Don’t Stop Believing

Does anything we do ever really matter in life?

Sometimes I wonder.

This past week we saw some guest blogs from survivors who wrote letters stating how they felt to those with some with the power to change things. Did it make a difference?

When we were young, we believed that good always triumphed and that God was always watching and that the grown ups were in charge and could handle anything fairly. Fair is what mattered back then. Fair still matters.

It can feel frustrating to put yourself out there and to speak from the heart only to get the feeling that it didn’t matter or change anything. It can feel like just one stone in a well. But I don’t believe that any action done with good intention does not have some kind of affect in this world. If not just being the inspiration for others to toss their stone into the well. Eventually if enough people believe in the power of good, change will begin to be noticed.

It can be hard to keep going at times. It can be easy to get discouraged. Sexual abuse….whether physical or psychological…is something people don’t want to discuss and it can feel isolating to be a survivor. And just saying that you were abused makes you appear different to some people. As Regina put it in her letter…..it is if we are wearing a scarlet letter on our chest.

Someone at last night’s meeting shared a couple of resources that I would like to pass along. Dr. David Pooler (David_Pooler@Baylor.edu) is interested in researching Clergy Perpetrated Sexual Abuse of Adults. Also, there are many blogs to read at “Awake Milwaukee” with survivor stories of clergy abuse and different insights to broaden horizons and perhaps contribute a story of your own. I’m not familiar with either Dr. Pooler or Awake Milwaukee, so as with anything, use caution before contacting anyone.

One of the things that came up this week is….what can we do with all of the anger and frustration we feel after being betrayed or discarded by someone we trusted? One person I spoke with is focusing on not being powerless again by going to law school and putting that energy into helping others.

And I thought that was a great idea. When we are at our lowest point and when our vulnerability and our weaknesses have been used against us, it is devastating. That is another thing people who have not been abused do not understand. That is, an abuser will pretend to be someone they are not in order to gain someone’s trust. They will get under someone’s skin and into their head with the sole purpose of destroying that person for sport. Just to get off on their own power. So they may help you crash and burn because you handed them the keys to your car so to speak.

And that makes it ten times worse. Because we trusted and we feel like we participated. We allowed ourselves to be open with someone we thought had our best interests at heart. We may have shared some very personal stuff. So when we hit that tree going 100 miles an hour when our emotional brakes have been cut, we are destroyed. Mortally wounded. Gutted without a stitch of armor left to protect us.

And these feelings can hit us at any point in our lives because life can be tough and pain and loss are a part of living.

But what makes us survivors is the fact that we keep getting up the next day and starting over. We go on. And the difference between existing and surviving may come down to our next step.

How do we choose to rebuild ourselves after a loss or rejection or when we find we need to restart our lives once again and we begin to question our self worth because of others?

I do think we need to grieve. But when we grieve, I think we also need to listen to the words we say to ourselves. Forget about the laws of attraction and being responsible for allowing other people to treat us a certain way. Let go of that. When you are hurting, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself as if you have been physically burned. Don’t use sandpaper on that wound. Begin within.

I think it also helps a bit if we stop putting other people on pedestals and realize that they don’t know any more than we do really and they are just as flawed and their actions are separate from who you are as a person.

What they did is on them. You were probably a good friend or trying to help someone or maybe you trusted them because you are a person people can trust. So go lightly on lumping their issues in with your own. We all have enough on our plate.

I like how the person I spoke with decided to strengthen their armor by increasing their knowledge of the legal profession. Even if they never finished law school, at least they are learning and will know more than they did before. And they are rebuilding their armor.

For me, I won’t lie….I can hit some low lows. I can feel depleted. But remember, you are never too old to change your life. It is never too late to learn something new. Instead of focusing on what you have lost, focus instead on something that will help you grow as a person.

Think of it as rebuilding a town after a tornado rips through it or a fire has decimated its buildings. It is not the fault of the buildings that were destroyed that they happened to be in the path of destruction. But they can be rebuilt as often as needed….perhaps with stronger materials or a better structure or in a similar but different spot.

Another thing I heard this week is someone being told by someone else that they should maintain their anger about what happened to them. To me, that sounds like the belief that if we find a sense of peace or if we let go, then we are letting someone get away with something.

I don’t know that I agree with that. People heal at their own pace. And it’s said that we don’t necessarily get over things, we just learn to live with the scar. And who is to say that someone who feels more at peace may at that point be able to accomplish something they could not have when they were in a state of raw emotion?

Nobody can say what someone else should be feeling.

Be good to yourselves and have a great week.

The top five most read blogs this month so far are: Guest blog #3, Guest blog #4, Always Something There to Remind Me, Guest blog #5, and Tainted Love.

Please remember to take this week’s survey.

Guest Blog #5

A few days ago, I read the Associated Press article by Nicole Winfield: “Vatican-backed sex abuse research institute expands mandate, The Catholic Church’s foremost research institute studying sexual abuse of minors is expanding its mandate to also include the sexual and spiritual abuse of adults”

Vatican-backed sex abuse research institute expands mandate – ABC News (go.com)

The article quoted Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, the head of the former Centre for Child Protection and a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Zollner is now president of the new: Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care. The Institute is taking over the child protection effort and expanding to study the abuse of adults and also spiritual abuse.

In the Associated Press interview, Zollner mentioned the Vatican’s definition of “vulnerable adult” and said that it was under discussion. My letter to Father Zollner was intended to primarily address this issue. I sent this email to the Institute at the Gregorian.

October 14, 2021

Hans Zollner SJ

IADC

CollegioBellarmino

Via del Seminario 120

00186 Roma

Dear Rev.Zollner,

I read the article yesterday about the new Anthropology Institute at Gregorian University. I am glad that you have expanded. The title of the article above gave me hope that you were now addressing the abuse of adults, also. Yet, when I read the AP article, I saw that you are speaking of seminarians, nuns, and “vulnerable” adults. I notice immediately the influence of the McCarrick case and of the work of Doris Wagner Reisinger. However, my heart sank when I read your statement on vulnerable adults.

I would like you to understand and those who study with you to understand that the focus should not be on whether the woman is “vulnerable” or not. The focus should be on the man. Many of the Protestant churches have such clear and modern abuse policies. The clergyman has a fiduciary responsibility. The focus should be on the man and what he may not do. The laws everywhere need to make it clear that a clergyperson may not violate the professional ethics of his office. The question of child abuse is clear because laws exist; before those laws the children were often blamed. We need laws that make it clear that abuse of adults is also criminal, unethical, as well as morally wrong.

