"Never ever give up."
Trigger Alert— This post mentions of systemic sexual and religious abuse. Proceed accordingly.
I am upset about the the President, the Supreme Court and the too-numerous-to-name- shenanigans on Capitol Hill. I am upset about systemic oppression, institutionalized racism, and the personal and cultural fragility that keeps un-recognized prejudice and bias operative in the overt and covert ways. I worry about the environment, medical care, the cost of education, affordable housing, and the capitalist takeover of common sense and decency. However, of all the news in the media these days, the continued reports of sexual abuse within the Catholic church hit closest to home.
I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. My husband is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse from priests in the Catholic church. While the details of his story are not mine to tell, suffice it to say that the news reports about what can only be described as “epidemic levels of abuse” land in a very personal way in our home. I have nothing polite, inspiring, or nice to say about generations of clergy abusing children, while community elders hid the abuse in an effort to preserve a dangerous and damaging status quo.
I am a person of faith and I am not anti-church. While a lot of my religious upbringing wasn’t particularly helpful to me, I consider very little of my religious education harmful, unlike my husband’s experience. And, having found authentic avenues of spiritual expression as an adult, my participation in church now is enriching and nourishing. Mr. Iyengar once said that yoga is not a religion but is the “science of religion.” I relate to his assertion because my yoga studies and practices have helped me make use of many structures of religion without being bogged down by dogma or doctrine.
I was in a Bible Study recently when, in an effort to include me, the leader brought up the topic of yoga. A big discussion followed about whether or not someone can be a Christian and a yogi. As I listened patiently, one woman who is a student at the local yoga studio, said, “Well, for me, when they say OM, I just go to a Christian place.”
I thought to myself, “How interesting… I don’t have a “yoga place” and a “Christian place.” I simply have The Place that opens in prayer, worship, service, communion, and leads through the many expressions of devotion where I have come to live. The Place is expansive, loving, hopeful, deep, and strengthening.
Distinctions such as “Christian” or “yogic” are not meaningful to me. I know that such distinctions are very meaningful to many people and I respect the importance of said distinctions for people who feel these differences matter. For me, modes of worship vary and moods of practice differ, but where I am delivered into through worship and practice is decidedly non-denominational. I used to say that I was a great Christian except for the tenet that Christianity is the only way, which unfortunately, always seemed such a primary principle that belonging felt difficult, even though I have always loved Jesus’ teachings. At any rate, somewhere along the way, I stopped worrying about being a good or bad Christian, a good or bad devotee of my guru, a good or bad yogi, or even a good or bad person. I started focusing on those activities, people, teachings, and environments that are Real to me and that promote my growth in wholeness and Love.
My husband and I have a lot of discussions about the church, religion, and faith because when spiritual authority figures perpetrate abuse, the result not only a loss of innocence, agency, and trust, but oftentimes a loss of the very thing that could be an avenue to heal the wounds of such primal betrayals— faith. Walking the path of recovery looks different for each person. Full of hills and valleys, stormy seasons and sunny days, recovery is a process that takes its own bittersweet time to unfold. And, time takes time.
At any rate, I am encouraged that generations of darkness are coming to light, even as I am heart-broken by the magnitude of suffering. I predict that state after state, diocese after diocese, will be faced with the revelations of the abused, all urging recognition and reconciliation. I know my husband lives into the task of healing with sincerity, tenacity, and commitment, as do the many survivors living in the wake of abuse, injustice, and deception. My deepest hope and prayer is that the leaders of the Catholic church can summon the necessary courage for their own healing and recovery. (Read More)
In the meantime, if you are a woman in the Catholic church, I urge you to sign this petition and to copy it far and wide to your circles of influence. One of the authors told me that the writers do no not expect an answer from the Pope, but they do hope the media will notice the petition and the media attention will exert some pressure on the power structure of the church. If you are not a Catholic woman, but would like to support the process of recovery already underway, please share the petition widely since you may know some people who are eligible to sign.
And, regardless of your personal faith and the varied avenues that take you to a place of wholeness and Love within you, I wish courage, strength, and healing for all of us.. We live in difficult times, when forces seem to be stacked in favor of despair, cynicism, and nihilism. In the face of such odds, it is easy to overlook small acts of courage and affirmation and to discount our individual contributions. Whatever positive action you can take, I urge you to stay in the game and to invest in whatever expression of Love, hope, and faith that you can muster today.
And, if you are fortunate enough to wake up tomorrow, do it again.
And never ever give up.
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"There is a light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heaven, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the light that shines in our heart."