As a goodly number of sentient beings are by now surely aware, the Roman Catholic Church is mired in yet another near-global, clerical sex-abuse and institutional cover-up meltdown. How it unfolds will undoubtedly alter the church’s future trajectory. Whether that will be for better or worse remains to be seen.
But this post is not primarily about the Catholic hierarchy’s serious and pervasive failings. Rather, it's my attempt to remind readers that such failings are far more about the human condition than any particular faith group.
I know this because, though I am not Catholic, I was also a victim of clerical sexual abuse.
In my case, it happened when I was about 11 in the basement of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue in the New York City borough of Queens, where I grew up.
This was the synagogue that my parents trusted to provide me with a grounding in religious Judaism. Instead, the trauma of my experience distanced me from the faith — actually, all faiths — for decades to come.
I never told my parents about any of this, out of shame and fear, so they went to their graves ignorant of what happened. All they knew was that I refused to ever return to that synagogue, not even for my needed Bar Mitzvah lessons. (Both the lessons and the actual Bar Mitzvah took place elsewhere.)
Synagogue clerical sex was most likely one of my earliest experiences of adult hypocrisy — not counting what I experienced in my own family, of course. Who knows? Perhaps it was the trauma that led me to become a journalist.
Because if adult hypocrisy angers you, where better to uncover it than in the arenas of human endeavor — politics, the so-called justice system, the business world, and as I now know, institutional religion and even journalism — that one continually encounters as a reporter?
I'd say working as a journalist is a damn good way to learn about the world as it truly is, warts and all.
Before preceding further, let me state that sharing my experience here is in no way meant to provide comfort to those many Catholics desperate for such institutional comfort. That’s for you to find, or to cease searching for, on your own.