Padres Loss Reflects Church Scandal

By Dr. Jaime Romo
Healing and Spirituality
October 5, 2010

The San Diego Padres lost and won’t go to the playoffs. Fantasy thinking might deduce that their name reflects a religious group that, in its Franciscan Order and larger Vatican affiliation, is identified with Clergy Abuse. Therefore, they were doomed. The baseball gods were against them. Have I lost my mind to think such a thing?

Let me tell you about losing your mind. A couple of years ago, I took a survivor friend with me to a Padres baseball game. When the big mascot, the Friar, walked past him in the aisle, my friend started shouting, ‘You pedophile. You molest kids. You child abuser!’ It was awful and funny and terrible to even associate what we think of as a wholesome family activity and a wholesome spiritual leader with Child Sexual Abuse. And it is true that past practices and current practices taint anyone’s sense of religion.

Maybe my friend lost his mind in that moment. I appreciate that. One way that I lost my mind several years ago was by projecting 40 foot images with messages about clergy sexual abuse, such as ‘protect children, not pedophiles’ or ‘ whosoever causes one of these to lose faith …,’ onto cathedrals in major cities. It was cathartic for me and let me know that I had lost my mind and it was time to rebuild.

Honestly, though, I don’t think enough people have lost their minds when it comes to Religious Authority Sexual Abuse. The CNN coverage in the past couple of weeks about ‘What the Pope knew’ seemed to be a thoughtful investigation on this current pope’s denial and involvement at various levels and failure to protect children. The program was re-broadcast with different participants in Spanish throughout Mexico. I can’t tell that such coverage has been disturbing for many people, to the point where people would protest, would demand more accountability, would do something to insure transparency, accountability, and meaningful reconciliation, recognition and healing both for victims and for those who may have once been oblivious and who also feel betrayed.

If losing our minds means that we become critical thinkers and recognize the mind control that comes through religious duress or socialization, then let’s lose our minds. And if losing our minds also means that we work with therapists or find new spiritual practices that are helpful for us to tap into our deeper Self and not recycle our wounded and limited and crazed selves, then by all means, let’s lose our minds.

Letting go of crazy thinking or behavior can also be losing the expectation that ‘if the pope only knew, if a bishop only knew, if a clergy person only knew, if a devout lay person only knew, they would surely speak up, intervene, protect kids, report someone to law enforcement.’ This has rarely happened. So, why should we believe that if the pope or whoever only knew, that somehow, he or someone other formal authority would make a big change?

That’s why the terrible South Park Episode, “Red Hot Catholic Love” about clergy abuse is funny. It confronts the question directly, ‘if people only knew, wouldn’t they want to make a change?’ The truth is that change is difficult. It may be simple or obvious and it is difficult. Maybe that’s why so few people take action to change the cultures (not just policy) that perpetuate sexual abuse.

I believe that we are all in the figuring out process of how to make changes, and I speak primarily to and with survivors and activists who seek to transform systems, particularly religious systems. Some of the public awareness raising will continue to surface new survivors/ victims who have been silent; this can help them move towards more conscious and productive uses of their experiences, however terrible. I believe that this is the justice work that must be done. However, the healing work requires that we let go of our magical thinking that depends on some other authority to make us happy.

And when more people let go of their past trauma and work more actively with their experiences in the here and now and become more able to be responsible for their own values driven groups, then the collective skills and behaviors will be better. There’s an interesting article about groups that relates to that: groups whose members had higher levels of “social sensitivity” were more collectively intelligent.

So, the Padres lost. I cheered for them. I wanted them to win and I was disappointed. I wanted my team to win.

If only it was as simple as one team losing to make up for centuries of Religious Authority Sexual Abuse. As much as I cheered for them and was disappointed, I would take that disappointment any day.


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