The other day my youngest
daughter, Riley, was watching
the Disney movie Aladdin. I
had been working on the June
"Church in the News" column for this
magazine and needed a break. For a
day and a half, I had been chronicling
the fallout of the clergy sex-abuse crisis
across the globe. To say I was feeling
a bit sad and overwhelmed is an understatement.
As soon as I sat down, I was immediately
struck by one of the lines in
the movie. Aladdin extends his hand
from atop his flying carpet and says to
Princess Jasmine, "Do you trust me?"
The line struck me because trust is an
issue I've been struggling with personally
and as a mom for a while when it
comes to the Catholic Church.
In fact, just last week I received a
letter from our parish asking if my fifth-grade
daughter would be interested in
being a server at Mass. My faith told me
to answer yes; my maternal instincts
gave me pause.
An Internal Struggle
You see, the clergy sex-abuse crisis has
touched my parish. It has affected people
I know. I have written about it in
this magazine just about every month
since June 2002. And it has profoundly
affected my ability to trust.
10 Tips for Child Safety
Teresa Kettelkamp, executive director of the
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat
for the Protection of Children and Young
People, developed the following list of 10 tips
for child safety, in conjunction with Child
Abuse Prevention Month in April.
1. Sexual molestation is about the victim.
2. No one has the right to have access
3. Common sense is not all that common.
4. Child sexual abuse can be prevented.
5. The residual effects of having been
abused can last a lifetime.
6. Feeling heard leads toward healing.
7. You cannot always predict who will be
8. There are behavioral warning signs of
9. People can be taught to identify
10. Background checks work.
Further explanation of each tip is available
on the bishops' Web site,
as well as information on other initiatives the
bishops are implementing in response to
For instance, during a homily in our
parish a few weeks back, the priest was
preaching about how the pope, bishops
and priests are the shepherds of the
Church and how we members need to
listen to them more carefully. I was so
upset with the idea that our leaders— many of whom had turned a blind eye
to the abuse for years—somehow were
more worthy of trust and respect than
we in the pews, that I completely
missed the overall message of the
And when I read the reports of abuse
in Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands,
etc., I wondered, Why is this just coming
to light? Why didn't bishops and priests
jump on this when the crisis first erupted
in 1985? Why should I trust anything the
Vatican or bishops say when their actions
so often say something different? Where
next? I wonder about those things both
for myself and for the sake and safety
of my kids.
But I also see suffering on the other
side of the equation. I pray for priests
who have no reason not to be trusted.
I wonder how they must feel when a
child wants to give them a hug and
they worry about what others might
think. In the end, no one wins. All
because some people broke a sacred
I know that abuse is not exclusive to
the Catholic Church. I've listened to
the reports that abuse in the Church
does not occur at a higher rate than in
other places in society. I'm aware that I should be just as worried about my
kids' teachers and coaches as I should
be about our pastor.
But I guess I feel that my children
and I should be safest in the company
of Jesus' followers, those who walk the
talk of Jesus' words: "Let the children
come to me, and do not prevent them;
for the kingdom of heaven belongs to
such as these" (Matthew 19:14).
Search for Healing
The tricky thing about trust is that,
once it's broken, it is hard to fix. There's
always that small broken place that
never quite gets fully repaired. With
time and work, trust can be reestablished,
but it's never the same.
In June 2003, this magazine tackled
the issue of the clergy sex-abuse crisis.
The title of that special issue was "Crisis in the Church: Our Search for
Healing." Seven years
later, this mom is still on that search
and wondering if and when that healing