For those of you that have seen The Keepers, you know – there are hardly words. Hardly words adequate enough to describe the monster that is Maskell, the strength of the survivors sharing their stories, and above all the systematic cover up by the Catholic Church.
As a Catholic whose mother grew up and currently lives in Catonsville, MD where the story originates – the implication not only of the abuse, but of the cover up felt like a personal affront.
My husband, like me was raised Catholic. We were married in a Catholic church, and have always discussed raising our children Catholic. As we watched the series together – me pregnant with our first child - we had a difficult time processing together as we typically do after watching documentaries. Following the last episode, I declared emphatically that I would never set foot in a Catholic church again! My husband, who is the most supportive man I have ever known, responded firmly that not going into a Catholic church was not an option. As we had discussed, he intended to raise our soon to be born child Catholic and I needed to find a way to be on-board.
At first, I was MAD. How could he draw such a line in the sand, knowing what he knew?
When I asked how he could arrive at such a decision after watching what we had just watched, his first response was easy to overcome. He justified that if we went to another religion, our children could still be vulnerable to abuse. A point, I sadly agree with, but for me was not the issue. As a survivor, I/we know that there are monsters everywhere. Our experience has given us a vigilance to know that the predator could be the person you least expect, and is most often a person who has put him/herself in a friendly position of power to manipulate. We know the painful truth that no matter what we do, we cannot always protect our children from predators – because they do come in safe forms like coaches, teachers, priests and family friends. So, I countered quickly with my argument, and discussed the importance of focusing on creating a safe space for our children, that empowers them to come to us if an adult ever makes them uncomfortable – to which he conceded.
I did my best to explain, instead, that the reason I did not feel like I could go back to the Catholic church – was the lack of accountability, acknowledgement, prevention and general unwillingness to put the survivors/parishioners needs before that of the institution. Accepting that my childhood priest, the man who fostered and inspired my faith, was part of the story was too much to bear. While he did not do anything wrong, he did not do enough, and to me it seemed that like he and his counterparts were rewarded by the Catholic Church with a promotion for silence and/or inaction. The thought of trusting another priest and an institution that had the knowledge to prevent the abuse of many, but chose not to, to save face was unfathomable.
We were at an impasse, he could not respond. So, we did what we do our best not to – and went to bed angry. That night I prayed for peace and guidance. While I wasn’t ready to discuss, and definitely was not interested in changing my position – I knew I was not willing to let our marriage become another casualty of this story. The next day, I decided that I would honor my husband's opinion, and compromise by rescinding my blanket refusal to participate in the Catholic Church. I told my husband I would not be returning to church until I met with our priest and gave him a piece of my mind. My husband laughed, his “only you” laugh, and agreed to table the matter until after our meeting.
Last week I had the chance to meet with our priest. He did not dismiss me, and validated my anger. He reminded me that the church, like the world is made up of people – saints and sinners at every level. He admonished the actions of both the priest and the church as I described them, and did his best to describe ways in which the church has made efforts to focus on prevention. He let me call the Catholic Church what it has often felt like to me – a cult and a business, and did not bat an eye. By the end of the conversation, he gave me hope. He encouraged me to return to church when I was ready and continue to focus on prayer.
I do not know where I will be six Sunday’s from now – but thanks to one of many good priests, I am open to returning to the church to provide our child a solid foundation for his or her faith.