Angry at the Catholic Church

person holding up angry mask

The Language of Righting Wrongs

The other night at my Spanish class I saw a woman I knew, but I couldn’t remember where I’d met her. So I introduced myself and we did that thing where you both list all your affiliations and social activities, looking for anything that connects.

One of the activities I mentioned was my work with SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). Her eyes lit up. She said she’d never heard of SNAP, so I told her about the group and it’s work with survivors. And naturally, she was curious how I got involved with that group.

Priest Abuse – the Issue We All Agree On

As happens with most people who hear my story, before long we were discussing the systemic problem of priest abuse in the Catholic Church. It is one of the most unifying topics in the world today. Everyone is appalled by what’s been going on, what continues to occur.

“Aren’t you angry?” she said. “I’m angry. Children are still being abused by priests even though the Pope speaks of zero tolerance.”

Admitting I’m Angry at the Catholic Church

My first inclination is always to say no, I am no longer angry about how the church treated me. Anger isn’t an emotion I cherish or want to carry in me. I don’t want to fight the church, change it, or mend it. I have already given enough to it. I want to help and support others in healing from abuse and betrayal by sharing the ways I have accomplished this in my life. But … yes, it’s there.

Anger

From the American Psychological Association

“Anger is “an emotional state that varies in intensity from mild irritation to intense fury and rage,” according to Charles Spielberger, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in the study of anger. Like other emotions, it is accompanied by physiological and biological changes; when you get angry, your heart rate and blood pressure go up, as do the levels of your energy hormones, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.”

I dislike falling prey to that powerless sense of rage that so much of our news seems designed to evoke. When I’m dissatisfied, I much prefer taking action or having a serious conversation to try to make things better.

And yet anger is a sign of life and energy. In that regard, it’s what jump starts us into resolve and determination to right wrongs and make things better. That is the kind of anger I believe in.

So I said I wasn’t angry, that disgusted is how I feel about the Church’s continuing role in harming and not protecting children. But perhaps that’s just parsing words.

Disgust

According to the psychological research group Emotionwise:

“Disgust is an emotion marked by aversion to something that is highly distasteful. Related to disgust are feelings of repulsion, abhorrence, loathing, revulsion, and sickness.

When people feel disgust, they experience a strong impulse to avoid the item that caused them to feel that way.”

I’ll admit that, on occasion I do let my disgust with the church become anger at the church. For instance, when I hear things like the Pope is working to release a pedophile priest from prison, or has chosen a bishop who has protected priest offenders as one of his advisers, I just get mad. Still, it’s an anger mixed with disgust, aversion and loathing. It affirms my desire to never again be apart of such dysfunction and illness.

I’m Not Alone in Feeling Disgusted By the Catholic Church

Under the category Disgusting, The Daily Beast published an article this week entitled How Sicko Priests Got Away With It. Here are some excerpts. If they don’t disgust you, they may make you angry.

The details of the abuse may change, running the gamut from fondling and masturbation to full penetration and child pornography, but the pattern is largely the same: very few abusers ever face criminal courts, and only a scant few face Vatican justice.

Last year the Vatican admitted that it had defrocked 848 priests between 2004 and 2013, without specifying where they are from. The number is small in relation to the total number of known allegations and proven abuses kept by victims’ groups.

The American Church is thought to have the highest number of cases, an assumption supported by the fact it has paid out the astronomical sum of $2.5 billion in compensation to victims through legal settlements, according to Vatican records released to the United Nations last year. It also paid some $74 million in counseling services and about $50 million in legal fees, according to Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s Geneva envoy who faced a United Nations Committee on Torture last May.

“There’s no climate of impunity,” Tomasi told the U.N. panel. “There’s total commitment to clean the house, to work to not have a repetition of abuses.”

If that’s the case, then why don’t dioceses do more to help the state protect the children and prosecute their abusers?

