Friday, September 02, 2005

Sins Against Boys

The Catholic Church has some sort of official office at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 34th Street NW. Virtually every time I have passed by that corner for the last several years, a man about my age has been waving placards calling attention to the problem of sexual abuse. Over the years the signs have become more clever, better constructed.

This man commutes long distances each day to come to this spot and wave his signs. Why would he feel so passionate about this topic, even before it was widely exposed? It turns out that he was one of those young boys whose life was ruined by a priest’s sexual advances. He is simply asking the Church to apologize for the wrongs committed against him. Unfortunately the Church has chosen instead to ignore him.

But he has attracted the attention of everyone who passes by that corner. He has caused me to think how I might feel today if I had been violated by someone in authority 40+ years ago. This is his way of shedding those ugly feelings, those memories of a time that must conjure up a mixture of guilt and anger.

It’s interesting to consider how society’s view of this man has changed over the past few years. At first we chalked him up to a person with an ax to grind, but with a doubt about the truth of his claims. As the Catholic sex scandal unfolded, we realized that not only was he right, but that the scandal was more widespread than anyone could have ever imagined.

Now when I pass by, I feel like telling him that he has won, that the world recognizes his legitimacy. But that won’t force the Church’s apology that he still waits to receive. And it won’t fix the parts of this man that were broken so long ago. I consider this the most serious of mortal sins and pray that God can give him some peace of mind that will ease his burden and calm his anger.


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