That discussion on whether women are “vulnerable” or “temporarily vulnerable” is insulting to me, someone who has been raped by a priest. It should be a question of whether the priest is unprofessional, unethical, criminal, and dangerous. Put the focus on the man who commits the abuse and not on the woman who is the victim. And I say “victim” because the clergyman is always in a more powerful position and especially in the case of Catholic priests is not even supposed to be sexually active, so there is a huge violation of trust for him to sexually approach anyone.

In conclusion, I hope the Catholic Church at some point affirms the dignity of women and removes the “Scarlet Letter” that we survivors of clergy sexual abuseas adultshave been wearing forever.

I am going to send you a copy of my recently published book:

Amazon.com: Josh: My Story eBook : Wurst, Regina: Kindle Store

If those at the Institute want to understand the story of one woman who was assaulted by a priest, I hope they read my book.

Sincerely,

Regina Wurst

joshmystory@gmail.com

I received this timely reply from the Institute:


From: Institute of Anthropology Dignity and Care <iadc@unigre.it>
Date: Mon, Oct 18, 2021 at 12:35 AM
Subject: Re: for Rev. Zollner and IADC


Dear Mrs. Regina Wurst,


Fr. Zollner has received your email. At this point, it is difficult for him to reply in person because of the recent inauguration of the Institute and all what is connected to that.

We are very sorry if the interview has upset you. However, in the interview there was no special mention to women, but to vulnerable persons. And as the recent report on abuse committed in the Catholic Church in France has shown, the question is indeed not only whether a clergyman has abused, but also male or female laity in the church have been victims or perpetrators.


The article in AP could not reflect the whole conversation between Fr. Zollner and the journalists. In any case, there is an ongoing discussion on how to address this issue, also in different legal constituencies around the world.

There is no question that those who abuse sexually or in another way another person, be he or she, a minor or an adult, needs to be called by his or her name and must be prosecuted.

In this sense, we are looking forward to receiving your book. That will help us to deepen our understanding and inform our teaching.


Best regards,

Secretariat

Institute of Anthropology 

Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care

Pontifical Gregorian University
Tel.: +39 06 40048453

In reaction to this letter from IADC, I take issue with their view that the AP interview “upset me.”I agree that “in the interview there was no special mention to women, but to vulnerable persons.” Exactly. That was my point. I can only claim I was abused if they judge that I was “vulnerable.” That is contorted logic.

Their letter also emphasized that“the question is indeed not only whether a clergyman has abused, but also male or female laity.”Well, yes, laity have abused, but I specifically want to keep my focus on priests, clericalism, and misogyny in the Church, as well as the requirement of celibacy which seems to exacerbate the problem of clergy abuse in the Catholic Church. Certainly, my abuser objected to celibacy when he called it “cultural imperialism” and stated that he could do whatever he wanted. I won’t accept that these issues are obfuscated and diffused.

I read in another article, though, that the IADC was beginning to look at the abuse of women, and adult men. They have started with the abuse of nuns and seminarians, and we can help them widen their viewpoints with our input.

Guest Blog #4

 
October 18, 2021

Hans Zollner SJIADC
Collegio BellarminoVia del Seminario 12000186 Roma

Dear Rev. Hans Zollner,
Attached are two articles that address the topic of clergy sexual misconduct/abuse of adults. The first article is by the AP regarding the effect clergy misconduct and abuse had on my life and faith practice. It crushed me as it struck at the core of my being. 
Having served the sick as a Registered Nurse for forty-one years in the medical profession, the patients entrusted in our care are all considered vulnerable. We seek medical attention for physical ailments, mental health professionals for emotional distress impacting our mental health, and attend the place of worship for spiritual growth and healing. The pastor of my former parish often referenced the church as a “field hospital” for those seeking spiritual healing. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience. 

It is necessary to address the whole patient. The emotional, spiritual and physical are interconnected. If one area is suffering soon the other two will follow. 
As professionals we are taught to cause no harm. There is an imbalance of power making true consent impossible. Mental health and medical professionals are trained to protect all ages as those who seek our care place their trust in us. Trust is implied by the shear nature of the vocations. So it is with clergy in the field hospital of the Catholic Church. Both a maternal aunt and cousin were nuns. My aunt served the needs of the clergy in her order based in Canada. I loved the church. It meant so much in my life. Even if I stepped away at times something always drew me back. It feels as if it is in my very DNA. 


Therefore, the point isn’t to distinguish the vulnerability of the adult but to place the focus of responsibility where it belongs which is squarely on the clergy as professionals both feeding the flock in its care as well as providing counseling when needed. Even if therapy is involved in a secular setting an adult will often seek a spiritual perspective. 
All who enter the church need to feel safe and protected from predators who wear sheep’s clothing. The degree of trust implied by celibate/chaste clergy increases the vulnerability of the adult who isn’t prepared to have to protect themselves from the very men who took vows of service to Christ and who are representing Christ to those under its roof and its service. 


There can be no consent between a priest and adult because of such a power imbalance. The one with the greatest power holds the greatest responsibility. In the wake of # metoo movement the topic of power imbalances with adults came into much attention. A movie producer and politician hold power over those who are looking to achieve careers or who are even awe struck. However, clergy represents the highest power there is; God. 


There is no age limit for vulnerability. We are all God’s children regardless of the age. Many factors influence vulnerability such as a history of highly adverse childhood events and the impact of life on its own merits throughout the life span. It is a well known fact that under emotional stress we regress to earlier ages. Adults abused as children can regress to the emotional ages of the childhood trauma and abuse. Trauma effects the brain. 


Although chronologically adults, the level of regression can place the adult at a much younger age with the lower part of the brain in control over higher reasoning. Even if the childhood was considered to be without unusual trauma life itself can deliver harsh blows. For instance, the loss of a spouse through death or divorce, loss of an adult child, the pain of parental estrangement, substance abuse issues, loss of health or employment are only a few events that create extreme vulnerability even if temporary. One does not need to have a caregiver making decisions for them or be rendered incapable of functioning normally to be considered vulnerable. Calling it an affair, a temporary lapse in the priest’s vows or “sin” misses the point and seeks to minimize the real issue at hand. It is an absolute act of emotional, physical and spiritual betrayal, violation, and abuse of spiritual power and authority often subconsciously translated into God being the perpetrator. Christ overturned the tables in the temple driving the money exchangers out with whips because it was abuse oi the place or worship. What would He think about the decades of abuse covered up under its roof of not only the most vulnerable of all which are the minor children but of adults who are also His children? Who will advocate on behalf of Christ by exposing what takes place in the darkness so it can be addressed in the light of day and brought to justice leading to corrective measures to protect all of us? Abuse is killing people and is implicated in addictions which is an epidemic greater than Covid. The Church can take center stage and address it under its roof setting an example for all. 


