Rickter Scale: With apologies to good Catholics everywhere

Columnist ponders whether this pope will break the persisting cycle of silence

Rick Stiebel/Columnist

Talk of a few bad apples is moot fruit when there’s irrefutable evidence the orchard has been poisoned.

Each new revelation of systemic sexual abuse and subsequent attempts to protect the perpetrators makes it clear the Catholic Church is in the grips of a scandal of apocalyptic proportions.

Whether it’s the Netherlands, Ireland, Pennsylvania or Massachusetts, there is no defending a culture of deceit embedded in roots stretching back decades, if not centuries. The stench extends to every part of the planet.

Every time another story surfaces, another row of black-robed dominoes falls and more pus seeps from fresh cracks in a scab that never heals. Countless victims relive the shame of what happened to them in their most innocent moments, the despicable acts by those in power they trusted and worshipped oozing to the surface yet again in a most painful way.

My best friend is a survivor, and the same can be said about me. He suffered two violent physical assaults at the hands of one the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, I was the victim of an aborted attempt of sexual abuse by another.

We have managed to find our own way to file what happened away, although it still bubbles up for both of us at different times, in different ways. We are some of the fortunate few who have learned how to shrug our shoulders and make the memories go away for a while. We were able to move on, the sleeping beast buried within occasionally awakening when another horror story scratches its way to the surface.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way it is for a long list of lost souls, like the husband of a woman I worked with who killed himself many years after years of sexual abuse that he was subjected to as an altar boy. The elderly priest responsible for the unspeakable died before his trial, no comfort for the wife left behind.

This continuum of recurring grief has gone on too long, with no end in sight. Pope after pope continues to look the other way, praying that each new horror will be swept away like the last ones by the tides of time.

Maybe this pope, whatever his name is, will break the persisting cycle of silence, maybe not.

The name of every devious monster masquerading as a priest must be brought to light, the needs of every victim must be finally addressed. That requires more than apologies; years of therapy for some, pallets packed with cold hard gold for others.

Although no one can put a price on the cost of rebuilding thousands and thousands of stolen and shattered lives, the resources required are in place. The church owes that, at the very least, to every child whose future they raped. Even if it means bankrupting the billions of dollars the Roman Catholic money machine has amassed, all in the name of Jesus.

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.

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