Posted in church, Raised Catholic, Spiritual Formation

Special Edition – Sexual Abuse by Priests

Heeding the Spirit

Apparently the Holy Spirit is not going to let me rest until I write this post.  After reading an article in today’s National Catholic Reporter on a new policy recently released by the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City regarding issues of sexual abuse:, my Catholic undies got all up in a bundle and I find I have to concur with the other readers of NCR who are wondering, “Really, how about owning and fixing the problem?”  So I’m going to beg pardon for my ego which admittedly may be partially to blame for this post, and I might run the risk of getting up on my Catholic soapbox, and waving the flag of my moral self-righteousness…..BUT…..the abuse of innocent children, teens, young adults AND women by Catholic priests HAS GOT TO STOP!  No matter how many regulations or guidelines are developed and put into place by the Catholic Bishops around the world, the issue still remains: priests are abusing people and they are getting away with it.

Why I can speak with some authority on the subject

For those of you that don’t know…..I was raised Catholic.  Went to nearly 12 years of Catholic School.  Studied theology and Spiritual Direction through the Catholic Church. Was commissioned as a Lay Minister.  AND served as an official, paid, lay ministerial employee of the Catholic Institution for 10+ years.  I’ve been there and I’ve seen it.  While the veiled illusion of Catholic impecibility remained, the Church was god and could do no wrong in my eyes.  Then I worked within the Institution.  Talk about an awakening.  After working within the bureaucratic establishment of the Institution, I have developed a few theories about why priests abuse and why they keep getting away with it.

1) Because they can.  Diocesan priests are taught that they are the representative of Christ on this earth and that they are above all others.  In fact, one priest told me that they get to go to “heaven” before the rest of us…simply by virtue of their ordination….regardless of their sinfulness or lack thereof.  In other words, they get the “get out of jail free card” while the rest of us have to burn our way out of purgatory.  Now, I don’t personally believe any of this….but other people DO!  The priest is god…can do no wrong….”would never touch a child…”  And no one questions their moral character or lack thereof.  In fact, when rumors are going around about “Father…and that young boy,” instead of doing something about it, Catholics are taught to look the other way.

2) COMPLETE lack of sound Spiritual Formation – I think this is actually the root cause of sexual abuse by priests.  I can’t say that this is true of all priests (and certainly not so for religious order priests), but in the diocese in which I worked, priests received 7+ years of theological training in preparation for their ordination.  In those seven years….they received NO spiritual formation.  But isn’t religious formation (ie theology, dogma, doctrine, rites, etc.) the same as spiritual formation.  NO NO NO ….  and here is part of the problem, most people think they are one in the same.  Religious formation is learning the teachings of a particular faith tradition.  Spiritual Formation is learning – Who am I?  How do I understand God and what is my personal relationship with this God? and What are my gifts and how am I being called to use them?  When sound spiritual formation is made available we learn such things as:

  • What is my sexual orientation and how am I called to live that out?
  • Am I called to celibacy or marriage?
  • What causes me anxiety, fear, stress and how do I respond when in a stressful state?
  • What do I need in the way of support, nurturing, healthy intimacy and how am I called to seek that out?
  • How do I stay out of my ego and rely on God?
  • How do I discern what is of God and what is of the ego?

Get the picture?  If sound spiritual formation were provided in priestly formation……tendencies toward pedophilia, acting out in inappropriate sexual ways, the call to healthy, sexual, intimate partnering would all be discovered…and the priest candidate would be turned away……AH HA….probably the reason spiritual formation IS NOT provided.  Who wants to lose a potential candidate in an already declining field?

3)Lack of Accountability See #1, but also recognize that a Catholic priest is accountable to no one but their bishop….and no bones about it, it is a good ole boys club.  They do everything they can to protect their own.  One priest I know asked for a leave of absence to discern a potential call to marriage.  The bishop’s response, “Why don’t you make her your housekeeper?”  WHAT?????  ARGH!!!!!  Gag me!   Another priest when he retired was reported in the diocesan newspaper as moving into his vacation home with his long-time companion and housekeeper.  Accountability?  NOT.  And as we have seen by the news reports, when questions are raised, the hierarchy tries to hide it, sweep it under the rug, or worse yet, move the priest to another parish where he can start raping other children.  The saddest thing is that the laity (the people in the pew) have no say in any of this.  Their hands are tied.  They are powerless.  Yes, they can speak, yell, demand change….but nobody is really listening.

4) OVER WORK and UNDER SUPPORTED Here, I have to give one over to the priests.  These poor guys.  Because of the unwillingness of the Vatican to change their rules on ordination (allowing women, married men to be priests), the poor few who have responded to the call and are trying to do an honest job are worked to death!  6-7 days a week from sun up to sun down (less the Pastor’s nap), they are on call…every minute of every day…AND they are expected to be able to do it all – preach, teach, heal, counsel, run a business, entertain, promote, market, evangelize, do works of service, etc. etc. etc.   And guess what….not all of these men have all these gifts…so they muddle along trying to make an impact….and then they get burned out.  To make matters worse, they are supposed to be cultivating healthy, intimate, supportive relationships OUTSIDE the parish.  When are they supposed to do this?  There is literally NO time.  The only people they know are their parishioners…and in a moment of weakness, vulnerability, anxiousness…who are they supposed to turn to?  Get the picture.  The Catholic Church is killing the few decent priests we have left….and that is a horrible shame.

No Answers Here

In the end, I do not know how the Vatican is ever going to solve the problem of sexual abuse by their priests.  With an institution based in power and control, run through fear and intimidation, what else do they expect?  Top down power runs the show and the men are in charge.  As long as it wants to hang on to its power, the Vatican has no motivation to ever make any effective or lasting change.  All will remain the same until every last celibate priest is dead or in jail and the laity are standing there with hands open going, “Now what?  Who is going to say the mass for us?  Who is going to teach, preach, heal, minister to the poor?”  HHHMMMMM   Maybe we will be the ones doing it….and perhaps this has been the Holy Spirit’s plan all along!

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries


I am a trained, professional Spiritual Director, Author and Hands-on Healer. I offer services, programs and classes that empower you to hear the voice of the Divine that speaks from within you. It is the voice of the Divine that leads us to our highest truth, to the discovery and cultivation of our gifts and to a life of Authentic Freedom where we know contentment, compassion and joy. Your truth will set you free!

3 thoughts on “Special Edition – Sexual Abuse by Priests

  1. Thank you for this posting. It is the best thought throught piece I have seen on this tradegy. I wish even one bishop would read it. If you can find Father (formerly Archbishop of New Mexico) Sanchez…he would listen and probably respond. I have seen, first hand, the lack of spiritual formation in other semilnar experiences and I absolutely agree with you. If you know anything about seminar, it’s a wonder that anyone comes out with any faith at all. Sad, truly sad, but no where near as sad as the results. It’s a blatant harboring of criminals~

  2. I read your post on NCR and it is easily best summary of the problem I have read. Well said Lauri.

    PS: I speak as a committed Catholic parishioner (30 years).

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