I hope you dont mind an outsider writing into your blog, maybe especially since I am a priest, Mark Murray’s local priest in fact. Mark introduced me to your blog.
Reading your entries has brought me great sadness and anger, and also shame at the priesthood to which I belong, and also deep powerlessness at my inability to help address these issues other than in small ways. And this by no means for the first time, I must add. But also I’m very aware that these feelings are nothing compared to what many of you have experienced, and at a very tender and innocent age. It must surely take some courage to write as you’ve been doing. I have to say what you guys have been writing has also made me increasingly aware of the privilege it’s been to have walked alongside Mark and to have shared his journey over four years. Mark’s courage and humility in sharing his pain and seeking an apology is, to me, deeply impressive. As a priest I’ve met over thirty-two years many people carrying pain but and it always inspires me to meet those who have carried pain and huge disruption of life with dignity, balance and great courage, as Mark does and, from what I’m reading, as so many of you alongside him seem to do. During my life I’ve listened to several people who have suffered at the hands of people who exploit and abuse vulnerable people sexually, and I’m sure this is why I could more easily receive and understand Mark’s experiences.
I’m writing to express solidarity, if this is acceptable to you, (and I will understand if it isn’t.) It’s terrible to me that people treated this way should feel alone in their predicament as some of you have stated on the blog. This isn’t simply about individual predators slipping into an otherwise saintly church. For me its about a church culture which fails to perceive and address its own systems which blindside us to what’s going on – clericalism for example, and the puerile way sexuality is dealt with and the lack of real dialogue. I’m also writing to express my shame in regard to the examples of terrible behaviour and cover-up in the Church I represent and my deep regret at what has happened for all of you. Finally, I’m writing to offer my support, if this is relevant. These evils will keep occurring as long as we suppress painful truths. I believe we need to understand the causes and shape of this evil.
Mark came to ask my help towards seeking an apology from the Verona/Comboni Fathers four years ago. All he was asking of them was the acknowledgment of the pain and hurt caused by the way various Verona/Comboni priests used their seminarians as sexual objects when you were all young , innocent and vulnerable boys preparing to become priests. From this he hoped for some resolution and maybe a liberation which might come with acknowledgment – so crucial for healing. Hence I recall, even though well aware of the realities of this issue in the church, being shocked and angered, time after time, at the variety and shape of the brick walls Mark and I have met up with. Both society and church suppress their dark sides – but as one of you observed – this is distinctively different and much more crucial when it happens in the Church.
Thanks for your blog. It’s an important document – please keep it going.