Letters to the Editor

Catholic church: Abuse should be reported

I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools all the way from kindergarten to graduate school. I am deeply impressed with the caring, competent leadership of the dedicated majority of Catholic leaders regarding clergy abuse. Many have already created intelligent policy regarding this problem. One example of this is the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Since 1988, they have had an excellent free brochure, available to anyone, defining clergy abuse. (This is available through their Internet site or by phone.)

This Archdiocese and likely others, are currently swamped with reports of sexual misconduct. All reports are being properly investigated, and there will be legal consequences only where the evidence warrants this. Unlike those who believe that a majority of reported abuse claims are false, I believe that the majority of the current clergy abuse reports are true and can be substantiated.

Often, clergy abuse cases have gone unreported. It is quite possible that reports of clergy abuse disclosed so far are just the tip of the iceberg. I personally have witnessed and reported clergy misconduct involving a head pastor and a religious brother who happened to have a PhD in psychology, and was the school counselor. In both cases these clergy acted inappropriately with many children. Sometimes, only one child or vulnerable adult may be mistreated — In some cases it is obvious to everyone around that abuse is happening. Other times, it will be well hidden. Even if a clergy member doesn’t personally harm you, someone else who says the same person hurt them may be telling the truth.

Secrecy, lack of guidelines, and dismissive attitudes enables abuse, and prevents people from coming forward to report wrongdoing. Children may talk among each other about inappropriate behavior, but don’t necessarily mention it to adults; because that isn’t something they know to do. My hope is that all children and adults will be taught what to do, before inappropriate behaviors happen, and that there will be widespread access to safe, confidential places to report problems, so that abuse will be prevented!

By shining the light of truth to clergy abuse, as is happening now, we are acknowledging that there is and has been a problem. The reality is that this problem exists in many denominations and settings, not just in the Catholic Church. This admission of harm and sin is the first step towards healing for both individuals and the community at large.

If you have experienced abuse misconduct by clergy, (regardless of the denomination), or inappropriate actions by any other person and are hesitating to come forward and report it, my hope is that this letter will encourage you to do so.

If you are Catholic, contact the Archdiocese where the situation occurred to make a report. If you are uncomfortable speaking to a male clergy, request to report to a woman.

If you are not sure where to report to, start with the crisis line at 360-675-2232. Another excellent resource is: Center for Prevention of Domestic Violence (Seattle) 206-634-1903; go to www.cpsdv.org.

M. Duffy

Oak Harbor

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