We must rise above our ‘Catholic bubble’

The B.C. Catholic – Archdiocese of Vancouver

March 26, 2020

By James Borkowski

Photo Caption: If it hadn’t been for Bernadette Howell, an abuse survivor working with the Archdiocese of Vancouver, James Borkowski’s “Catholic bubble” might still be in place, he writes.

I have always loved being Catholic.

I was raised in a very Catholic home. Our family frequented the sacraments, prayed the Rosary daily, and promoted the faith in many ways.

As a seemingly natural consequence, I was taught to revere priests and assume they could do no wrong.

In Grade 6, I asked my teacher, “Can a priest sin?”

I don’t remember her being surprised. She thoughtfully stated that, “priests sin less than us but they can still sin.”

And so, my Catholic bubble was established.

That bubble might still be in place if it wasn’t for Bernadette, a victim of clergy abuse I met several years ago. Although she was abused in the UK and Ireland, she has become a leading advocate for victims/survivors in Vancouver. We have had many meetings and conversations. Not all have been pleasant.

I spent the first three years of our relationship often saying the wrong words or doing unintentionally hurtful things. Thankfully, Bernadette appreciates honesty and the willingness to take risks while trying to do the right thing and we have found a productive tension around this issue. Now, I consider her an ally and a friend. We disagree often but she has changed my life by teaching me how to understand and care for two groups of people – victims/survivors, and priests.

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