Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Sections
Blog Section Banner
 
You are here: Home >> Blog >> Marie Fortune's Blogs >> What Would Jeremiah Say?

What Would Jeremiah Say?

The recent film Spotlight highlights the investigation by The Boston Globe into the coverup of child sexual abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese. Using the lens of investigative journalism, it takes us as viewers/bystanders through the years of complicity by the legal system, The Globe, and the Catholic Church— as well as the active efforts by the Church to hide the abuse and protect the pedophile priests at the expense of the laity. The sexual abuse of children by faith leaders is no longer “news”. Sadly enough, it is too common to be “news”. But what is informative and important about Spotlight for those of us who are bystanders to these atrocities is the laying out of the institutional practices that have allowed this suffering to go on for decades. In November, 2015, the National Center for Victims of Crime called for a national commission on child sexual abuse to investigate institutional settings where children are particularly vulnerable and where we know there has been a history of child sexual abuse.

The recent film Spotlight highlights the investigation by The Boston Globe into the coverup of child sexual abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese. Using the lens of investigative journalism, it takes us as viewers/bystanders through the years of complicity by the legal system, The Globe, and the Catholic Church— as well as the active efforts by the Church to hide the abuse and protect the pedophile priests at the expense of the laity.

The sexual abuse of children by faith leaders is no longer “news”. Sadly enough, it is too common to be “news”. But what is informative and important about Spotlight for those of us who are bystanders to these atrocities is the laying out of the institutional practices that have allowed this suffering to go on for decades.

In November, 2015, the National Center for Victims of Crime called for a national commission on child sexual abuse to investigate institutional settings where children are particularly vulnerable and where we know there has been a history of child sexual abuse.  They are suggesting following the model of the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Abuse in Australia.

The Royal Commission’s work is focused on any child-serving institution in Australia whether schools, churches, orphanages, etc. where children have been vulnerable to abuse. If you study their website, you will see that this multiyear project is a genuine effort by the government to assess where and when abuse occurred, to reach out to survivors, and when possible to hold perpetrators accountable. This is no white wash.  They actually want to hear from survivors and have met with over 4,000 directly to hear their experiences and concerns. They continue to have open hearings around the country. I am eager to see their comprehensive final report and recommendations.

This is what happens when someone actually wants to respond to sexual abuse by persons in leadership in various segments of our communities. You make a realistic time commitment and you put money and staff resources behind the effort. This is a very important model of how to respond to sexual abuse.

So I want to add my voice to the call by the National Center for Victims of Crime for a U.S. National Commission but I want to take it one step further.  I want to include adult victim/survivors in addition to children who were abused. These are often the hidden victims in many institutional settings who don't report to law enforcement or their institution for fear of not being believed or supported.

And even further: what would happen if our religious institutions also instigated Commissions to ask our people to share their experiences of abuse and boundary violations by faith leaders?  What would happen if we held open hearings and actually listened to our people, giving them a place to break their silence? This was the method employed by the Mennonites in response to disclosures of abuse of adults by John Howard Yoder; it seems to have produced positive results.

This willingness in our denominations and movements to listen and respond can bring healing to many, transform our institutions, and even possibly begin to restore trust in our faith communities.

Are we really interested in being faithful communities who seek healing and justice? Are we willing to change our institutional mindset from that of secrecy and denial— using a legalistic framework as the foundation— to a foundation grounded instead in our faith beliefs of justice, true repentance, and commitment to the most vulnerable? If we say “yes,” it means we have to truly see what we see, that is not only the individual crimes but also our responsibility for the systems that allowed these crimes to take place and go unaddressed.

The prophet Jeremiah calls us out:  “. . . and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely.  They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying ‘Peace, peace’, when there is no peace.   . . . Thus says the Lord:  Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” [6:13-14, 16]

We are at the crossroads and we have choices to make.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
www.FaithTrustInstitute.org
Subscribe to my blog

 

View my previous blog post about Spotlight, "Diving Deep and Surfacing"

 

We welcome your comments. Please note that your comments will not be visible until they are approved by the moderator.

 

Document Actions