EDITORIAL: Abuse is damaging my church, and it affects us all

By David P. Rundle
Wichita Eagle
September 8, 2018

Father Richard Jaclin, a Catholic priest now removed from ministry, allegedly molested a man with intellectual disabilities in an Illinois institution last November. If true, the case involves the ongoing sex abuse scandal which has rocked my church for nearly 20 years and shows no signs of ending. It also points out the vulnerability of people with disabilities to such abuse. As a Catholic with cerebral palsy and epilepsy, I not only have a unique perspective to address both issues but a moral obligation to.

First, the disability matter. NPR reported in January that the Justice Department concluded that people with intellectual disabilities are seven times more likely to be sexually assaulted than the general population. I myself was never abused, but I have known several women who said they were, and not one went to court.

The case of a woman I’ll call Peg shows how this abuse happens and shows the stupid unwillingness of others to believe it does. Peg has since died, but others who knew her might object if I used her real name — and she night have as well. God knows she was betrayed enough while alive.

Peg lived with a married couple at the same residential school I attended. The husband abused her, she said. She also said it happened again after they moved her. If the woman managing her case believed her the first time, she didn’t the second, and the school expelled her for telling an ex-employee.

The school taught nothing about sex or biology in general. I had to read a book to learn about sex. How the school expected any child to invent graphic lies is beyond me. The school was in denial and Peg was isolated — the men had power over her and higher-ups denied anything happened.

Isolation, power and denial: those three things are at the heart of the abuse and cover-ups that are still damaging my church. Added to these are how camps in the church use it to advance their agendas.

Celibacy causes pedophilia in priests, some liberals say, adding that the church should let priests marry so they can fulfill their urges normally. Peg’s abusers both had female adult partners, yet she was abused. Pedophiles, married or celibate, aren’t normal, and access to adult partners doesn’t change them.

Eighty percent of priestly abuse survivors are male; therefore, say some conservatives, hurry up and purge gay priests. And what do they say about the 20 percent who are female? Not one word, not one holy word.

I don’t know the cause of the abuse but think it, the cover-ups and the posturing crucify Christ repeatedly. In my heart I cry “It never ends! Please, Lord, make it end.”

But we are His hands. Disabled or not, liberal or conservative, male or female, believer or skeptic, we must end it, for abuse affects all.

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