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Seminar Panelists: Clergy Abuses Scarred Minority Catholic Communities

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The image of a white victim does not tell the full story of clergy sex abuse in the United States, according to a number of panelists during an Oct. 5 online forum titled “Neglected Voices in the clergy sex abuse crisis. ”

Black people have suffered from clergy sexual abuse, but “but it’s an invisible trauma.” It’s an unknown trauma because there are black victims, survivors, of the sexual abuse crisis,” said Father Bryan Massingale, author of “Racial Justice in the Catholic Church.” “Yet in the Catholic imagination we usually see a white face – a white male face, overwhelmingly.”

“As Alaska Natives, American Indians,” said panelist Elsie Boudreau, a Yup’ik Eskimo from Alaska, “we are statistically number one in all of these different areas of suicide, alcoholism, homelessness, incarceration, childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, and I know historically and through, you know, with our ancestors, that’s not part of who we It’s not our culture.

Father Bryan Massingale is the author of “Racial Justice in the Catholic Church.” (SNC Photo/Bruce Gilbert, Fordham University)

“I believe clergy sex abuse played a part in that,” said Boudreau, who is herself a clergy sex abuse survivor.

She and others were part of the forum sponsored by the Georgetown University Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life.

Dr. Deborah Rodriguez, who herself was abused by a priest and now helps other survivors, said Hispanics are “a people with multiple histories and cultures. Now we are also people with multiple vulnerabilities. And think it is these vulnerabilities that clergy abuse has had such a direct impact. »

“While sometimes we Latinos or Hispanics keep family secrets and sins, I believe religiously abusive have taken advantage of this vulnerability by forcing us to continue in silence to incorporate their sins upon us,” he said. -she adds.

Maka Black Elk, now executive director of truth and healing at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota, said boarding schools “took children away from their families and placed them in these institutions run by federal governments, the Catholic Church, and other denominations, (and) really gave predatory priests almost unlimited access to native children.

Red Cloud is a former boarding school known as Holy Rosary Indian Mission School until 1969.

A process of truth and healing “starts with the truth,” Black Elk added. “We are not an institution that treats anyone. And, in fact, we are not really able to do that. The only thing we are able to do is provide the things individuals need to journey towards their own healing.

He said: “There is no kind of collective healing in our work that we have seen so far. We cannot heal whole groups of people. But what we can do and what we are responsible and accountable for is to provide that truth.

“It’s going to take all of us working on this,” said Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director of the Secretariat for Child and Youth Welfare at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

There is, he added, an “opportunity to bring back humility again, to be able to listen and listen attentively, actively, to our brothers and sisters who have cried, who have longed and who want to make their voices heard.

Father Massingale, who teaches theological and social ethics at the Jesuit University of Fordham, pointed to realities he believes further marginalize victims of black abuse.

“Many of those in diocesan offices who are tasked with serving the community of victim survivors have not been culturally competent to work with black people,” he said, also citing “the abandonment of the church to many ways, the closing of parishes in many urban areas.

Additionally, “Black people are seen as sexually irresponsible – more promiscuous and therefore their stories are less likely to be believed because, it is understood, therefore, you must have contributed in some way or other. another” to abuse, Father Massingale said.

And if “you don’t speak proper English, it’s seen as a way of demonstrating your lack of credibility,” he added. “And so the inability to speak standard English already casts your testimony into some kind of doubt.”

Rodriguez said that not only is she a survivor of abuse by a Catholic elementary school priest that her parents saved and saved to afford, but “I am a survivor of reporting this abuse as an adult. to the appropriate church authorities, what I consider a singularly traumatic event in adulthood.

Hispanic victims of abuse can be traumatized when “we don’t speak the language, we don’t understand the legal system, or maybe our own legal status is in jeopardy and it has been used against us. But there is also trouble (in) taking advantage of these vulnerabilities.

Boudreau said at the forum that she was 10 “when the abuse started.”

“And I came forward when my daughter was 10 and I looked at her and thought, ‘How come someone can take advantage of such innocence? “, She said. “And I could no longer protect the truth of my conscience at that time.

She added: “There are so many other survivors who haven’t spoken their truth.”

“We have to say it was an injustice, it was wrong, it was a crime,” Rodriguez said. “Admit it. Apologize for it. Be sorry and name it. What Pope Francis started in Canada was just the beginning: that every clergy, every religious leader must go, ‘I’m sorry.’

“If anything, with Pope Francis’ encouragement that we are indeed a field hospital and really smell like sheep, it’s going to take a lot of work,” Deacon Nojadera said. “This is just the beginning.”

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