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The hidden abuse

Posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Without the societal climate that has been created by contraception and free sex, I don’t think it would have happened to me so easily. The Sexual Revolution is foundational in the situation. I wouldn’t be dealing with this trauma and the resulting emotional injuries. My pastor, a Catholic priest who has taken vows of chaste celibacy, tried to seduce me. He has ongoing affairs with other women. Despite being good friends with my husband and children, he wanted to add me to his collection of paramours. Raising a red flag on a priest’s sexual impropriety is a dicey situation. He is a designated and ordained moral leader, and, in my case, well-loved. Nobody wants to displease him.

In our sexually-porous and unrestrained cultural climate, people are not as alarmed as they should be when they hear of sexual improprieties—even from a priest. I have experienced a crass, blind tolerance and dismissal of the problem from his superior and other members of his religious community. One of Father’s paramours is a woman he “helped” through a divorce. Everybody knows! “Oh, Father is just like that. There is nothing you can do about it.” He could have destroyed my marriage and he has a serial problem with it. My husband and I have a large family, including a grandchild. It would have affected all of us, for generations. Father was our friend and our confessor. We’ve known him over ten years and he used to come for dinner and to spend time with the family. We loved him and he betrayed us. I remember thinking, as I sought emotional support and help from those closest to me, This is how it happens to the children who are sexually abused. He has everybody groomed to accept or ignore it. It’s like “The Emporer’s New Clothes.” Everyone knows, but no one wants to be the one to speak up first.

Because we live in a culture that doesn’t recognize the importance of family and the sacredness of sex, this situation is going basically unaddressed. His superior told me, “Yes, he gets himself into situations that might look bad. But I’ve known him a long time. He needs to be with people and have lots of friends. He likes to be with families. That’s just the way he is.” Well, that’s just the way a predator is, too.

One of the ironies of this situation is that if he pursued minors and not vulnerable women, the Church would be all over this to the point of paranoia. I’m not suggesting that’s an appropriate response. But is accountability so unreasonable? Is asking him pointed questions about his behavior unreasonable? Is expecting him to not regularly have woman alone with him in the rectory unreasonable? That’s how he was grooming me, using the rectory. Aren’t vulnerable women worth protecting? Our culture says no. Put them on carcinogenic contraception, kill their babies by abortion and tell them to shut up. That attitude has pervaded the Church, too, and my situation is fallout.

After Father’s religious superior politely dismissed me, I reached out to my friend in a Catholic abuse survivor’s network. My friend put me in touch with a canon lawyer who deals with these kinds of situations. Finally, someone to help! On his suggestion, I wrote the bishop of our diocese. I was called in for an interview and they asked me lots of questions. It was respectful and neutral to both parties involved. I haven’t gotten any further follow up and don’t necessarily expect any, but it’s documented now. If anyone else reports Father, my testimony will corroborate theirs.

Raising kids and living a lifestyle of marital chastity without contraception is a militant struggle in our hostile culture. It’s so sad that not even the Church can be a safe haven for marriage. My pastor has been moved to a nearby parish, in accordance with the “How to Enable an Abusive Priest” playbook. The new pastor is great, but I’m afraid to tell him. I’m afraid that, even with him, conforming to norms so things running smoothly in the parish will be more important than my marriage and family.

Submitted by T. K.

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