For survivors of clergy abuse, watching a beloved cathedral go up in smoke felt viscerally familiar

Baptist News Global

April 18, 2019

By Carra Greer

On Monday, I watched in horror with those all over the world as Notre Dame Cathedral burned and smoke billowed into the Paris sky. One of the oldest and most famous cathedrals in the world, Notre Dame was erected over 800 years ago. Yet it took only a few hours for the great spire to topple like a child’s block tower. As the fire burned unscathed by the water cannons flooding the structure, virtual onlookers began to speculate if the building would be totally consumed or if enough could be saved and rebuilt.

As I stared at the television screen, I felt a visceral reaction coursing through my body. It was a physical manifestation of what I have felt for the last decade. Sounds horribly dramatic, doesn’t it? But, for those who have experienced harassment, rejection, ostracism, judgment, isolation, sexual assault, physical/mental/verbal abuse, manipulation and even rape at the hands of revered clergy, we have been watching our sacred space burn for years, maybe decades.

And, for many of us, we have watched our faith go up in smoke.

“Survivors deserve an opportunity to be restored in their own way and in their own time.”

Those fortunate enough to worship and practice their faith in a safe space with good, honest clergy and congregants without experiencing traumas of any kind have this week seen and experienced a manifestation of what it is like when a person’s sacred space, spiritual center and place of worship is, in essence, set ablaze. Decimated. Obliterated. Many of us (of varying denominations and religious groups) who have experienced the nastiest, most vile parts of the Church have watched in isolation as our sacred spaces go up in smoke, often feeling like we are the arsonists.

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