Spotlight, Canada and the Fear of Priests

I recently watched the movie Spotlight about the uncovering of abuse by priests in Boston. It was a very good film – shocking but great. It was incredible to see how the American public reacted to the news about the Catholic Church condoning the actions of pedophile priests.

Sadly this has not been the end of abuse by priests. In a recent article in the Independant, Bishops do not have to report child abuse to the police, only internally. Vatican machine protects its members quite well. Victims of abuse are still largely left to deal with it alone. Here is the link to that article:

One thing I have observed is the way in which abuse survivors are treated. Not all are treated the same. In Canada the emphasis has been placed on the atrocities committed on aboriginal groups by the catholics through the residential school system. Since I was abused outside of such a system, my story has not been regarded as having importance. As far as many Canadian beliefs go, only aboriginal people were abused by the church.Many people in Canada still live in fear about speaking out about abuse whether it be through the Church, or other groups that pit power above people.  In the United States, the reporting of pedophile priests is much more active and there is more support for all victims of such abuse. Because I belong to a “privileged” Canadian class I faced ridicule when I reported the abuse. The local newspaper in Hopeless took the side of the church, and people wrote in to voice support for the “poor’ priests being accused of abuse. A neighbour of my parents laughed about the situation at the local Tim Hortons – he thought the abuse I endured was hilarious. Another “friend” of my parents became an ad hoc spy for the local church where the abuse occurred. She reported to them what we were up to so they could take care of potential witnesses stepping up. She was successful as there was a victim willing to speak out. My parents shared with her that there was another victim ready to join me in my pursuit of justice. But the night before this person could be interviewed by my lawyer, he was paid a surprise visit by a priest and suddenly refused to speak out – fear prevailed.

We all react differently to traumatic news. I think that many of these people could not come to terms that this was happening in their back yard. Sadly, I have never felt comfortable returning to Hopeless since news of the abuse was made public.

Yet the larger organizations continue to help their members dodge accountability for the crimes they commit. The survivors try to understand why these things happened to them, and then spend the rest of their lives wondering if they deserved being abused, if they provoked it, and why they were picked. And yet the larger community still regards survivors of abuse as outsiders. We are the people you are uncomfortable around. You pity us. You don’t like to talk about abuse with us. You wonder if we perhaps are abusers as well. You stigmatize us. You are lucky. You are not one of us.

Please let me tell you, as far as I am concerned, you will find that many abuse survivors are quiet, empathetic, gentle and unassuming. We just want to be heard, and treated fairly. I know that I am standing up more and more for my rights and my voice in this world. Slowly, I am taking my power back. It has taken years of healing to be able to do so. I have no tolerance for bullying and for being pushed around. There was a time I did not want to stand out and up for my rights. Now, finally I am doing just that. I have spent years of my life trying to get people to like me, and to not rock the boat – to go with the flow. Of course humour will always be a part of me – I like to think I am good at it. But it no longer is my survival reflex. There are times to be kind, compassionate, considerate, funny, and times to take a stand for what is right. Like everyone else, I am a unique individual and must be allowed to exist.

In Star Wars, the Rebels embrace all forms of life, all species and all races. Each of these unique civilizations are united in their cause. The Empire strives for uniformity, and does not share such a heterogeneous view of the galaxy. The world is a large place, and surely there will come a time when we can all live freely and without oppression, poverty, and fear. But in order to do so, we all must take responsibility for our actions and learn to speak out against all injustices. It is our obligation as citizens of this planet, and our duty for our future heirs.

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