Answering before Acting
Before you read further, please know the topic of sexual abuse is discussed in this blog. I am not qualified to offer counselling on the topic, but if you are seeking healing I can find help for you. Please don’t remain silent.
I am unsure of all of her accreditations but I know she is a Sister of Charity and a Medical Doctor. And an amazing human being. I encountered Nuala Kenny at an intensive conference in Halifax concerning the, at the time, the creation of upcoming legislation about assisted death. Unapologetically Roman Catholic as you would expect, she argued for the sacredness of every moment of life, despite the amount of suffering engaged in each of those moments. She was also worried about how the law might be abused and I think she was prophetic in that concern. I entered the conference in favour of assisted dying and left unsure at best. I found her to be one of the most persuasive persons I have ever met.
But the book I am reading is not about that. It is called Still Unhealed: Treating the Pathology in the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis. I picked it out for two reasons; I trust her scholarship on the topic threatening to destroy all the good the Roman Catholic Church stands for, including their relationship to those who are poor. And the second reason is because with Union in 1925, the United Church accepted the administration of 17 schools that were being run by the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches on behalf of the Canadian Government where sexual and other abuse and death occurred for Indigenous populations across Canada for decades. As a result many survivors became sexual abusers themselves. And the inter-generational trauma faced by so many is a result of five generations of God’s people receiving no treatment and further punishment for being born Indigenous.
From the 1998 Apology: to those individuals who were physically, sexually and mentally abused as students of the Indian Residential Schools in which the United Church of Canada was involved, I offer our most sincere apology. You did nothing wrong. You were and are the victims of evil acts that cannot under any circumstances be justified or excused.
We know that many within our church will still not understand why each of us must bear the scar, the blame, for this horrendous period in Canadian history. But the truth is, we are the bearers of many blessings from our ancestors, and therefore, we must also bear their burdens.
In another book I am reading this week, The Other Side of the River, from Church Pew to Sweat Lodge, Alf Dumont writes: The road of humility is a hard road to walk when you choose that road yourself. It is even harder to walk when you are forced to look at your complicity in harming others. It is important to walk humbly with our Creator and humbly with each other.
A few paragraphs later he writes about questions we are asked to answer by Jesus;
Who do you say I am? Mark 8.29 and
What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Matthew 11.7-8
Alf asks: Do our answers to these two questions and our actions show that we love others? Do our answers and our actions cause us to respect others? Do our our answers and our actions confront abuse? Do our answers and our actions bring peace where we walk? Do our answers and our actions bring hope to the world and all its people?
Please note that he couples ´answers and actions.´ And he places the word ´answer’ before ´action.´ So often we, ourselves, act without answering critical questions about just who this God we are seeking relationship with happens to be. That’s what all the churches in the failed Residential School project did. I believe if we had as a church had not ignored our theological identity and answered these questions honestly before acting, the abuse we fostered and the damage created by it would never have happened in the first place.
Off to the last day at the libraries for this study week. Never enough time!