Read The Silence We Keep: A Nun's View of the Catholic Priest Scandal Online

Authors: Karol Jackowski

Tags: #Religion, #Christianity, #Catholic, #Social Science, #General

The Silence We Keep: A Nun's View of the Catholic Priest Scandal

BOOK: The Silence We Keep: A Nun's View of the Catholic Priest Scandal
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This book is dedicated to the victims of silence.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

W
HILE MANY OF THOSE
who contributed to this book requested anonymity, there are several people whom I can acknowledge by name. From
Rosie
magazine: editorial director Rosie O’Donnell; editor-in-chief and dear friend Susan Toepfer; and executive editors Carol Kramer and Jane Farrell. Had it not been for those women, I would have kept the silence forever, at least in writing. My agent, Laurie Liss, and editors Jake Morrissey and Teryn Johnson, are the only ones I trusted as sisters with this book, along with Virginia Bell, who gave it the perfect title, as well as divine guidance and support, chapter by chapter.

Warren Mason from Saint Michael’s Parish in East Long-meadow, Massachusetts, appeared like an angel out of nowhere. Having read the article in
Rosie
, Warren called to offer support, and like the research assistant every writer wished she had, he sent daily e-mail news reports from all over the country documenting priest sex scandals and cover-ups, all of which reveal the depth and breadth of the problem, without which I would have only scratched the surface. Warren Mason and Fr. Jim Scahill, pastor of Saint Michael’s, are two divine voices crying out in the wilderness and in one parish where silence is so sacred that it can no longer be kept. All of the above, as well as the anonymous, wrote this book with me. And now that it’s done, they’re to be evermore thanked, as are you for reading this book and thinking with me about the silence we keep.

CONTENTS

Preface 1

Part One
|
Priesthood

I
NTRODUCTION

1 | P
RIESTHOOD IN THE
B
EGINNING

2 | P
RIESTHOOD IN THE
M
IDDLE
A
GES

3 | P
RIESTHOOD
N
OW

Part Two
|
Sisterhood

I
NTRODUCTION

4 | S
ISTERHOOD IN THE
B
EGINNING

5 | S
ISTERHOOD IN THE
M
IDDLE
A
GES

6 | S
ISTERHOOD
N
OW

Part Three
|
The Second Pentecost

I
NTRODUCTION

7 | T
HE
P
RIESTHOOD OF THE
P
EOPLE

8 | T
HE
S
ISTERHOOD OF ALL
W
OMEN

9 | T
HE REBIRTH OF
C
ATHOLICISM

Afterword

Notes

A Death Blow is a Life blow to Some
Who till they died, did not alive become —
Who had they lived, had died but when
They died, Vitality begun.

          E
MILY
D
ICKINSON
  #816

PREFACE

I
HAD NO IDEA
how much silence I had kept until I began to write this book. And had it not been for the divine coincidence of being asked to write an article on a nun’s view of the Catholic priest scandal for the November 2002 issue of
Rosie
magazine, this book never would have happened. While I am a writer of books, I had no plans to work on one about the Catholic Church, much less a book that focuses on the sex crimes and cover-ups in its priesthood. News reporters and journalists are already doing an excellent job of uncovering new information almost daily, and because I don’t know any pedophile priests personally, I felt that I had nothing to say. This felt like one book that just wasn’t in me.

Truth be told, I didn’t want to get involved in the mess we see unfolding before us now, and given the noticeable silence of sisters on the subject, I am certainly not alone. Women in the church, and nuns in particular, have been conditioned to excel in keeping personal thoughts private. Women are still believed to be incapable of rational thought and divine insight. We are still taught to silence our emotional outbursts and silly thoughts. Even in the midst of this crisis, the voice of women in the church remains wrapped in silence; perhaps they believe as I did that the matter is best left to theologians and church historians. The priesthood alone created this scandal and the responsibility of explaining how it continues to happen is theirs alone. Because only priests know the whole truth, I felt as if there was nothing for me to say. I was wrong.

Writing this book revealed all kinds of silences I was educated and trained to keep, and obviously I did find something to say. This book called me into the dark soul of the Catholic Church where I as a writer had no plans to go, but as a sister I didn’t dare say no: Sisters tend to hear such calls as a call of God. As a writer and sister of forty years, I am far more drawn to write books about our spiritual lives and the ways I find to live happily ever after—books like
Ten Fun Things to Do Before You Die
(2000), and
Sister Karol’s Book of Spells and Blessings
(2002). In the 1980s, I wrote fun-filled cookbooks for college students, calling them
Let the Good Times Roll
(1980) and
Home on the Range
(1982). In 1996, I published
Divine Madness
, a book about why any woman in her right mind would want to be a nun. Because nearly everyone I meet eventually wants to know the secret to my happiness, I tend to write books that reveal those secrets. I also tend to do so in an ordinary manner everyone can share—not just Catholics, and certainly not just women in the sisterhood. The secrets I find to living happily come from a God we can all know and love, and a Holy Spirit who lives and moves in all of us.

