I have grown. I have grown into a comfortable spot. I’ve heard many people tell their stories. I’ve encouraged them, cared about them, believed them. I put my story into a book. Someone told me that I was brave last week. Sometimes that is true. As I said, I have grown.
But what does being brave mean? Does it mean that you have reached the point where your throat no longer goes dry or your heart doesn’t keep time with “Another One Bites the Dust”? Or that your mind is no longer filled with dread and with doubt? Or are you brave because you are comfortable doing what other people see as being brave?
Do we ever reach the point where we are no longer afraid to push forward? To push past our comfort zone? I have a magnet on my fridge that says, “Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone”. But these days, it’s pretty scary to go out past your front door.
This past week we saw the news article about the Catholic Church lobbying for taxpayer Corona Virus Aid from the Federal Government, and was rewarded at least 1.4 billion dollars by using a special and unprecedented exemption from Federal rules. The Catholic Church is tax exempt. Many dioceses have claimed bankruptcy due to having to settle claims of sex abuse. Sex abuse that has been allowed to continue and be covered up. What is wrong with this picture?
It made me angry. And it made me angrier that there are many congregants who probably think there is nothing wrong with this. It makes me angry to think that anyone feels that the church is hurting. I have belonged to a church where I grew up since forever and they keep sending me envelopes for weekly donations. I don’t really believe that the church was hurting for donations due to the Corona virus as people could watch mass on-line and send donations through the mail.
And yet, they pushed their way to the front of the line. They pushed past small businesses who were struggling. With the help of the government, the lines were blurred a bit to overlook the fact that the Catholic Church is tax exempt and that they have well over 500 employees.
So I got angry. Sometimes anger can be a good thing. Sometimes anger passes fear at the turn before the home stretch. And before you know it…..you’ve passed your comfort zone.
And sometimes you have little choice. I know someone who is transitioning. And while they are transitioning, they are doing video segments of the scientific aspects and the emotional aspects and the physical changes they are going through. And I try to understand what this is like for them. But what stands out the most for me is how brave this person is. How many people are willing to go public and tell the world who they really are? The world is a dangerous place. There are haters out there. I would be terrified to share something so personal. But this person is motivated to change because to not change is more uncomfortable.
I wrote my book, “The Priest’s Pawn”, but I wrote it under a different name. Part of that reason was because I was afraid. Afraid of being sued, afraid of having the people of the church burn me at the stake, afraid of victim shaming. Terrified. Afraid of family and friends knowing things about me that I’ve managed to keep private. I’ve never wanted to stand out and be noticed. I’ve always just wanted to blend in and be like everyone else.
You have to be brave to speak your truth. It can re-open wounds and bring up all kinds of unpleasant memories. Memories of being told it was your fault. Memories of having everyone who once thought you were a wonderful person walk away like something about you was catching and they didn’t want to associate with you.
But I was angry. It was just all too much. Doesn’t anyone see what is going on here? C’mon people…open your eyes!
And I thought about my friend….because he is my friend….who is brave enough to speak his truth during his transition…..and I felt like a fraud.
And so I stuck my toe out of my comfort zone. Just my toe. I sent a copy of the article about the Catholic Church being given an obscene amount of money to my group of family and close friends on Facebook. Along with the article, I “came out” to people I care about and said that I am a survivor of adult abuse by clergy. That was the gist of it. I also said that people should be angry about this and that the church has been getting away with abusing children and adults for too long. And that their predators are in positions where they will take care of the vulnerable.
I did not get much of a reaction. It was kind of a “you could hear a pin drop” kind of thing. Nobody really knows what to say. Or if they do, it may be along the line of, 1. It was just your priest, 2. Are you sure you just didn’t imagine it? 3. How could someone abuse an adult…isn’t that consensual? 4. Really, this is too uncomfortable to speak about in public, can’t you just keep it to yourself?
And so, since the world did not end entirely that day (we probably have another six months to go) I did something else. Stuck another toe out there. I contacted the Bishop’s employee who I saw a couple of months ago before the pandemic when I was supposed to meet with the Bishop in person, and I asked him how we were doing with the meeting.
I heard back from this gentleman today and he said that they were not doing meetings face to face at this time but perhaps a Zoom meeting was possible. I think that is doable. Yes. So I wait to hear.
And while I wait to hear, I sit here with my heart pounding and my cotton mouth thinking that this is the last thing I really want to do. But I need to.
I have heard what people say. It’s about the money. These people are probably lying. The priest didn’t love you back so you got upset and wanted revenge.
I get that false claims are horrendous….I know because it happened to me. It was devastating when the priest turned his threats and harassment around on me and claimed he was shocked and shaken to the core.
But why was he so easily believed when he played the victim and why is it so easy to believe that it was the victim who led the priest into sin? It’s frustrating. It’s painful. And to tell you the truth, I’m scared.
I’m afraid for all of the reasons that held me back from saying anything in the first place. It becomes a case of sin and religion instead of boss and employee or a person in power and one who has no power.
And I’m afraid once again it may break me. For anyone who says we do this for the money….do they even realize how very much we don’t want to have to do this?
I don’t expect money. I believe I deserve compensation, yes. I lost my job for no reason other than the fact that I didn’t do what my boss wanted me to do. He had the power to give and to take away. But I don’t expect anything. I don’t go in expecting justice.
Because when I step outside of my comfort zone….I can only ask to be brave enough to speak my truth. Because in doing so, it is out there. And once the truth is out there, it may make it easier for someone else to come forward.
And that sounds great, but it still goes against everything I have learned to be in my life in order to speak. It is so much easier to minimalize it to myself and to tell myself that people don’t talk about this kind of thing. That’s why I have to do it knowing I am going to help someone else.
And who do we turn to in order to ask for strength? Dear God, help me annihilate this rotten, worm-infested bad apple? He’s one of yours, God. Can you at least give him a bad case of shingles or something? Diarrhea when he’s stuck in traffic? A bad case of gas in the confessional? How about erectile dysfunction? Halitosis? A tick bite where the sun don’t shine? An audit by the IRS?
I can only dream. But in my dreams…..
I have grown. I am strong. I am Titanium.