I speak from personal experience that it was a devastating experience. Reporting it was the right thing to do for the sake of the church, the priest who needed help, and to protect other possible victims from going through what I experienced. I was strongly encouraged to remain silent to protect the institution at the expense of the individual whom it serves. Yet, what happened to me as a result of reporting and going public compounded the trauma and pain. Love does not enable. Love dares to speak truth to power. Love dares to confront the wrong because to remain silent is to be complicit in works of evil. 


Evil does its work in the darkness and in silence. To speak truth brings light into the darkness which is what Christ did. It got Him killed. It almost killed me. It certainly caused my old life to fall and crumble away including needing to retire earlier from my career because its impact was the last straw in a life of nothing but abuse starting from early childhood. One can’t determine by outward appearances whether someone is hemorrhaging inside from wounds so deep that nothing works but God. God is what kept me alive while I wondered is I would ever heal through trauma informed therapy which is a slow and arduous process.  We can manage to function in our professions yet be utterly vulnerable relationally. 


The deepest fundamental need is to feel loved and valued. How many of us suffer from wounds because we were not loved or valued or could not feel it because of poor self worth? The predator is skilled at targeting the right prey through expert grooming. If an adult responds it does not imply consent. It is a natural human response. 

Sincerely,
Dorothy Small 

https://eprints.qut.edu.au/205923/8/Stephen%20Edward%20de%20Weger%20Thesis.pdf#page52

https://apimagesblog.com/sundays-after/2019/12/19/sundays-after-dorothy-small

Let it Be

I am doing next week’s blog early because I am having surgery tomorrow.

I read something recently about the law of attraction. You may have heard of this before. It’s basically about getting back what you put out to the universe. Attracting what you believe you deserve to have in your life.

I don’t know. On one hand, I know that we as humans do have a sense….if we listen to it…of the “vibe” that people and places give off. When house hunting, for instance, you may find that place that just feels like home. Or you may meet someone that gives you the creeps. I guess it comes down to listening to your gut.

But what about what kind of vibes we send out? What do other people feel about us? I know that many people that I’ve spoken with who have been abused believe that they seem to attract Narcissistic people into their lives.

But is that because they are unintentionally sending out signals to attract people who would harm them? And, if so, why would somebody do that? Don’t we all want to be happy, after all?

My guess is that it’s a possibility. Narcissists and empaths tend to tango more often probably because they attract each other in some way. Possibly because empaths tend to be emotional sponges and the Narc sees them as a person who will take their abuse and still be selfless. Empaths also tend to be very compassionate people and they also have a hard time seeing the bad in others. Empaths also tend to be more forgiving and so they are there to lend a hand time and time again when needed, even after someone has stepped on that hand.

But isn’t it good to be empathic? Isn’t it good to care about your fellow man? Wouldn’t an empathic person be functioning at a higher vibration and therefore, attract good people into their inner circle? Are they empathic because they care about others or because they don’t care a lot about themselves?

Well, as it turns out, empaths tend to have low self-esteem. Aha. Again, they soak up other’s feelings and all of the negative energy around them and they tend to help and to heal others….which leaves the empath sorely depleted when it comes to knowing who they are….really…and taking care of themselves.

Well, hey, no wonder then. Is anybody else nodding their head in recognition? Talk about being a sponge. I grew up with three high energy people with issues. Of course I had issues. But I didn’t know it. And when I did know about the issues….when they began to come out….I still tried to keep them quiet. I had to function and I had to take care of people and I was scared as I had no knowledge and no coping skills.

But it would make sense, wouldn’t it….that someone with low self-esteem is going to pull in something negative? Why? Well, low self-esteem usually goes hand in hand with negative thoughts about the self.

It’s awfully hard to learn new self talk. It’s hard to tell yourself positive things if you don’t believe it. Or to pull in positive things from the universe if you don’t believe you deserve good things.

Funny….I always say that I’m not high maintenance….I don’t ask for a lot. And then I’m surprised when that’s what I get. Not much.

I have learned a couple of things though….like nobody is going to respect you if you don’t respect yourself. You set the boundaries and your comfort zone. That’s not an easy thing to do. You might upset some people.

I’ve also learned that if you try to talk to someone about something that is important to you…..and perhaps you ask for a compromise…..and they either make no attempt to change anything or loudly complain or totally ignore your request….you better prepare to either put up with the action or behavior for the rest of your life….or you better get out now. Because nothing is going to change.

As far as negative self talk….I hear myself do this. I’m getting better with this and I can “self-soothe” better as I get older. I know that nobody else is going to take care of me, and I can’t sit around and wait for life to happen, and I can’t judge myself on praise or lack thereof from other people….so I can accept life as it is and make my own lemonade or sit around and turn into a rotten lemon. My choice. And there is always laundry to be done so that gets me up off of the couch if not my dogs.

I’ve also learned that if someone values you, that you won’t have to guess because it will be obvious. It will be a whole cake….not just the crumbs. And perhaps it happens that as we expect more, we get more of what we need. If we value close friendship, for instance, anyone who is not a true friend will fall off of your radar.

I’ve also become a bit philosophical about life in that I find myself sitting back and waiting and accepting instead of chasing what I think I need. What is to be will be. What is meant to be in your life, will show up in your life.

So, no….I have not yet gotten to the point where I’m expecting unicorns to arrive at my door because I have spun around three times and clicked my heels while saying “send me the unicorns!” But I have reached the point where I am being a bit less accommodating, a bit less frantic in my expectations for happiness, a bit kinder and gentler to myself, and still saddened, but not distraught when the vibrations of others don’t match my own and they move on from my life.

This last one about people leaving my life is a huge one for me. My ex’s family who I knew for many years….like 35 years of holidays and the like….once the divorce became finalized….they all just dropped out of my life like I never existed. Not all….last year when my ex brother in law passed away and I emailed everyone (they did not have a wake or a service), I did get a couple of replies. Mostly I was ignored. And that is sad, but again, I am not the same person I was when I knew them and perhaps it is a vibrational repulsion between us.

I’m sure this is common. But common or not, as we move on in life and grow, we leave many of the people in our past behind. And we gather new people.

The world and the people in it begin to change as soon as we are born. We cannot control the world around us. But perhaps we do have more control over our own lives than we once thought.

I saw a good quote this week: “If you want your life to change, then you have to see your life as you want it to be and not how it is right now”. I’m sure I misquoted something, but that’s the basic idea. In order to see your life as you want it to be, you kind of have to live life optimistically.

I’ll let you know if any unicorns show up.

In what I guess you would call the laugh of the week….I went grocery shopping earlier today and I caught myself singing along with the piped in music. What’s that they say about how you know you’re old when….the music in the supermarket begins to sound good?

