June 26, 2018 3:47pm
This week, an article was published in a conservative magazine outlining the difficulties reporters face in publishing painful news, especially information about sexual boundary violations in the church. The article was written Rod Dreher and published in The American Conservative. Dreher was bemoaning the fact the reporters had information that an influential Catholic Cardinal was a sexual molester but were unable to publish the information because victims would not go public.
He emailed several friends in 2003, “A major secular newspaper will break a sensational story about Cardinal Theordore McCarrick tomorrow.”
The story ran fifteen years later on June 22, 2018.
He blames priests because they keep secrets for each other to protect themselves, their bishops and the church.
He blames the naïve public, “People cannot bear very much reality.”
He postulates that it is more commanding for a reporter to have information about a powerful person than to publish an article about them, therefore losing that stronghold.
Dreher states, “In 2002, I pitched a book about the abuse scandal to a major New York publisher. ‘Nobody wants to pay $27 to read about priests f**king little boys,’ she rejected it.”
Dreher’s truth is mine also–I’ve written a narrative nonfiction book about thirty years of work with traumatized children and like his book, My Record is True is having trouble finding a home. Christian agents and publishers prefer hallmark endings and don’t want to hear about adults having sex with children. Non-Christian agents don’t want to hear about God and redemption.
And so, I sit in this place of non-existence, telling a story that few want to listen to or believe–and I’ve been here since 1985. I am not a writer but I am a story teller. The story I have to tell must find its audience.
#MeToo has made it safer for women in unequal relationships to blow the whistle on perpetrators but has there been substantive change in how we understand and respond to serial sexual molesters? Our awareness about the prevalence remains limited. Our ability to protect ourselves continues to be minimal.
How many people knew about the predatory acts these famous men committed and how many of them went home night after night and never said anything– hundreds if not thousands.
Only one, Kevin Spacey’s brother has come out and said that he and his brother were molested by their father. It is likely, that all these men are trauma victims. Yet it conveniences us to imagine that if we punish the aggressor, the problem will end—wrong and so enabling for the perpetrators.
We have created a culture that elevates sex in all forms of media—music, movies, advertising, and magazines—with little regard for the consequences to children. Recently, I was called to consult with a school regarding the suspension of an eleven-year-old boy. When angered by the teacher, he responded, “Get down on your knees and suck me.” The teacher was astonished. I’m not, and you shouldn’t be either. This vocabulary is common fare in children’s music and movies. Film directors, actors, and musicians who include pornographic material in their creations are perpetrators. When we fail to safeguard children, we are enablers.
While the media glamorizes sex, protective agencies fail as we let children be sexualized and abused simply because we don’t want to think about trauma, choosing to remain uneducated and unmoved despite the statistics. One in four children are abused in childhood and yet adults step aside and don’t believe as priests, principals, teachers, janitors, neighbors, coaches, scout leaders, relatives, and parents molest children.
My work to educate is relentless. But no wonder there are so few dialogues with victims about their abuse. Everyone, including them wants to forget. A reckoning is needed about what has happened, within the Catholic church and everywhere. Transparency and accountability are required. In order to heal, hurts need to be spoken out loud and believed. If we do not take these steps, our behavior will continue to be controlled by the past, and repeated.
It is imperative that writers and reporters increase people’s tolerance for reality by continually telling the hard truth because not doing so creates deep wounds that will fracture and destroy us.
To emphasize Dreher’s point, people need to believe reality.