Bishop Accountability
  A Psalm: Concerning Those Abused by Priests

By Arthur Austin
August 27, 2002

O God, our God of Love,
we come grieving and broken
to your dwelling-place.

Priests of your temple
have defiled us, they
have torn our clean garments
and defiled us.

"Ha!" they say, wrapped
in the smoke of sweet benedictions
betrayed in the offering,
"Who will believe you?
Who will dare to beard us
in the temple, saying 'these priests
have betrayed and raped the people'?
We are the Lord's own, the anointed.
Who is there to defy us now?"

They have shut the doors of the temple
against us. Our knowing bodies cringe
at their certainty; for who indeed
will name, without ceasing, the name of
this evil, and who, without ceasing,
will hammer at the closed doors for us,
demanding the truth and the temple?

Where shall we go, O God of Love,
except to you, in your dwelling-place?
Where else shall we find our hope?

For they have made us an epithet,
a foul name, and our living a darkness.

The princes of your kingdom stride
from their palaces, the jewels
of your service glint on their fingers.
"Yes," they say, "yes, justice, now.
Be blessed for the Lord is
abiding and just."
But justice does not abide
in the smiling lie, nor in
the smile of non-intention;
nor is there justice for the betrayed,
but forms and semblances of justice
only, empty as the breath that spake them.

"Yes", smile the princes
of your kingdom, "justice", but
there is no justice to be had from
the smiling faces and the jeweled hands
of the palaces.

"Do not let these complainers come
near to us again. They are nothing.
What do they know of the hidden
God, whose jewel of service
adorns our hands? They are
the dust at our threshold.
Let the wind so scatter them
their clamor will become as
the tiny piping of tiny birds.
Who, then, will listen to them?"

The clouds of their scorn
trail after them like bitter incense
and those who serve them bow
down, murmuring, "Behold the wisdom
of princes."

They have made us an epithet,
a foul name, and our living a darkness.

Where should we turn, O Lord?
For where, now, is our dwelling-place
if not in you?

The great are smiling liars.
Those who bow down to them
counsel a patient deceit.
Cunning passes for wisdom.
The money-changers and the keepers
of the laws say "Gold is not gold.
Wealth is not wealth. Why do you
stand at our gate like beggars?
Go away from this place!"

We are a pillaged city, Lord.
Our lamentations rise like smoke.
We are the raped houses
of the soul's in-dwelling,
the splintered doorways of grace.

Priests of your temple have defiled us.
The soul has shattered and fled
beyond our cries of summoning it back.

Summon the priests who have done no harm.
Summon the righteous.
Make them strong and bold
in fury and compassion.
Summon the heavens of angels,
to their right hand and their left.

Summon the priests who have not hurt us.
Let them say your name of mercy over and over
to the princes. Let them open
the doors of the the temple.
Let them cleanse it with your name.
Let the priests who have not hurt us
magnify and sanctify your name.
And let them attend, like angels,
to our exiled souls.

Lord, vengeance is yours.
We do not ask for vengeance.
We plead for the mercy of your dwelling-place.

Cure the blindness of your princes.
Let them read the bleak Truth
writ large on the walls of the temple.
Give them a sense of shame and sorrow.
Let them come forth and beg forgiveness
in the dust of the desecrated.
Let them know what they have done and
let them understand its endlessness.
Let them weep as they learn our names.
Let our ceaseless pain become their ceaseless pain.
Let them walk our journey as they live our lives.
Let them gather up the pieces of our souls, and
let them forget never what they have done.

Let them see the ruined city they have made, and
let them hear its desolation.

O God of Love, O living God,
O God of abiding justice,
our lamentations rise like smoke.
We are the pillaged city,
the raped houses of the soul's in-dwelling.

God of peace: we thirst for peace.
God of hope: we are starved of all hope.
God of all mercies:
Grant us the mercy of your dwelling-place,
and heal us in our every woundedness.

Our violated bodies cry to you, O living God,
for every blessing, in the name and visage
of the enfleshed and violated Christ,
whose human blood has stained the world
with its one perfection, from everlasting to everlasting.

In your mercy, do not forget,
but hear and answer us,
God of our exile,
God of our longing,

God of our slaughtered love.

© Arthur Austin





Original material copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.