In a bright spot in my week, I have been asked to donate some artwork to a silent auction for breast cancer survivors.

Have a lovely week or so everyone….I will be back as soon as I can.

The Way We Were

Not sure where to start this week. I had a COVID test today because I am having surgery on Friday. Kind of surreal. Pulled into the hospital parking lot and followed signs that seemed to lead to nowhere until I realized I had to pull into a makeshift garage area where I had to then lower my window and yell to a woman behind a window. I stayed in my car and a nurse approached with the Q-tip thing and told me she was just going to swab the inside of my nose. It was not bad at all. Just saying. I thought they stuck those things all the way in to the back of your throat. Nope. Just a little swab inside the nose.

The news this week in the world continues to be bad and I am once again reminded of how little we control in this world. I am reminded of that not because of the horrific things heard on the news that we can’t do much about, but because of my own life and the lives of people I speak with.

I was once told that worry is nothing more than trying to control a situation that you have no control over. I worry so much about the people that I love and my surgery is going to lay me up for weeks if not months and it’s going to make me feel even more helpless than I do already.

After our group meeting last night, I called my mom and she sometimes forgets what I do or how I am doing things. I told her I was in a meeting and she again asked what for and I told her it was for people abused by priests and again she asked me why I am doing something so depressing and the church is working on this and there aren’t going to be any priests left, etc.

The thing is, we are survivors, not victims. And in our group, we do discuss what happened to us, but we also discuss why it happened and how far we have come. I think it is important to discuss these things. I know that talking with others has helped me immensely. And I hear other people say that as well.

There are so many sides to the abuse. There is the side of….I didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t see it coming. And there is the side of….I went into “take care of” mode and I felt this or I did that….so it is not just blaming the church or looking at the bad bad priest….but also trying to prevent this from happening again in our lives and in the lives of others. There is also the knowledge we gain from comparing notes….because the stories tend to have similarities.

Oftentimes we as survivors end up learning so much more about ourselves and our lives in general and the people we have known and how we have reacted to them along the way.

In my life, when I look back, I see so much effort put into pleasing other people and taking care of others and trying to save people.

Last night I told the story of how when someone I know who I love very much tried to commit suicide and when they got home, I went over to stay with them to be sure they were okay, and to make them dinner and to be sure nobody hurt them. I was ready literally to do battle with anyone who tried to bring this person drugs or tried to physically harm them. I literally blocked people in the stairway and would not let them in. Drama in the hallway. Tears. Other people’s drama. To protect the person I love.

I stayed all night. I left when the sun was coming up. When all their friends had left and it seemed safe to leave. And as I was leaving, this person said two very inappropriate things to me. After telling me what a good person I was, this person said something very sexual to me and then said they felt like killing themselves.

What we tend to forget about victims of abuse is that we are generally people who care about and who take care of other people. And that gets abused as well. And because so often, we tend to also have co-dependent tendencies because we were not raised with healthy boundaries for one reason or another to see ourselves as strong and separate from others who we care about…..we tend to cease to exist….or forget how to exist….in a healthy way….without bouncing off of an unhealthy person or situation.

The thing is, it’s not always possible to walk away from unhealthy people and situations. We need other people. We want family. Especially when we have children to raise. There is such a feeling of being trapped like no other when raising children and needing the help of others who are either emotionally abusive or at the very least, not emotionally supportive. Or being forced to work at a job that is soul crushing because you have to just get through life to take care of your family. It can be a life in which you don’t feel you exist except to keep things calm and keep things going and to keep everyone else okay.

It can be a very foreign concept to put yourself first. It can be scary as well. But learning about yourself apart from others is an important lesson to learn. I don’t know why exactly I feel the way I feel sometimes. It may be important to look back and see how we learned our behaviors. But it is also important to take responsibility for doing the work and accepting the pain of emotional growth.

I have a sibling who likes to joke and say he drinks because of our parents. He is not a horrible person, but he is unhealthy and will continue to be unhealthy until and unless he begins to take responsibility for himself. Funny thing is, his daughter started to follow in his footsteps. And before she got help, she blamed him for the way she was. But she has sought help and I can see her begin to grow into a more mature adult woman.

For myself, I have become somewhat more aware of my feelings. My need to be a chameleon to become the person someone else wants me to be. And then the feeling that I have failed to find that right combination to please someone else. And then the feeling that I can never be enough. The desperate need to please emotionally unavailable people. Trying so hard to make things work with people it’s never going to work with. Trying so hard to save people who don’t want to work to save themselves.

The feeling that if I put my own needs first, I will alienate everyone. The feeling that I need people to understand who I am and what I mean. That I need to explain to people who don’t want to listen. The feeling that it’s okay to not be a priority to someone as long as I can get a part of them. That I will fight through the haystack to find that one crumb on the tip of the needle.

Because if I don’t keep fighting and pleasing and saving and taking care of…..I’m not sure what else there is of me to give anyone. Because I’m not sure who I am or how I feel. And I’m afraid to find out because that feels so damn vulnerable.

These are the things that are important to talk about, to think about and to work on. This is why it is good to be still and to be quiet and to listen. To breathe. To toss aside the things outside of ourselves and to look within. To create. To get to know ourselves. To act instead of reacting. To be aware of our faults and to be able to speak their names and acknowledge their existence. To allow them to be without allowing them to rule us and to run our lives. It’s an on-going, sometimes lifelong process.

My love, support and respect to all survivors of life.

Last week the votes were tied as to who believes in aliens. Most of those who believe live in the U.S.

Also last week, this blog was read in American Samoa, South Korea and Japan among others. Welcome readers.

Time in a Bottle

This past week, Pope Francis discussed harsher penalties for those priests and lay persons who groom and use pornography in order to sexually abuse children. He also expanded upon this to include those who abuse vulnerable adults. However, the term “vulnerable adult” has always tended to mean one who is physically or mentally incapable of resisting or giving consent due to disabilities. This has expanded from a basic definition of one who lacks any sort of reason.

The pope is also putting more pressure on bishops who hear about or discover abuse…..mainly to avoid criminal charges of those found guilty and to keep punishment within church walls. The recent scandal with Archbishop McCarrick has given incentive to this end.

The case with McCarrick brought to light coercive control and sexual abuse of seminarians. Due to this case and to growing unrest around the globe, Cardinal O’Malley insisted that the definition of the vulnerable adult be broadened to include those in a situation of power imbalance, where there has been abuse of those under someone’s authority, even if both of those individuals are adults.

Reactions to these potential changes are mixed. Some hail this as a move in the right direction. Others see it as nothing more than the church continuing to call the shots and an attempt to maintain cover-ups. I see it as both.

