it probably happens more than than it is reported, and that it’s probably a good idea to give a bit more infor.

This was not the first predatorial priest I dealt with in my career, nor was the aforementioned quality restricted to the non-incardinated. Fr. Predator was neither an alcoholic, nor a pathological liar, nor a kleptomaniac, nor an eater of weird food that made the smell like a bag of farts, nor God forbid, a liberation theologian, in the way other “problem” priests were labeled. He didn’t seem to have any noticeable signs of mental illness. He didn’t do anything that would cause complaints to return to the pastor, like sing every single part of the mass, preach so long that cars got blocked into their spots in between masses, nor did he have healing masses with questionable “healing” rituals and second collections for a non-existent school in his village. He was otherwise a quiet, pleasant priest to be around, who knew enough to only commit third-degree rape once his seat was confirmed for his returning flight to a place where consent hasn’t made it into the curriculum of being an adult.

I realize that as a small business owner who specializes in serving the Catholic church, that clients may be ambivalent about calling upon me for services, because I have been vocal about this particular experience.

I have no malice for Fr. Rapist. Even if I could press charges, I wouldn’t. Why ? So he could spend time in an equally dysfunctional correctional system where male on male sexual assault is even more of a problem? While ignorance does justify his behavior, the culpability is beyond that of the individual. The concept of consent is not something they teach in the seminary, nor was it something I ever learned about in Catholic school. I was raised “not to invite trouble.” I was actually told, growing up, that if I invited a guy to my home, I was “asking for it.” There are still otherwise enlightened people who support these utterly disempowering legends.

The only way to stop sexual assault in the Church is to empower– women and men, extern and incardinated, married, single, vowed, and ordained — with a thorough explanation of consent. Sexual misconduct happens, but because the church is so heirarchical, and each of us exert nearly any sexual encounter between two people in ministry can be considered an encounter where one party is incapable of giving full consent.

Moreover, administrators should also take time to review civil law, and employment law. A charge of assault, if taken seriously, does not have to become a lawsuit. A victim is an asset, not a liability.

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