I got an email tonight from someone who sent me a link to what appears to be a new policy going into effect from the Roman Catholic Church released to the public via the Diocese of Buffalo. This new policy has to do with handling accusations of abuse of adults by clergy. I have included the entire link at the bottom, but to give you an idea of what it says, here is one of the leading sentences:
Receiving less attention, but also reprehensible and far more pervasive, is sexual misconduct directed toward adults. An adult is anyone 18 years of age or older. This abuse of power and authority, in various forms, often victimizes adults when they are most vulnerable and seeking spiritual comfort and counsel.
My initial reaction reading this policy was one of excitement. I had gone to see the Victim’s Assistance Coordinator back in February in order to get a meeting with the bishop in the diocese where my abuse took place. We actually had a meeting in place….set in April…and then….Corona Virus struck, the meeting was canceled, and I have not heard back about setting up another meeting as of yet.
As I said….my initial reaction was that I was thrilled. OMG, I thought….they are going to educate their staff about the abuse of adults. They are saying that it is never the fault of the adult as there is an imbalance of power when it comes to a priest and an employee or congregate. It further went on to say that if a report is made of and accusation of misconduct by a priest, they will get right on it and have an investigation. Once the investigation is complete…..along with looking into past allegations of abuse and interviews with people who are potential witnesses to any wrong-doings, the sun will come out and all will rejoice in the fact that the Catholic Church has turned over a new leaf. After almost 2,000 years of being unable to put a stop to rampant abuse…finally…..we have a policy! A policy! We are saved!
A policy which says it is never the fault of the person who is not a priest. Not even if the “relationship” is “consensual”. The priest must have boundaries and so is the responsible party. And if it can be proved that there was coercion or threats or “unwanted” touching or anything where everyone knows what was going down because the priest grabbed you in the hallway in front of 50 witnesses and planted a big wet one on your kisser while you screamed, “No, stop!” well, he will be in a lot of trouble. They may have to send him to counseling. It sounds good. It sounds wonderful. It sounds as if someone studied Canon Law and perhaps read a book or two and they are seeing the next wave of things to come and want to have something in place before it shows up at their doorstep.
I know that I sound like an Eeyore in the face of this wondrous event. But I’ve heard what I’ve heard from people and I’ve seen what I’ve seen myself and I don’t think leopards change their spots that fast.
I’m thinking….hmmn….so what does this mean in my case? Will they call me in under the guise of a meeting and throw me a surprise party and hug me and apologize and give me my job back? Most importantly….will there be cake?
Will the predator priest who used his position as my boss and the power of being able to get rid of me if he got angry be prevented from ever using his collar to wield spiritual and emotional control over another human being?
I hate to be so negative. I do. I want to believe. But I would rather be negative and be pleasantly surprised than be hopeful and be taken in again.
Witnesses. Let me see. Will they go back to Father Matone who when questioned before said he had seen nothing? Or how about my co-worker, Annette, who once asked why they had not interviewed her as I had told her I knew that I was going to be fired three months before it happened? Would she speak up? Or have they silenced her? Last thing I knew, she said she wanted to keep her job and also said something about my side of things that I needed to take responsibility for. I haven’t heard a word from her in over three years. Would she speak up against her (now retired) boss?
Would the woman in H.R. who screamed at me and told me that nothing I told her was confidential and that he would get a full report on what I said….and that I was a danger to priests…..would she change her tune and say….oh, yes…sorry about that….there was no policy in place at that time. I seriously doubt it.
Did I report him? No. Did I tell him that I wasn’t comfortable with his suggestion? Yes. Were there witnesses to that? No. Of course not. Did I try to put a stop to it? No. What did I do? I emailed him. Emails that he used to fired me saying that I was the one making suggestions. He was innocent. Well, in the policy, that is against the rules. What was this poor priest to do, after all? The woman sent me emails.
I want to say here that the emotional turmoil and struggle I went through with the stupid emails I sent to that man was extreme. He used emotions to control me. Outbursts, then silence and refusals to even look at me. Tension and hostility. Threats. Then he would sympathize and tell me he had put me through too much. Then more screaming. Then the other priests seeming to think I was responsible for the changes in him. And H.R. asking me strange questions.
And I would have rather died than did what he told me I had to do. To me, it felt like rape.But who would see things that way? Nobody believed me when I said that I felt I was doing what I had to do by telling him that I would not be the only one taking a risk. By taking the only power play I had left and telling him that if he wanted this, he would have to meet me outside of the office…not behind his desk and not in the back seat of my car.
But by me saying that…..and by him running to H.R. in panic mode and saying that they had to do what must be done….tell me they would not say that the priest and H.R. did the right thing. That the priest is on record stopping things just as he should have.
And then…..the best part of the policy? If it has been determined by whoever is judging this that the accusation was unfounded, the priest’s good name would be cleared….in the media….in all forms of media. Now tell me that I should be feeling optimistic about this policy and that this is a brand new day and that finally the church cares about its victims.
Tell me that isn’t an intimidating thought.