One change I did see after I spoke with the bishop is that the priest who abused me was moved from his own apartment to sharing a rectory with the bishop. While this may seem like a good thing, the rectory is adjacent to a grade school. And as we know….a predator is a predator. Prey is prey.

On another note, to anyone who was participating in the meeting yesterday, please know that we were cut off because of a sudden loss of power in the area.

We did discuss the use of the double entendre that predator priests seem to like to use. And the embarrassment it causes when a simple discussion turns awkward and sexual. And then the denial that follows. And in one case, someone was directed to forgive the perpetrator, but again, that just puts you up front and center and vulnerable when someone has no incentive to change their behavior.

Recommended book this week is “The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships” by Carnes and Phillips.

Someone this week said that they always know what is going on in my life because of my blog.

Well, this past weekend, I had one of those moments you want to freeze and hold on to. It was my grandson’s second birthday and we celebrated by bringing together a blended and extended family.

The party was held at my mother’s house and in attendance were my sons and my “adopted son”, and my grandson of course and his mom and her friend and my brother stopped by and the baby’s other grandmother….and my ex-husband and his girlfriend.

I told someone how nice it was to be able to share this birthday with my ex and to get along with him and his girlfriend and to have somewhat of a Kumbaya moment in time. It was like coming full circle. And it did not come without a price. Which made it all the more sweeter. I think some people will be able to relate.

I thought about what had to happen to make this moment possible. Choices and chance.

My mom was not supposed to make it past 1995. She is not supposed to be here. My brother is a walking miracle. I can barely remember a time when he wasn’t abusing his body.

My ex has been through a number of heart procedures but mainly, he is my ex and I have found that the further I am from him, the better we get along. I’m not trying to be funny. My mom actually said the other day what a nice guy he is. And she was “there” and knew how it was when I was with him. I never shared touching moments with him and our kids. He felt they were my responsibility and that they were basically nuisances that cost money. They both left home within a week or so of each other because they could not live with him and our life together began to crumble not long afterward.

He would threaten and push me to the point where he would leave before he would back down, and then go to his family or his friends and tell them how I threw him out and I’d get angry phone calls and people thinking I was horrible.

But the other day, we shared our grandson’s birthday and his girlfriend joked with me that if she ever tried to quit smoking while living with him, she’d have to kill him and it was funny and I could laugh at it because it wasn’t my problem anymore. And we were able to joke about how he got angry with me because my labor was taking too long and he hadn’t had anything to eat. But now he is a mellow guy who gardens and who while not having any interaction with his grandson, did buy him stuff and show up. And I think we are friends. And that was nice because at one time it wasn’t.

And my grandson? He was born to my son who didn’t want children because he was afraid he would not be a good father, and to a woman who had multiple miscarriages in the past with her ex-husband.

I knew her long before my son met her. She had been my supervisor and had trained me at the Suicide Hotline where I had volunteered. And although there are issues at times between us, and between her and my son, the fact that they came together brought my grandson into the world.

This was a rag-tag mishmash of people coming together for a joyous occasion. I can’t think of one person among all of us that I would consider “normal”. Not when the babysitter/friend compared being a baby and having all your needs met to being drunk. Huh? Only my mother cared what happened to me if I was drunk and that only happened when I was a teenager. I’ve been on my own since then.

But my point is, for one moment in time, things were perfect. For one moment. I guess that’s all we can ever count on. I mean, the next day my brother was hitting my mother up for money again, and everyone went back to keeping their issues hidden in their own homes. So the moment had passed. I guess that’s how it goes. Perfect pieces of happiness found within the rubble. Saving time in a bottle.

Have a good week. Find your bit of happiness. Be well.

Hot and Cold

The first thing I want to share this week is that we found out that my two year old grandson is autistic.

This is my youngest son’s only child and the news comes only two months after his best friend lost his 12 year old autistic son when he passed away in his sleep. I was over there the other night for the first time since we heard the news and you know how hard it sometimes is to have a toddler….now they have an autistic toddler….and they have a lot of tension already in their relationship as my son and the baby’s mom have discussed breaking up and it’s not a great situation so if anyone has any experience or knowledge they can share about the care of Autistic children, I’d appreciate it.

Another thing I ran across this week is from the Minnesota Supreme Court. They have ruled that a woman was not raped because she was voluntarily drunk when she met her attacker. This was a ruling released last Wednesday. To meet the definition of rape, according to a unanimous decision, the alcohol has to be administered to the person without that person’s agreement. Therefore, the alleged rapist cannot be charged with a felony because mental incapacitation is only relevant if a person got drunk involuntarily.

Yes, there are many cases of people being drugged without their knowledge, but this ruling is really walking a tight line. Especially since there are so many instances of rape on college campuses. At what point do you cross the line from a voluntary case of liquor reducing inhibitions to taking advantage of someone who is passed out or who is too inebriated to make a rational decision?

Young people especially, in my experience, are more likely to over-drink and not know when to stop. I know they exist, but you don’t hear as much about people in their 50’s getting together for the sole purpose of getting wasted every weekend. Younger people are also less likely to think anything bad is going to happen to them.

I’m using younger people as an example because I was young and stupid once. I remember when drinking meant drinking until you passed out or got sick. Takes awhile for you to learn how much fun that is not and that you can drink “politely”.

Of course, age doesn’t matter. Ruling that someone asked for it because they got drunk willingly is like saying a prostitute cannot be raped because they have sex for a living or that a person cannot be raped by their spouse because they are married. Each case is different and you can’t make a general ruling such as this court did. That is so damaging.

I also had the honor this week of reading a bit of a book that was written by a survivor before it will be published. It is excellent and when it is published, I will say more about it. Recommended book this week is, “Moral Injury and Beyond” by Renos Papadopoulos.

I also talked with someone for a long time about a long term relationship they have had and how it has impacted their life. It made me think more about trauma bonding.

When you think about why someone stays with a person who abuses them and why they don’t press charges against them, or why a person held hostage may bond with their captor, it may make you wonder what is wrong with that person.

I remember again years ago being in a bar with my friend when her abusive boyfriend who would beat her, walked in and gave us flowers and bought us all drinks. I left them there together and went home without taking the flower or drink the drink he’d bought me. My mom told me I had been rude to not drink the drink he had bought for me. I said I didn’t care.

It’s upsetting to see someone you love seduced back into Hell. It’s horrible to feel helpless. To see what is going on and to not be able to break that bond.

And yet, I’ve been there myself. I didn’t see it as clearly because sometimes I think it’s harder to see when there is no physical violence involved.

In trying to understand more about trauma bonding, I was reading a bit about the game of ping pong that gets people hooked. There are so many parts of this puzzle, of course, like past history and such, but I think it is put best by the person who said to me….”If you went on a first date with someone, and they punched you in the face, you would not go on a second date”. Most likely not.

