The Dancer

He loved to party and dance !

And, he enjoyed telling us about it.

The worshippers sat spellbound as our priest, newly arrived from an Asian country, told us about the time he led a group of seminarians to a local pub. There, they drank, and he danced on a table.

I looked around to see people’s reaction. Some were laughing. I was shocked.

A few weeks later, during another homily (sermon), the Father described how he had once smashed his vehicle and was charged with a DUI violation, before he came to Canada.

Something was wrong here, but no one said anything.

This is because parishioners, especially poor worshippers, have been conditioned for centuries that it is a grave sin to ever question anything a priest says or does.

We should have listened to our intuition. Human intuition is often remarkable accurate.

It was not the Father’s drinking that led to his eventual unexplained disappearance, although it contributed to it.

Alcohol impairs judgement.

The reform and purification of the church will depend, in large part, on laypeople who are attentive, discerning, and assertive.

God expects us to speak up when we suspect wrongdoing.

Pictured is our neighbour’s house.

Rural Newfoundlanders have, unfortunately, experienced much clergy betrayal.

Late All The Time

Do you know anyone who is late all the time ?

Chronic lateness is a form of Passive-Aggressive behaviour.

A person who demonstrates continual tardy behaviour is telling you that their time is more valuable than yours.

A priest who arrived at our church from another country, ten years ago, was late for every Mass.

For the first five minutes of waiting, we would sit in respectable silence, but then we would start to talk and laugh.

Some people would place bets on how late he would be this time !

And then, there came the time that he did not return at all.

We were given no explanation about where he went, or why he left so suddenly.

His Excellency, the Bishop, felt that we had no need, or right, to know. We were only the laity (people who pay the church’s bills).

May God give us the grace to speak up when something is not right.

May he also, through his kindness, give us the courage to speak the truth and not cover it up.

And, may we pray for the grace to be punctual.

Pictured is our little church, perched overlooking the mighty North Atlantic. It was built in 1842.

The Unnamed Emotion

Do you have a high EQ ( Emotional Quotient) ?

As a writer, I am sure that you answered ‘yes’, since writers are skilled at understanding and describing human emotions.

Have you ever felt an emotion that you could not name ?

It has been almost six years since I developed an ‘unnamed’ emotion which sticks in my psyche.

After two priests were removed suddenly, without explanation, by his Excellency the bishop, many local parishioners, in shock and anger, fled the parish, and did not return. No shepherd came looking for us.

The replacement priest,newly arrived from Africa, was given strict instructions not to mention anything about the priests’ disappearance.

A close family member of mine reacted to this chaos, secrecy and cover-up in the church by becoming a member of another world religion. He said that it made him feel more comfortable because it had no “priests”.

That is when my ‘unnamed ’emotion, concerning this matter, developed. It is a kind of numb feeling ; emotional numbing is common to trauma survivors. In my case it is probably best that I can’t “feel” this emotion, otherwise it could overwhelm me.

I have no comment to make, expect that I pray daily for more patience, and for my faith and trust in God to grow, even when I don’t understand what God is doing.

I do know that God works through trials and difficulties in our lives, and ultimately we grow spiritually from what he allows.

(Romans 8:28)

In the meantime, I will leave my ‘unnamed’ emotion, and the events that led to it, in God’s hands, and sometimes , I will read Matthew 18:6 ( You know, the verse mentioning millstones and the sea.)

God sees. God knows. God will act.

Secrets

Is there anyone who is unaware of the clergy abuse crisis within the Catholic Church today ?

It seems like almost every day more victims are coming forward, describing painful abuse at the hands of clergy.

26 civil suits remain unsettled on our island, while others are in the process of being filed. The island’s western Diocese declared bankruptcy due to clergy claims several years ago.

Newfoundland has one of the highest rates of clergy abuse anywhere in the world. Why has so much hurt on the part of clergy happened here ?

One of the reasons is that areas of the island are remote. Illiteracy rates are high; some adults have difficulty reading at a grade 5 level. Rural Newfoundland fisherman were oppressed by powerful merchants for centuries. This has resulted in a passive population which historically has not dared question authority, especially clerical authority.

Outports often attracted priests who could not be employed elsewhere. Parishioners were conditioned never to question priests ; they were taught to always ‘turn a blind eye, and a deaf ear’ to anything that seemed suspicious.

My friend ‘Betty’ was devastated when the priest who baptised her was later jailed for fathering a child with his 16-year-old housekeeper.

Years later, another priest , who married her, was arrested and jailed for abusing altar boys.

