As reported in U.S. World & News Report last week, close to 300 people on Long Island will be compensated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre for sexual abuse at the hands of priests.
While monetary compensation most assuredly does not erase years of abuse perpetrated by the clergy, there is a measure of satisfaction in seeing the diocese admit to this heinous behavior. However—and this is directed not only at the Diocese of Rockville Centre but the Catholic Church as a whole—one can’t help but wonder what went on in the minds of those that covered up this abuse through the decades.
Anyone who attended Catholic school for any amount of time knows exactly how much power a priest can have over a young person. I attended Catholic elementary school and while I was never abused, I know firsthand that feeling of utter obedience. These powerful, imposing men are strong authoritative figures, like teachers or police officers or parents, but what puts them on a level all their own is that they wield the actual (or so I thought as a youngster) word of God. When a priest got mad at you or told you to spit that gum out or stop laughing in class, it wasn’t just some guy, it was God disciplining you. There is an almost indescribable power in that.
That is what makes this abuse, and the cover-ups, most egregious. The abusers knew they had complete control. They knew the place of power from which they spoke—and they used it to prey upon children, destroying lives in the process.
And for anyone who believes the compensated are merely in it for a payday, victim-blaming does nothing but excuse the actions of monsters and breed more abuse against the most vulnerable.
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