But if you went out with a person and they asked you all about yourself and exuded love and a sense that you were the “bees knees”, and you developed a loving connection with that person, there would be a second date. And as each date progressed pleasantly, you would probably decided that this is a good person. You might imagine yourself having a future with this person. You begin to fill in the blanks with fantasy. This is probably normal stuff that people go through. Until it’s not.

Trauma bonding comes from hitting the highs of love and good feelings and happy endorphins having picnics and toasting marshmallows in your brain and then having those feelings removed suddenly. For whatever reason.

A fist to the head. A phone call that never comes. Being ignored. Having the person you love suddenly turn cold and reject you in some way. Boldly lying. Cheating. Stealing. Whatever it is, the behavior does not match the Heaven that once was your world.

I’m not talking about a normal healthy relationship here. I’m talking about being used by a narcissistic abuser. I’m talking about the deliberate love-bombing and withholding of love as reward and punishment that goes along with this relationship.

You feel hurt. Damaged. Devastated. But in your head, when the cold bucket of water hits the campfire and the endorphins are left with soggy marshmallows, they cry out for more dry firewood and a new bag of marshmallows while you’re at it. And they search for it in the last place where they got it. From the source that you are sure is really a great person.

So when the flowers and the apologies arrive, it is a relief for all. And it feels so good to once again feel the warmth of the fire that like being hooked on a drug, you begin a cycle of reward and withdrawal.

You would think common sense would prevail. It’s easy to judge from the outside. But rewards differ from person to person. Each person is drawn in by what they need. And each abuser knows how to give what is needed. And they also know what their victim fears losing. That is one of the things that gives the abuser their power.

It has been said that people gravitate towards pleasure but try to avoid pain. And of those two, the avoidance of pain is the biggest motivator.

So it would seem that losing the trauma bond is perceived as more painful than to actually continue within its grasp. Is that because the trauma bond destroys the sense of self and the person fears they cannot depend upon themselves alone?

In my first job interview after I was fired from the diocese, I was given the job and they told me that I was chosen out of a room full of other applicants. Yet, my first day on the job, as I drove to the office, I had to keep telling myself that I would be fine and that I knew what I was doing. I know that I was still suffering from PTSD.

You’re fired. You can’t be here. No, wait, you quit, remember? Yes, that’s what happened, we agreed you quit. Hurry up and fill out the paperwork for unemployment and start looking for work. I had no confidence. I was afraid of not doing things right. I’d never been fired before….and then told I left because I wanted to. So I didn’t know what to say to my new employers.

And yet, I felt the need to talk to him. Still. I was an emotional mess because of him but I hadn’t realized that yet. I thought he could provide me with answers. I didn’t understand how I could be discarded and replaced so easily. It hurt. I still had so much to learn. The first thing I learned was that I had already talked to him and had never gotten a straight answer. So many people need for the abuser to understand their pain. They go back to thinking about the love they were shown and think that would make a difference.

But it wouldn’t make any difference. The Narc has a heart of ice. That’s another hard lesson to learn after the discard.

It’s hard to judge someone else’s progress as well. My son will tell me he knows what is happening in his relationship. And then he will step right into the mix knowingly. I’ve realized that I can be here for him but I have to let go of trying to save him.

The survivor I spoke with at length told me that they had been in a long term relationship with someone who was potentially dangerous. But they told me things had changed because they themselves had changed. So the other person was no longer in charge. They felt they had more power. So they don’t feel the need to let go. Perhaps that is so. They said at one time they didn’t care how badly they were treated as long as they had this person in their life. They feel they have grown since then.

Hopefully we all grow from our pain. Before I got divorced, I used to write page after page of emails to my ex-husband, practically begging him to budge slightly. What I began to realize was that you can write an entire book using the same words over and over again. The order the words are in don’t change a thing when the person is not listening. And that’s all I had been doing. Same thing over and over expecting different results. So lost in the forest I could not see the trees.

Insanity. Basically we are all broken to some extent.

I don’t know what makes someone more susceptible to trauma bonding. What makes one person see the red flags and another person just see the good in someone and get sucked in? I do know that it is an unhealthy bond and one that can be incredibly painful to break. You can come out the other end broken.

Are we searching for the love we feel we weren’t given? Are we so used to drama that we don’t know what life is like without it? Are we so desperate to feel something that we will become dependent on someone else doling out the drug? To merely end up in a state of existence suffering the pain of withdrawal when it is not available?

Have we learned anything at all?

Yes, I think we have learned something very important. And that is that it is not the abuser or the abuse that made us strong. We were and are strong already.

We survived.

Mama Mia

Sometimes I hate what I do.

I mean, I like the people but I hate the subject matter.

This past week, I went to a political rally outside the capital building aimed at the passage of a bill to assist those Abused as Adults. It was an emotional gathering. I was the only SNAP person there, and it was kinda funny because I introduced myself to one of the speakers and she said, “I know who you are. I’m on your mailing list.”

So that night, I was talking to my mom on the phone and when she asked me what I did that day, against my better judgement, I told her. She was very concerned that someone there knew who I was. Because as she said, in her day, these things just happened and nobody talked about them.

And once again, she pointed out that because I was not raped, I was not really abused. This is a reminder that we are just beginning to enlighten people and change the view society holds on what abuse is. And trying to change a long-held belief is not always possible.

And although I knew that it was best to let it go, it made me feel so incredibly alone and it made me doubt myself. I mean, there is always the emotional side to everything. That side that says “don’t make waves”, “pretend you don’t see anything”, “just be a good girl, not a rebel”.

But there are two sides to this coin. I don’t want to upset my mom. And the child inside wants to make her happy. But there also comes a time in our lives when we realize that in some sense we are alone and that our thoughts and decisions may come at a price. They may separate us from the pack. It’s a vulnerable feeling but the truth can sometimes be a lonely thing.

There’s that thing about abuse, you see. It can’t always be seen. It’s not about how hard you fought or how many bruises you have. Sometimes it is. But the abuse of power does not always come with a fist at the other end.

Besides opening my eyes to what goes on behind the veil and what the church doesn’t want you to know, my experience with the priest taught me so many things about myself and my own ongoing struggle to search for a sense of balance and my attempt at staying afloat in my life.

And my initial beliefs that I should not make waves, pretend I didn’t see what was happening and to try to be invisible and to please everyone and not speak up….those beliefs weren’t working for me anymore.

But I sit here, ready to burst, because I don’t know how to fix things.

Except to talk about them. Acknowledge them. You, you there reading this….you are vulnerable. I know you don’t believe me. You are too smart. Too worldly. Too street-wise. You’ve got things under control.