According to Tomasi’s records, there are fewer than 150 priests—current and defrocked—known to be in jails for sex abuse worldwide right now. But that figure begs the question: where are the rest? “Of the proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics, some are deceased, a few are imprisoned, a few live in church facilities and are allegedly monitored,” David Clohessy, the head of the Survivors Network for Those Abused By Priests or SNAP told The Daily Beast. “But we believe the vast majority have never been defrocked, so they keep collecting church paychecks while living and working among unsuspecting families, neighbors, and colleagues, while also working hard to stay beneath the radar.”

If Clohessy is right then there are a great many known pedophile priests wandering around the world who still have access to minors, not just in the United States, but across Europe and elsewhere as well.”

Yes, there’s plenty there to justify our feeling angry with the Catholic church. But whether you say you’re angry at the church, as my friend does, or identify the way you feel as disgust, like me, you likely agree the church is sunk in a deplorable situation. So find a way to express your discontent and join us in working together to hold priests and bishops accountable for these things that royally piss us off.

4 thoughts on “Angry at the Catholic Church”

  1. Hi Vern — so much wisdom in your writing. Thank you for taking the time. Clericalism is and was the major problem giving priests and bishops a sense of entitlement — even to the use and abuse of other bodies. Things are a little bit better now, but the past needs to be reconciled and survivors of the past need justice. Justice delayed is justice denied.

    Thank you Vern for your caring and by the way you probably know this — You are an excellent writer. Here is my op ed today from the Seattle Times and consider using some of her powerful thoughts here in the form of a comment. Comments really help. Thanks. https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/survivors-like-me-want-the-seattle-archdiocese-to-open-its-secret-files/

  2. Unfortunately, Catholic priests and bishop have become a protected class. The general elevation of their status has been incorrectly accepted by Catholics due to the error in understanding the scriptures. The Apostle Paul states “there is no one good, no not one” and “For by Grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a GIFT of God”. So priests and bishops are not to be elevated. A person who presents themselves as a “minister” of the faith must abide by the standard presented by the scripture and be a SERVANT.

    When those in “authority” fail to hold these individuals accountable, then they partake in their sins and are a scourge to the people of God.
    Any individual who abuses their “authority” especially on the innocent should immediately thrown out! “A little leaven leavens the whole lump”. The Pope needs to stop pandering to perverts and protecting them in anyway. See what the Apostle Paul says about a Bishop:
    “7 For a bishop must be without crime, as the steward of God: not proud, not subject to anger, not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre: 8 But given to hospitality, gentle, sober, just, holy, continent: 9 Embracing that faithful word which is according to doctrine, that he may be able to exhort in sound doctrine, and to convince the gainsayers. 10 For there are also many disobedient, vain talkers, and seducers: especially they who are of the circumcision: 11 Who must be reproved, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.”
    My heart grieves for the victims of abuse. I pray they all find comfort and in the arms of our Loving God for man and his ways could never provide that. “My Peace I leave you. My Peace I give unto you, not as the world gives, give I unto you”.

  3. Dear Clay,
    Thanks for taking the time to write. I certainly agree that the Church leaders have often chosen to cover up and hide crimes of priest abuse – especially upon children. More and more, Bishops are being taken to task because of the relentless work of survivor advocates. I do believe there are some very good priests who model the ways of Jesus. They are caught in this mess. They too are at fault if they know of brother priest abusers and don’t blow the whistle on them. Thanks again. Mary

  4. What is wrong with The Church as they call themselves is that their dogma, theology and catchecism rarely reflects the love and compassion of Jesus in practice. I’m tired of making excuses for their behavior and subsequent cover up. Clearly, they are not following the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I am no saint myself and I am clearly a sinner. But it would be so refreshing to find just one priest, just one who mimics the love and compassion of Jesus. I am a cradle catholic and no longer attend Mass because I believe they think the institution is God when I believe the church is made up of people. They protected the institution in lieu of helping people in dire need of Jesus.

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