Thursday, April 7, 2011

Confusion, doubt able to coexist with religion
By Colleen Fontana

Published: Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 21:04

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The Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus has agreed to pay $166 million to victims of sexual abuse in one of the largest settlements for abuse within the Catholic Church.

It is a sum long overdue.

For decades the victims have carried their burdens and struggled under the long-term effects of abuse. Though the prospect of a settlement must be a relief after a long struggle, the scars of what occurred will never go away.

Thank you to the Seattle University staff for alerting the students to what happened and for notifying us that, though a Jesuit institution, we are not connected to the Oregon Province and this bankruptcy case will not affect us.

However, I believe that it is precisely the fact that we are a Jesuit institution that this does affect us and it is an issue that needs to be addressed and discussed.

According to a recent New York Times article, more than 500 victims were sexually abused at Indian boarding schools years ago. That being only one location, I am horrified by the numbers that could represent worldwide abuses.

I admit I am more invested in this issue than the average college student. My father lost his job within the Diocese of Yakima for speaking out in defense of victims of sexual abuse by our diocese's priests. I was 12 at the time. Initially, I was overwhelmed and discouraged by the fact that the church I had been a part of and believed in for so long was suddenly revealed to have been harboring this secret. Was everything else I believed in suspect as well? If I couldn't trust the priests of my church then how could I trust the institution they helped to create? For years I have pondered this question, never quite fully grasping a solution and never quite feeling secure in my faith. I still attended weekly Mass and youth group, but the aspects I used to see as beautiful just seemed like a fa├žade to what I now knew about the church.

I became frustrated that no one else my age seemed to know or even care. Coming to Seattle U restored my broken beliefs in religion and in God. Here I was able to find a community of people whom I respected immensely for their deep faith.

Though I admire that faith, I also believe that this problem of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church cannot continue to be ignored or minimized.

I am not at all saying students should leave the church or doubt everything they have ever believed. I am simply asserting the dire need for change, and as the youth of the church, I believe it our duty to hold our leaders accountable to protect children and work for just solutions.

I said I never quite landed on a solution for the confusion I felt after the sex abuse scandals surfaced in Yakima. It has been seven years, and it is still a problem I face everyday. But my love and trust in God continues not despite my doubts, but because of them. I truly believe that faith and doubt can coexist. I challenge all students to not just hear about the sex abuse settlements through a short e-mail sent by Seattle U. Dare to learn more, care more and demand more for the future of the church you belong to.

1 comment:

Armand Audrey said...

The fact that a person accepts confusion and doubt as part of their religion is precisely why these things continue to happen. Confusion is there to be addressed, and doubt is a sign that something may be wrong.

Like pain, it shouldn't simply be accepted as routine. Something is WRONG when it hurts.