It’s there. The invisible cloak that envelopes us with a false sense of security. We don’t see it but we can feel it. Something is off.

At our meeting tonight, I shared that one of the reasons I wasn’t able to see what was happening with the priest was my own distrust in my gut feelings and judgement. I tend to tell myself that I should not feel anything unpleasant. And if I do, it is not because of someone else, but because of my own shortcomings. I “should” always feel calm and pleasant. I “should” always feel in control.

So if someone is being a total ass or crossing over my boundaries….and what are boundaries…..I am the one who tries to fix and make pleasant and not let anything get out of control. It’s my go-to move. Narcissists love it.

And we learn this stuff and we continue to teach this stuff. Don’t speak. Don’t show emotion. You don’t get to have any emotions. You are responsible for others’ behavior. So stuff it down any way you can.

We also talked a little bit tonight about how evil can disguise itself as good. I went back to the cat story my priest told me and everyone. What a good man. So patient. He just sat and watched the feral cat every day for months. Little by little he drew her in and got her to trust him. Until the day came when she stepped foot into his apartment and the door slammed behind her. Trapping her. Well, that was the version I got. Other people just got that he was patient and kind to animals. I got the evil version. Come to my place and my cat will kill you.

But what gets me most about non-physical violence is that people will call these predators brilliant. They know the play book. There are actually books that discuss their secret codes. They have the advantage. They leave their victims feeling the need to forgive them and to turn the other cheek. Survivors struggle with this concept alone for years.

What gets me is that they can actually break people to the point where someone will feel they have no choice but to degrade themselves in the hope that the torture will stop. But instead it just intensifies. The bar gets raised higher while the victim’s self esteem plummets and their depression and desire for self harm increases. Because I only knew one priest. And he had other victims. And probably still does. He is out there deliberately destroying people. And he is only one of many.

Sometimes I do really hate what I do. I hate it. It was bad enough to live through it. And sometimes, truthfully, it gets to be too much sometimes. Sometimes it feels like there is too much evil and too little we can do about it.

But you know what? There’s also a lot of concrete in this world. And dandelions push their way through. They do what seems to be impossible because they are resilient. Be the dandelion.

Have a good week….don’t forget to take the poll.

Brian Toale11:59 AM (5 hours ago)
to Brian

Hello all –

We’ve picked up a bunch of new sponsors on the ASA and really want to continue that momentum into the final couple of weeks of session. Please follow @SafeHorizon and @JessSchafroth on twitter. Many coalition members also frequently post about the ASA. Please also follow @Alisonturkos @agrenell @MHoechstetter @ModelAllianceNY @Michael Polenberg @NYSPACL

We need to amplify the ASA as much as possible and continue to push for additional co-sponsors and a floor vote.

The Daily News editorialized in favor of the ASA today.
https://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/ny-edit-what-survivors-deserve-20210524-3zdkxz644jdptip55blbiguedm-story.html

We still need survivor testimonials; one-to-two page stories to share with members. This is the NUMBER ONE thing we’ve been asked for and we don’t have very many to share. Please send asap so we can distribute!!! We can share with name or without names. These stories are so important, and that personalization is what is so difficult about doing this advocacy remotely. Members need something tangible. The CVA was about policy and it was also about Bridie and Tom and Amelia and Brian, etc. Let us help tell your story and the story of your clients.

Thank you so much!!!! We have a lot of momentum with us. Let’s kick it up even more for the final few weeks.  

Jessica Schafroth

Vice President

Touched by the Sun

Last week’s poll showed that the thing that keeps most of us from telling our truth is the fear of public scrutiny.

I get that. I think most people get that. Think about what happens with kids on social media or anyone for that matter no matter how old when personal information or photos are exposed. You don’t want to be vulnerable again. You don’t want to be hurt again. The only control you have seems to be hiding and not going through all of that again on an even larger scale.

Since I’ve spoken with the bishop, I’ve been a bit paranoid. I get emails from people all of the time and occasionally things just don’t feel right for some reason and a spidey sense goes off. Such was the case where a gentleman wanted me to call him instead of email. When he got done telling me his story, he wanted to know something about me….how many kids did I have and was I planning to take legal action in my case. I felt vulnerable. I didn’t know this person. Yes, we are all connected in a sense and I don’t mind sharing if it helps other people, but to be directly asked by someone….I don’t know.

And it’s not about who is asking or the situation really….it is about a feeling. I’ve ignored or questioned feelings before. Not anymore. Well, I say that, but upbringing is hard to overcome. I was raised to be polite to everyone. And to smile. My mom tells me to smile even when I am video chatting with her.

Anyway, someone this week said that they didn’t think the priests actually knew what the outcome was for their victims. Perhaps if they could see the damage they have done, it would help open their eyes. Personally, I don’t think they care. And if they were shown the outcome, would somehow make it about themselves and their own “feelings”.

Have you ever lived with an alcoholic? Someone you know who has good in them somewhere, but as much as they seem to show remorse for something they’ve done and promise never to do such a thing again….do we really believe that will happen?

I think enablers do. I’m an enabler. I’m working on it. But I am.

But, perhaps it’s time to take a look at the fourth rule for dealing with a narcissist…and that is….

Don’t assume a narcissist cares.

And once again, I don’t diagnose people and I really don’t care whether or not someone is a textbook anything. I only know that when I look at these rules and apply them to my life, it makes sense in many cases, so….

Our “Narc” love bombs us. Praise, warmth, sensitivity, flirtation….making you feel warm and fuzzy and worthy of love…and we want to believe. I mean, we live in a gray world where the highlight of our day might be having good painting weather or being able to button our jeans. Or is that just me?

Anyway, although we say we don’t want drama in our lives, we do want that bit of color when it comes along. Doesn’t it feel good to be appreciated? To have a talent or your intelligence acknowledged? To have someone look into your eyes like you’re on a first date in high school again?

Pleasurable feelings that have been deeply buried because life sucks and I’ll never fall in love again….as someone else pointed out this week….we are pack animals. We are programmed to connect and to care and to touch and be touched by others.

And if we are “damaged” and unsure of what love is really supposed to look like, we can be tricked. Even when we think we know better. That is why older people are more vulnerable and are targeted by con artists….because they tend to be lonely.

I remember one night, sitting in a bar with a friend. I had a drink in front of me….the only one I planned to have as I was driving. She had been seeing a married man. A physically abusive married man to boot. She “knew better”, but was drawn to him for whatever reason. Usually they say it is because we fall in love in the beginning of the relationship, within the love bombing stage.