She was further shocked when the ‘charming’ priest who sang an impromptu solo at her son’s wedding, was dismissed without explanation by the local bishop, and went to Toronto to stack shelves at a grocery store. Betty still attends Mass regularly, although she dared not ask his Excellency, the bishop, why the musical priest suddenly chose to change careers.

Accountability is coming to the Catholic Church. It is long overdue, in many places, especially in Newfoundland.

When we moved to this spectacular scenic island, we were unaware of the secrets here. Thankfully, these are being exposed, one by one. Many Catholics, including me, have been wounded by the Catholic Church. It is good that the purification process is underway now.

Kintsugi and Trauma

Do you sometimes buy Christmas presents for yourself ?

I bought myself this mug, as it is a representation of Kintsugi, the ancient Japanese art form that reminds us that there can be beauty in brokenness.

Originating in 15th Century Japan, broken pieces of precious pottery are repaired using gold dust and resin. The gold pattern results in the broken item becoming even more precious and beautiful.

Examples of Kintsugi art are on display at many museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in NYC. Numerous photos of this art form are found on the internet as well. My mug, however, has not been broken, it just has a “Kintsugi” pattern on it.

It reminds me that I am a survivor of clergy abuse and cover-up, that devastated my family and my parish. I have survived, and my scars remain, and it is best to try accept them as a part of the person I have become.

Christmas is a particularly tender time for survivors of clergy abuse, since we spend more time thinking about church, and the fact that we expect healing, and not hurt from our churches.

However, that is why Christ came; he came to heal a broken world and offer salvation to souls. He cares for us, and loves us all, and he, who was himself betrayed, understands the pain of betrayal.

Recovery From Clergy Abuse

Have you ever been wounded by another ‘Christian’?

I have. It is the ultimate betrayal. Five years ago two priests were dismissed and disappeared from our Diocese. We were told nothing by our Bishop; we found out through the media.

When Jesus tells us , in the Lord’s Prayer , to forgive those who trespass against us, He means it. Carrying around unforgiveness will cause us to become bitter, and damage our witness for Christ.

At the height of my woundedness, I purchased a little lamb. Yes, it is a toy for a baby, but my emotions were so raw at that time, I needed something soft, as a reminder that God had seen this betrayal, and was as sad as I was about it.

The little Lamb, named Lottie, sits on my bed. She has a little wind- up music box inside her. The song plays the chorus from a children’s hymn that most of us know: ‘Yes Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me, yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.’

That is the heart of Christianity. We love Jesus, because He first loved us.

The little Lamb has helped me to heal.

May God grant us supernatural strength and grace to forgive those who have hurt us.

Snow in Summer

Have you ever felt like you didn’t fit in anywhere ?

It is a lonely experience. We left the Catholic Church after two priests were dismissed and the parishioners were given no explanation.

Then we worshipped at home for a while, before exploring some other churches.

We thought we had found a new church home a few weeks ago. It had a beautiful pipe organ, and we felt happy singing familiar traditional hymns.

However, last weekend the minister made an announcement that made me gasp. The gasp was audible, but involuntary. When the names of the people getting married were announced, I realized it was two women.

The body of Christ appears to be facing more division, when we should be seeking greater unity.

The picture is of flowers called Snow in Summer. They bloom quite happily in our salty environment.

My husband and I are still searching for a church family.

If Gold Rust…

Clergy abuse is nothing new. Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about it in the 14th Century, observing ” If gold rust, then what shall iron do? For if a priest be foul, no wonder that common man should rust .”

Two priests were suspended, and under police investigation in our area in 2014. They then disappeared. Unfortunately, his Excellency the Bishop told us nothing, and people found out about the investigation in the media ! His Excellency told us it was none of our business. None of our business?

We , the parishioners , were paying for the priests’ hydro and food bills.

Rural Newfoundlanders are amongst the kindest, humblest and warm-hearted people anywhere, and they felt they had no right to question his Excellency.

I however, am a person ” from away” , from Ontario, and I questioned why the clergy suddenly fled.

It seems that even in retirement, we still retain the interests we enjoyed during our professional lives, and so, as a Sociologist, I searched, sleuthed, and investigated the priests. After five years, I made contact with the Bishop in the Philippines, who sent us one of the priests who vanished. I am happy he was honest with me , and said that he has no idea where that priest currently is !

The clergy abuse scandal is continuing to escalate.

The purification process of the Church is underway.

The photo is of crozier, carried by a Bishop.