Commentary: Catholic Priests, Sex Abuse, Indulgences
Are The Huge Monetary Settlements Healing The Abused?
It seemed so ironic to me.
Last week, the movie "Luther" http://www.lutherthemovie.com/ was released on DVD and I watched it. At the same time, the Catholic Church reportedly agreed to the largest settlement ever for the "sins of the Fathers" - over $100 million.
The movie clearly demonstrates why Luther was almost killed - for speaking out against the highly successful fundraising practice of "Indulgences". In a nutshell, the most educated people in society were offering mercy and forgiveness - for money - to those who didn't know any better.
The pope and his elite bishops demanded and received whatever they wanted. They argued their case eloquently, telling peasants they could buy protection from the pain and punishment of Purgatory if they would scrape together enough shekels.
At some point, the mafia picked up the idea and still sells protection. And now, lawyers are raking in millions by doing something similar. These highly-educated legal experts are appealing to the greed in the hurting, abused Catholic laity.
Oh, I know they're doing some good. They have brought these horrible sins to light and hopefully reduced the number of priests abusing children - for now. And if the news reports are correct, each of the 87 victims will receive $1 million - a nice sum of money. But just as Indulgences didn't protect anyone from Purgatory 500 years ago, no one is going to receive any temporary or eternal benefits from these Indulgences today.
Before you chastise me for not being sensitive, hear me out.
I was abused.
When I was a young adolescent, my uncle, "Father Joe" as we called him, sneaked into the bedroom upstairs at my grandmother's house and molested me. Then, for several years, virtually every time my mom took me to my grandmother's house, and he ! came to visit, he found a way to do it again.
It's a sick story and I'm embarrassed to tell it. But it gets worse. He also had the audacity to baptize me when I turned 10 years old.
For almost three decades, as a teenager and an adult, I shunned almost every family get together, including Christmas. My mom's family couldn't understand why I was so "inconsiderate". And of course, I couldn't tell them who I was trying to avoid, or why. Who would believe it? He was the holy man. As far as they knew, I was just a rebellious young man.
I mention this not to win the grand prize of a cool million. But simply to qualify my statements. I've been there. Done that. If you've been victimized, I feel your pain. No, I really feel your pain.
But I also believe that no amount of money could have healed me from the anger, hatred and torment I carried around for decades. I know first hand the spiraling affect something like this can have on a person.
I spent thousands of dollars on Christian counselors. I ! "went forward" and prayed the "sinner's prayer" more than once in Protestant church settings. I read my Bible and asked, seeked and knocked. You name it. I tried it. But the disgust I felt toward homosexuals, and the distrust I had for Catholic priests, and the sinfulness I saw in myself, only grew.
When I was in my 30s, I thought I was really losing it, so I sought the help of a Christian leader one more time. He asked me a question that puzzled me: "Do you really want to be healed?"
I said, "Yes, I do."
At that point he lead me through a brief exercise to forgive my uncle -- even though my uncle had passed away several years earlier. The Christian leader asked me to say out loud, in front of him and the Lord, that I forgave my uncle.
It worked. Miraculously. I can't explain it. But somehow, all of the sick, ugly feelings completely vanished. After 20 years they have never returned. This was a real settlement, ! and it didn't cost anyone a dime.
Although I feel badly for all the sex-abuse victims, and in some ways for the priests who victimized them, and I disagree with some things that the Catholic Church teaches, I don't hate priests or the denomination. I simply believe that most of the problems in priests' personal lives, as well as their denomination and the rest of us, could be solved with a better understanding of the scriptures - and especially forgiveness.
Please don't misunderstand me. I believe the predators must be punished with prison time and never be allowed around children without supervision. And I believe the bishops who protected them are accessories, and just as guilty, and they should serve equally long sentences.
But having the denomination or the diocese, which is supported by other laity, pay huge settlements, is ludicrous. These settlements do not punish the priests or bishops. The victims are simply taking hard earned money from their fellow laymen, who had nothing to do with the crimes.
Until the church - Catholic and Protestant - addresses the root of its problems - biblically - I believe it will continue to perpetuate these sins, and fall back into some form of distorted Indulgences or Penance - or settlements - and try to buy forgiveness or bribe someone to avoid punishment.
Lord, it's been 500 years. It's time you sent us another Martin Luther, isn't it?