So this guy shows up. I am not thrilled as I know what he is and what he has done to my friend. But he brings all of us ladies a rose, and buys us a round of drinks. Okay, this guy I saw through….because I knew the backstory and because we were in a bar where you meet someone like this all the time. I didn’t touch the drink . I finished the one I had and left.

Again with my mom….when I told her what had happened, my mom told me I had been rude and since he had paid for the drink, I should have drunk it. My mom never hung out in bars without my dad. And she is….once again….a representative of a time…not so very long ago.

But back to “our Narc”. We’ve been love bombed by someone who has taken an oath to follow Jesus. Someone who knows the Ten Commandments and would not break them on purpose. Someone who can see into our soul and loves everyone as does God.

He’s not some guy in a bar. We know what that guy is after. This guy is pure. Sex for him only exists within a loving relationship…and marriage. There is no doubt that he cares.

Plus, I think that if we are damaged….and by that, I mean have had damage done to us and carried it with us….I think we tend to relate to the damage in others….or what we think we see.

Now, I’ve read that Narcissists are indeed very damaged people….and that they know how to put on a front very well. But I think we need to look at their damage as if it were ashes in the aftermath of a fire. There is nothing left inside. Nothing to give you. Nothing of substance exists within. They are empty and in need of taking from you. And take they will….until you feel like you are empty inside as well.

These are not just words on a page. There seem to be so many people in unbalanced or emotionally abusive relationships. Relationships that seemed so right at the beginning. Relationships that sometimes take many many years for people to figure out what is going on because they are too close to see the forest for the trees. Good people who empty people have sunk their hooks into and drain the life from. But I digress.

Logic can be an unwelcome intruder when it comes to having your love light lit and you feel passion stirring. But listen. We make mistakes and we always will. But value the love that you have to give. And try to bring more color into your life…not so easy right now….but try to bring the color to your life yourself. Enjoy being you.

Have a good week, and please take our poll.

Getting to Know You

Last week’s poll showed that the majority of people if they could, would go back to the year 1970 knowing what they know now. Wow, the mistakes I could have avoided if I could back.

This past week, I had an old acquaintance from high school post her support for Catholic priests on Facebook. Sometimes when I have posted things on Facebook…usually sharing a news article about the church….she has added words in support of priests to my post. This week, she posted something on her own saying how she supports priests and what good men they are.

I am not usually one to argue points with people, having found that most of the time, people who hold such staunch opinions are pretty closed-minded. But in this case, I said my piece. To her argument that priests are good men and that if anyone goes after them, they should also go after other religions and people, I said that abuse happens in all religions and wherever there is a chance for abuse of power. It also included abuse by nuns. I also said that there are support groups for different religions and that I speak to survivors of abuse all the time.

Her heated response to this was…and this is not a direct quote but rather an idea of what she said as she has since deleted her post….So what you are saying is that this can happen with anyone….even by the person who lives next door?

And that was followed by how she agreed that child abuse was never a good thing and that a nun she knew belonged in jail….although she didn’t specify why.

And this was followed by something that made no sense at all to me…..she said….Where were you when John Wayne Gacy was around?

I didn’t respond to that as I didn’t know what she wanted to me to do about John Wayne Gacy or how that had anything to do with survivors of clergy abuse, but it was clear that she feels strongly about priests being good men that are being unfairly targeted so…

What is sad is that I too felt that way….not that priests were being unfairly targeted…but that it wasn’t a big problem and that priests were basically good people. And feeling that way tends to allow predators to keep abusing. Because some people….I think many people…..feel that you just don’t go after priests because they do good work for God.

I told a friend of mine that I had spoken with the bishop and I have not heard a word back from her. She is the one who got me the job at the diocese. The reaction I get from people who have not been abused by a priest is that you keep quiet and you don’t speak up against the church.

And it seems like an impossible task….like throwing pebbles against a brick wall….trying to tell people what is going on and trying to seek justice….but I believe that each time you speak your truth, it is an intent, and an energy being sent out….and that is power. There is power in truth. You may not win your case, you may not see justice, you may not be believed, but I think you grow stronger within yourself.

And speaking of talking….I wanted to add here the third rule of dealing with a narcissist….and that is….TMI.

This is a tough one when it comes to clergy. When you have been raised Catholic….or any religion really….we look to our religious leaders for absolution and “spilling your guts” is all part of the plan. Seriously. Think about it.

From the time we are in first grade…six or seven years old…we are told to go tell a stranger in a dark booth what we have done wrong. And be honest now because God is watching and he knows all. I get the concept. We want to raise our kids to be accountable and to know right from wrong, but when you think about it….how vulnerable are you as a six year old going alone into a dark booth with a strange adult who you are told to trust unconditionally….with your “bad” thoughts and deeds?

And we continue to do this over our lives as our “bad” thoughts and deeds increase on the “sin” scale.

And having worked at the Tribunal, I saw people come talk to the priests and have to tell them personal details about their marriage so that canon law could determine whether the marriage was valid in the eyes of God. These people hear all of the details. Why? Because for some reason, we need approval from someone in order dissolve a marriage. We need the priest and the Roman Catholic court to tell us that it was okay and that we did the right thing. This marriage didn’t count. Your spouse did not fulfill God’s desire that you pro-create or did not fulfill their job as a spouse in some other ways and so God says that you were right and that you may now go on to marry in the church again.

And it is amazing how many people have their second or third church wedding before the ink is dry. So important is it that they can wear white or have grandma at the church.

It’s part of our upbringing that we fit into our role in the church. That we make our families happy and do things the “right” way. It brings order and security to our lives. Continuity and so many things our lives and the world are lacking. And so we open up. We confess. We have no boundaries when it comes to the clergy. There is no such thing as TMI (Too much information). Because we are encouraged to bare our souls.

We want to trust. There is a comfort in feeling that when you walk in the door of the church, the outside world disappears and you are in the presence of love. That when the priest dons his priestly garb, he is a professional who is held to a strict code of ethics. When we walk in that door feeling grief-stricken or suicidal, or in need of comfort and support and guidance, we should expect nothing else. What should not happen is that we find there someone who sees an opportunity to use that vulnerability against us and to further harm us.

So, while it is said that sharing too much information with a narcissist can be used against us in the long run, it goes against everything we have been taught to trust and believe.

It’s good to know because there are abusive narcissists everywhere in life and if you happen to be a kind, trusting, naive, open person, or someone who happens to appreciate someone who encourages you to open up and talk about yourself…..and who doesn’t like to talk about themselves….well, be aware that in all kinds of relationships, people can use your vulnerabilities against you. It’s a sad fact. And to me there is nothing sadder than the fact that you can’t always trust the people who you are supposed to be able to trust.

But also as they say “knowledge is power”. And so is truth.

Please take a moment to take our poll. And have a wonderful week.