My husband once said to me, "You know, everything you're saying and a lot of what you believe goes against the Catholic Church." I was quick to respond, "Maybe some of the PEOPLE of the church, sure, but NOT the Catholic faith." Where we have seen the church fail, we have seen man fail, not God. All I know is that I am here to love and be love, and that is the basis of Catholicism...or at least how I have learned and understood it.
The Keepers, a Netflix docuseries, shines a big light on one Archdioceses' grave and massive failings. It is so bad that, it should be stripped of even being an Archdioceses--if you can even do that. No matter what the Archdioceses of Baltimore says or how it tries to justify its reactions and responses, it has been completely self-serving, intentionally blind, and lacking of faith and Catholic virtue. The Keepers, highlights four important issues: 1) abuse of power, 2) sexual abuse, 3) victim blaming, and 4) confusing the faith with the church (and by church I mean certain people of the church).
Let's talk about the blatant abuse of power. Maskell, the now deceased priest at the root of this murder and the root of mass sexual abuse across Baltimore abused his power to the nth degree. I have decided not to refer to him as Fr. Maskell, because he clearly was not fatherly. He was clearly a master manipulator, preying on one of the most vulnerable and impressionable of our society. He was not only in a position of power, masquerading as a man of God, but as a priest and a guidance counselor, he was supposed to be someone people could turn to for guidance. Abuse of power situations often reminds me of the Stanford Prison Experiment. It is not uncommon for a person of power to wind up abusing that power, so it is up to the rest of society and those in greater power, to hold these people accountable. We see this happen with physicians, with teachers, with caretakers, and then you bring God into it, and let me tell you these abusive priests are no different than those claiming to kill under Islam. They are two sides of the same exact, dirty coin. We see in this case, that Maskell has his boys club of other priests and police, and they will all protect each other, turning one person's abuse into a massive cycle of abuse. The way the church has reacted, is much like how we have see universities react to rape and sexual assault cases. They're too scared to tarnish their image that they do something more stupid and more vile, and when the truth comes out they've only dug their own grave. So perhaps, everyone could start realizing that one bad priest, or even hundreds of bad priests, only makes the church look bad when the church does bad and fails to uphold its own values and look out for its own people. This goes for every other institution too afraid of damaging its own image--universities, hospitals, the NFL and other sports leagues--because your image is damaged when let the bad image stay and continue to be a part of your image.
Sexual abuse is trauma that cannot be swept under a rug or diverted. It is a crime that frankly cannot be dealt with lightly. 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys are victims of child sexual abuse, according to The National Center for Victims of Crime. That is scary. When you watch The Keepers and you see that the Archdioceses of Baltimore simply tried to divert the problem elsewhere, pretending to itself that that would resolve the problem, you see that the Archdioceses could have prevented COUNTLESS instances of abuse, if it had held Maskell accountable for his crime. Think of all the lives that could have been saved, think of how different some people's lives would be. While sometimes our bodies and our minds are so traumatize we suppress that trauma, trauma never really goes away. We cannot expect victims of abuse to just forget about it, even twenty, thirty, or forty years later. Sexual abuse often stems from an abuse of power, or trauma the abuser once endured. It's important we better educate ourselves on the matter so that we can do more to prevent it and help those who have been sexually abused. One good place to start is here: https://www.rainn.org/. There are also other resources at the bottom of the homepage.
Sadly, we still live in a world that results to a lot of victim blaming. One of the most angering parts of this series, was seeing how many times Maryland Delegate, C.T. Wilson tried to pass a bill to extend the statute of limitations for victims of sexual abuse. The bill was finally passed this year in April, however it still has serious flaws. First of all, there should not be a statute of limitations on sexual abuse or intimate partner violence. Second of all, you cannot put a time limit on trauma. If the justice system understood trauma, it would understand that people can repress trauma so deeply, it could be decades before they realize or remember they were abused, as proven in this series. It would also understand that many victims are scared to come forward right away. The most infuriating parts watching this segment of the series was the reasoning people had in support of limiting the statute of limitations for victims of abuse to come forward by the time they are twenty-five years of age. It was pure victim blaming. It's like when we watch rape trials these days, and the defense worries about the damage that could happen to the rapist's life, as if the victim's life has not already been damaged. When you take someone's innocence, when you take someone's self-worth, when you abuse someone's trust, you tear at their soul. If we really want to prevent abuse, then we need to look at the abuser. Don't tell a victim of abuse to get a gun. Prevent the abuser from being able to get a gun if you really want to try to save a person's life. Remember, when we blame victims, we silence victims, and we thus allow the cycle of abuse to continue.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, we often confuse faith with those claiming faith. Maskell--Catholic? No. Abuser? Yes. Manchester suicide bomber--Muslim? No. Murderer? Yes. White Supremacist--Republican? No. Bigot? Yes. Okay, so the last one was not a religion, but you get my point. As a devout Catholic, there are certainly things in the bible I question, and certainly things I do not agree with. No matter what religion we follow, or don't, we should always be able to question it and challenge it, because otherwise we might as well have stayed in the Dark Ages. In fact, we should regularly question and challenge our faith, because that allows us to grow and better understand our own faith and what it means to us. For example, when you read the bible, you have to remember that old men in old times wrote most of it. So, it would be very odd if we did not question some of the stories and teachings of the scriptures. There are of course very beautiful passages in the bible, great words of wisdom and guidance, and there are also things that you have to read knowing the context in which it was written. Again, I know that the lesson of all lessons my faith teaches is LOVE. Unfortunately, there will always be bad people, someone who tarnishes a name, someone who "ruins it for the rest of us." It makes me sad, that many raised as Catholics have left the Church because of the Church's grave mishandlings and some of its antiquated and misguided believes and practices. It's not the faith, but the people claiming the faith. Some people will say, well those people are part of the church and they lead the church, so the church is bad. Well, we could say the same thing about countries, but if I was to be defined by the leader of my country right now...oh boy. The thing is, we no longer live in a time where most of us are illiterate so we need someone to tell us what the bible says and interpret it for us. We as a society need to remember to ask questions, challenge what we know, and hold each other accountable. It's about being a community, whether that's your religious community, your neighborhood community, or global community. Remember Sister Cathy Cesnik, the true root of this story--she lost her life trying to stop abuse; but imagine if more people were willing to do the right thing...she could still be alive.
There are moments throughout the series as pieces come together, come uncovered, and we realize how twisted so much of it is, that I remember the movies I make have nothing on real life. I'm really grateful that Netflix decided to tell this story. This story is important on various levels, and I hope those watching realize the bigger picture. This goes beyond the Catholic Church. However, I hope the Church starts to remember what the Bible tells us, "For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it would come to light." (Mark 4:22).
BIG LOVE & HUGS