Maybe the changes needed in the Catholic Church start with parishioners


Catholic priest at Mass praying
Image: iStock

CW: sexual abuse

I have been outraged by the latest allegations of reaction from Catholic in light of clergy sexual abuse that came out of Pennsylvania. I have been outraged of the repeated deflection from certain clergy and members of Catholic hierarchy: blaming gay people, secular culture and birth control for the horrific sex crimes that have been happening for decades.

This has made me think that the church still doesn’t get it and that the abuse will still happen, even if it has stopped currently. Frankly, there must be something toxic in the Catholic Church culture to allow such horror to flourish decade after decade. I fear that these issues aren’t being dealt with adequately. Too many clergy and archbishops are too resitant to change, even if it may be beneficial in preventing abuse in the future.

However, it heartened me to read on Patheos this week that some practicing Catholics are starting to bite back. They are demanding change from clergy. One has even slammed the (false) link that has been made between gay men and the rape of pubescent and pre – pubescent children.

This shows to me that, if the Catholic Church will ever change, it won’t be because of clergy. It’ll be because of the demands from parishioners.

It’s parents who take their children to a Catholic parish church who need to demand that their children be treated with respect. They need to be able to place healthy boundaries around their children and clergy and enforce them if need be.

Catholic parents should feel free to defy the Catholic Church and allow their children to learn about healthy sexuality and bodily autonomy. This means giving children correct sex education, the confidence to say ‘no’ to unawanted touch and the ability to speak out if they feel unsafe.

Catholic parents should model respect for people regardless of gender, including their spouses or partners. Young boys should be taught to treat girls with respect and avoid gender superiority. This has been exposed as another issue that has exacerbated the rate of sexual abuse in both the Catholic and Evangelical Church.

Progressive Catholics should stand up against homophobia in the Church. No, LGBTQ+ don’t cause children to be raped. This (false) correlation toward the LGBTQ+ community and sexual abuse can actually prevent male sex abuse survivors from getting help because of the stigma. All churches need to stop this and stop it now. I fear that it doesn’t, Christianity — both Catholicism and Protestantism — will continue to be tarred with the brush of sexual abuse. Plus, it plays right into a predator’s playbook. Why would a victim of sexual abuse speak out if they fear (or know) that they will be shunned because of false beliefs that he and others have about sexuality? So, please, don’t allow your children to grow up with this mentality. If it’s rampant in your congregation, challenge it. I really do feel that your child’s safety may depend on it.

Lastly, I think I need to keep emphasising this. Don’t allow priests or other members of the clergy to impose and use their ‘authority’ without condition. Set boundaries that you and your family are comfortable with. If your boundaries aren’t respected, maybe you need to find another church or another means of worship (i.e. home bible study, etc). You and your family should be your main concern and no one has the right to bully you into thinking otherwise. It’s time Christians (Catholics and Protestants), start fighting back against predators and spiritual abusers in the church. Enough is enough.

If anyone found this post distressing, you can contact Lifeline: 13 11 14

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Since this is a global problem, like always, feel free to drop any links or contact details of sexual abuse counselling, psychological help, etc from services in your country. Thank you very much.