“Never take on the Catholic Church”

That advice has been offered and followed for centuries. Anyone who challenged the power of the Catholic Church would be crushed.

In February, 2019, a parishioner in the Archdiocese of Newark, and childhood victim of a pedophiliac priest, wrote a letter to the NY Times. He spoke for 400 years of children abused by the Catholic Church. 

”When I was a child, I was sexually abused by a Catholic priest.  I was prey, vulnerable to being groomed by the priest. The line was crossed.”  – Mark Williams, victim.

From it’s founding, Christianity was not just a religion. It was also a political organization, focused on membership. From the outset circumcised men could join, so Jews were eligible. The Virgin Mary was placed high in the hierarchy, so women were welcome, too, a notion almost unheard of at the time.  Christianity was a large tent. As a result, it spread across the world like wildfire.  

And then there were the rules, one of which: you had to show obeisance to the Church to get into heaven. Otherwise, you would go to hell.

Trauma is the devil. It stays in the core of your being. My tears waited nearly a half-century to stream from my eyes. – Mark Williams, victim.

Power also came from centralized authority. The Pope may have been troubled in high school, he may have stolen candy from Santa’s elves, but once ordained, he is infallible – never wrong.  Think about taking on an organization led by someone who is always right.

Sexual violation is at the heart of the church’s crisis today and threatens its sacredness. – Mark Williams, victim.

Some did take on the Church. In the early 1500’s Martin Luther started a whole new branch in Europe. A few years later, in England, Henry the VIII asked Pope Clement VII for a divorce from Catherine of Aragon; she hadn’t given him a son. And he wanted to marry Catherine’s lady in waiting, Ann Boleyn. Clement dragged his feet, so Henry kicked the Catholic Church out of England and formed the Church of England. In the process he also just happened to take over all the Church’s wealth, which he uses to solidify his power. He got his divorce and married Ann. Unfortunately, Ann only produced a daughter, so he executed her.

Henry was a multi-tasker.

“Some take their own life, like one friend of mine. I suffered the pangs of addiction, the subsequent lies, and depression and suicidal ideation, along with bankruptcy and the loss of my job and home.”  – Mark Williams, victim.

It turns out Henry VIII did a favor to all English kids. In 1629, a Piarist priest, Father Stefano Cherubini, was accused of “impure friendships with schoolboys” and fellow priests received “many accusations of impurity and ill-reknown.” Later more priests were discovered abusing little boys, so the Church established a policy of “promoveatur ut amoveatur” or“promotion for avoidance” to protect reputations of the priest and the Church. 

A long way from “Suffer the little children to come unto me.”  

“Truth didn’t seem to matter. Clericalism ruled. Secrets abounded. Files were concealed. Grand juries were never a part of the lexicon.” – Mark Williams, victim.

The problem for the Church was the same problem all authoritarian organizations have: no checks and balances. Only this was worse. Anyone who thought to stand up to a pedophile priest or a rapist priest would be kicked out of the Church and barred from Heaven. 

Instead of “Let them eat cake” it was “Let them eat wafers.”

“How could the clerical church have kept silent, covering these atrocities?” – Mark Williams, victim.

Because no one, for centuries, had the courage to take on the Catholic Church. Finally, in the 21st century, a movie like “Spotlight”, a District Attorney who documented 1000 cases in Pennsylvania, and other successful attempts, started illuminating the corruption of one of the greatest legacies ever, that of Jesus Christ. 

The few turned into many. “Suffer the little children” took on wings. 

Ironically, the people who finally took on the Catholic Church did so with the teachings they learned from the Catholic Church.  

Now, even the Pope is starting to join them. 

Finally, courage.  Finally, truth to power.  Finally, hope for children. 

Sister Veronica Openibo is a nun from Nigeria. In February, 2019, at the Vatican Summit for sex abuse, she spoke for thousands of Catholic leaders who, for four hundred years, never took on the Catholic Church:

Why did we keep silent for so long?”

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)