15 June 2012

Hurt in the Church

A man I met at an EWTN conference some years ago wrote to me.  He wanted to invite me to Alabama to join him and his family for an important spiritual event.  It was very generous of him to offer, and unfortunately I could not travel there at that particular time.

He also asked if I had any thoughts on what could be said to his Son and daughter-in-law who had been deeply hurt by their parish priest.  Hurt in the Church is as old as time and we see the one hurt most by everything Crucified upon the Cross.

The difference is that when we are hurt in the Church it feels like a special violation.  When it involves a member of the clergy, religious, or a teacher it can feel like God Himself has hurt you.

So what do we do with hurt.  First, we offer it up to God.  What we do next depends on the nature of the offense.

If the hurt comes from a sexual offense, we go immediately to our bishop.  Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.  And depending on the kind of sexual offense we may need to call in the police straightway.  If the hurt arises from a sexual act or attempted sexual act, call the police and then call the bishop.  This is strictly how I see it.  Virtus training in the Catholic Church and the Safe Children training in the Episcopal Church are profoundly important tools in understanding the legal and ecclesiastical ways of proceding.  There will always be über-traddie Catholics and folks in some of the New Movements who will say you should never go outside of the Church.  They are wrong.

If the hurt is of a different nature and gets repeated, then you will definitely want to take someone with you and go to the offending person to talk it out.  This is the biblical model and it is the best.

If you are not received and no one in authority will talk to you, then you have to decide how much power do you want to give away to this person for hurting you.  Getting even never works, and you never get even.  You just get pulled down into the mire.  So I would advise go before the Lord exposed at Adoration or hidden within the Tabernacle and leave it with him.  He hurts for you, and He is far more hurt by it than you are.  Leave it in his all capable hands if you can.

But there is a different kind of hurt that may require you to do something different if you are to find healing.  If you forgive someone for hurting you and don't hold them accountable, if they hurt someone else and you learn of it there is a big risk that you could be sucked right back into the place of pain or something worse.  So you want to be on guard against that.  

At the same time if more people are being hurt by the same person then you need to speak out in the appropriate arena.  Use the Biblical model above.  Depending upon the offending person's state in life or public position, you may need to deal with things in an uncomfortable public way in order to discharge your responsibility to others.  It may be the only way you will find healing in Christ.  

All of this said, go to a discrete priest or a wise religious sister or brother and let them help and guide you through it.  Honouring the Lord Jesus in the person of each person involved must be kept in mind first and foremost.  If you are like me, you will stumble and fall and need to get up and beg forgiveness and make amends.  It is all part of the work of Reconciliation that pours forth from the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

+Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.