Nothing could be further removed from the happy books I’ve been drawn to write than the subject of sex-crimes and corruption in the Catholic priesthood, and never before have I given thought to the silence I’d kept on the subject. Never before have I been asked as I am now to say what I’m thinking. Nearly everyone I meet asks what I know about the sex scandals in the priesthood and wonder if something similar is going on in the sisterhood. All question the future of Catholicism. My response is this book: Part One talks about what I see going on in the priesthood, Part Two tells about my experiences in the sisterhood, and Part Three envisions what I see happening next.

As you read this book keep in mind that I do not speak on behalf of all nuns; nor do my views in any way represent those
of the sisters in my community. What I see happening in the Catholic Church is simply one view, with additional stories from some of my sisters, nearly all of whom asked to remain anonymous. Some silences in this book are still kept. The insidious pressure to keep silent about what’s happening in the Catholic Church is more real than we care to acknowledge. Most priests and sisters choose to do their work and speak their minds quietly, behind the scenes. Many who work in the church feel that breaking the silence could cost them their job and make their life miserable, even lose the support of their religious communities. Some sisters are silent because they believe priests are being falsely accused. And many, I suspect, do not see the depth of corruption that I see when we look at priesthood in the Catholic Church.

I am not alone in wondering what women think about the scandals, what we know about them, and why we remain so quiet. Given all that’s happened, the voice of women remains mysteriously silent because we, too, have been victimized and abused. Women are special victims of this priesthood, as you’ll find out in the pages ahead. For centuries we’ve been duped into submission by these “men of God,” and for centuries we let ourselves be duped into believing we are not worthy of priesthood. Many women believed blindly whatever we were told, even though it made no sense and often tormented our souls. So many had faith that the voice of the priesthood was the voice of God on earth and made personal decisions accordingly—such as having more children than the body can bear and remaining faithful to abusive husbands. Many of us believed it all in silence, and many of us now suffer soulful betrayal in silence. We have been betrayed in ways we are only beginning to realize—betrayed in ways that we have never spoken of. While there may be a high personal price to be paid by those who break the silence, there’s also a high personal price to be paid by those who don’t.

In reading this book, you should also keep in mind that I am not a theologian or a church historian, although I’ve continued to educate myself in studying Catholic theology and history. Given what I’ve learned in my life and in my work, this book explains what I see happening in the Catholic Church today. I do, however, have good friends who are brilliant theologians, and without their help and insight, this book could not have been written. Because they, too, prefer anonymity, my hope is that this book speaks well on their behalf and on behalf of all those whose stories serve to enrich and help explain more clearly what I see going on in the priesthood.

This was not an enjoyable book to write. What’s happening in the Catholic priesthood is awful and devastating enough to read in the daily news, much less to try to understand. How did we end up where we are today and what happens next? Fortunately, the news in this book does not go from bad to worse. While the look at priesthood in Part One is enough to make anyone heartsick and outraged, similar looks in Part Two on the sisterhood, and Part Three on the future of Catholicism, reveal the presence of a God far more with us than the current mess may lead us to believe. In writing this book, I rediscovered as new the sacred truths and traditions that still make me love being a Catholic. Even if you’re not Catholic, there are universal truths and traditions here sacred to anyone who believes in God. My greatest hope in writing this book is that we all look seriously at the silences we keep and begin to speak to one another about what we’re thinking. Keeping silent no more is the prayer on every page in this book.

PART ONE

Priesthood

Introduction

I
N TRYING TO UNDERSTAND
the current crisis in the Catholic priesthood, I confronted dimensions of the problem I had never noticed before. The first realization came with my seeing how much this scandal had everything to do with me. I saw how suspect the silence of the sisterhood appears now, and how these scandal-ridden times beg us to say something about what we know. I saw the voice of all women in the church as mysteriously silent, most especially my own. The second realization came as I tried to clarify the problem. I saw how accepting we’ve always been of some sexual relationships in the priesthood, and at the same time how outraged and betrayed we feel over the criminal abuses and cover-ups. No wonder so many feel confused soulfully. At some level, we bought into the hypocrisy.

In taking a studied look at how priesthood emerged in the Catholic Church, my heart sank when I realized how old the problem of priestly privilege and abuse is, and I still shudder every time we receive more evidence of how criminally corrupt the priesthood is. The fact that the Catholic Church survives is a daily miracle. Everything I see when I look at the Catholic priesthood led me to return to its beginning in order to understand why we are where we are today. Because the seeds of self-destruction appear to be that deeply grounded, I looked at priesthood in the early church, priesthood in the Middle Ages, and priesthood now.

In forty years as a sister, I was never asked about the priesthood. Now I am asked about it almost daily. Friend and stranger, Catholic and non, look at me as though stunned, and over and over pose the same question, “What in God’s name is going on in the Catholic Church?” Most wonder what I think of the “big priest scandal” and what nuns “know about it.” Both subjects top nearly every conversation I have, and both subjects called me to explain what I see happening in the Catholic Church. All of a sudden I find myself pressed to answer questions I’ve never been asked before and never needed to think about. All of a sudden, a scandal that had nothing to do with me became a scandal that had everything to do with me. Persistent questions called on me for answers that I didn’t have, many of which still leave me speechless. The answers I did find are what make up this book.

BOOK: The Silence We Keep: A Nun's View of the Catholic Priest Scandal
5.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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