Me too – The other abuse

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“Me too”except
I didn’t know it
because there was no overt violence, or force.
Seventeen, nearly an adult.
The teacher wasn’t my teacher.
I had just discovered that my first and only boyfriend was gay,
And he used that
And I felt isolated by family circumstances,
And he used that
And he used
my fear of drugs and
my naïveté about men,
my longing for attention,
my need for validation,
my hope to belong.
So it was easy for him to use
shame and power and manipulation.
I was old enough to know the words,
young enough not to recognize their lived meaning.
Even now,
I can’t say or write more
because I am embarrassed, ashamed.

A few years later,
a vowed Catholic, religious celibate,
sent me flowers and cards,
and when he tried to kiss me,
I said no.
He accused me of “intimacy issues.”
I was older now, more brave.
And too young to care.

But there was more.
Multiple times
for many years,
the other abuse,
the anger,
the unpredictable rage polluting
the incensed office air,
where ordained priests and deacons
who do not prey on boys
or girls
but raged at the doctrinally powerless
lay women
who work in a system where they
learn early that the collar of power
threatens and belittles,
where they can scream and point
and slam doors and then
those same men can offer compassion too.
We learn to read the signs.
We ready ourselves for the outbreak.
And we accept it
as the way it is.
Hierarchical abuse.
The tangled knot of disfunction and institutional sinfulness
exposed by strong women,
intelligent Christians, brave Catholics
who can love the priest and see the sin
who can love the church and hate the sin.
Courageous women
who can say they were complicit in the sinfulness.
Bless me Father for
weighing words,
ignoring issues
swallowing pharisaical contradictions,
acquiescing so not to be ostracized.
allowing injustice while teaching justice,
pretending to believe the justifications,
Allowing,
Avoiding,
Silent lying,
Lying to be faithful.

Forgive me
For not remembering that my baptism is enough,
For not believing that I was made in the image and likeness of God,
For not knowing that this is what I am called to,
For not trusting.
For letting sadness grow like mold,
For holding on to too much wounded-ness,
For forgetting to find joy,
For feeling like I was stopping the Spirit.
For not letting myself cry,
so finally, and again,
new life and breath
can fill my lungs and being
so I can sing the psalms truthfully
In every age, O God, you have been our refuge
and sing freely:
There is nothing I shall want.

.

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