CYM Blog

Addressing Clergy Sexual Abuse and Cover Up

In my teenage years, I was a young, bright-eyed, Catholic. I had recently encountered the love of God on a Life Teen retreat and was growing in my understanding of the faith at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. My extended family was shocked at the path my life was taking. I would hear whispered words from my aunts, uncles, and older cousins, “scandal,” “abuse of minors,” “removed,” “doesn’t she know?”

I didn’t know. No one talked about it. All I remember were whispers.

Today, many teens are facing a similar, perhaps even worse, situation. We owe them more than whispers.

If you are upset, angry, confused, or sad, you are not alone. I understand these emotions because I feel them too. As leaders of teens, we also must be prepared to step up and help guide our younger brothers and sisters in Christ through this darkness. Here are some ideas on how:

1. We don’t have to whisper, we can bring the darkness to light. It will make the light a little dimmer for a while, but it is the light that brings healing and restoration. At youth group, consider bringing up the news about clergy sexual abuse. Discuss it and then provide a safe space for the teens to process and ask questions. Simply hearing others express similar thoughts can bring healing and unity. Invite your parish priest and other staff members — counselors, Director of Religious Education, Director of Adult Faith Formation, Bereavement Coordinator — to support you, your Core Team, and your teens. Conclude the session by praying for the healing of the victims, repentance of the abusers, and restoration of the Body of the Christ.

2. We can share our honest responses. We can say, “I am upset” or whatever word communicates our emotions. Our emotions are valid. Our emotions communicate the injustice. Furthermore, we can model what it looks like to grieve and remain faithfully Catholic.

3. We can remember and help others remember that Jesus established the Church and that the “gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Sin is the work of the enemy. These scandals are a tactic of the enemy. Regardless of the sinfulness of these Priests and Bishops, the Church remains “unfailingly holy. This is because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as ‘alone holy,’ loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her…” (CCC 823). It’s is Christ’s definitive sacrifice on the cross that makes us holy. There are still good and holy priests and Bishops, the sacraments are still valid, because it is Christ who is our founder, sustainer, and Savior (CCC 1584).

4. We can get the help and support we need. We have every right to take time to speak with a spiritual director, seek the help of a therapist, take a few days off to process, and talk honestly with our friends and family.

5. We can pray, fast, and serve for the restoration of the Body of Christ. We can guide our teens to do the same. The corporal works of mercy are reparative. We may not be able to personally help the victims, but we can help the materially and spiritually poor around us.

6. We can recognize that this is a brilliant and well executed strategy of the enemy and commit to fighting evil without making Satan an excuse. Don’t let this cause more division. Don’t less this steal your faith. Keep praying, keep seeking Jesus, keep going to Mass, keep bringing your heartache to Jesus. Let your example lead to others doing the same.

About the Author

Lily Hannan

When people ask where I am from, I respond, "THE WHOLE WORLD!" As a kid we moved around and my Dad raised me knowing that "the world is my backyard." I have now put down roots in Phoenix, but I still enjoy traveling for business and leisure across the globe. When not at work you can find me lifting weight at Crossfit, up a mountain, or under the sea with my friends and family.

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