SEXUAL ABUSE + ABUSE OF POWER = RAPE

We all seem to have a difficult time in identifying sexual abuse as rape. Rape is an abuse of power – the one in power inflicting him or herself on those without power. Perhaps, those who are in positions of power, feel themselves compelled to act powerfully to feed their own insecurities and to use other people as things for their own needs. We know that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Power or authority, like everything, has two sides – positive and negative.  Rape has been around for centuries within all cultures. Rape takes place in homes, churches, schools, or where ever else you find people.

In centuries past and in our present time, rape was seen as normal and acceptable. Women were viewed, according to many great philosophers, as having one purpose – and that was for procreation. They were seen as property – to be sold to another family – without any substantial rights. They were in effect slaves. Women, even today, struggle for equal opportunities and rights in the world.  Prostitution was often the only way that many women could acquire the necessities of life. Once a woman was raped, she no longer had any economic value, which left her with the only recourse of begging on the streets or prostitution.

Throughout human history, children, especially boys, could be raped by those in power. They became “playthings” to satisfy the sexual and emotional urges of those with power needs. Throughout the history of the church, popes, bishops, priests and others have imposed themselves on others sexually. For centuries, it was most important to produce male heirs for thrones, and women were used for this purpose. They became high-priced prostitutes, serving at the whim of their male masters. Males imaged god while women were seen as the seducers and weak reproductions, again with one purpose.  We see today, where women are paid huge sums of money for silence. And at the same time, it is the women who are looked down upon. In the Gospel story, the prostitute is brought before Jesus for judgement – and he simply says – whoever is without sin – cast the first stone. But we also notice that they did not bring the man before Jesus for judgment.

Today, we are living in a world of radical change. The church has become a point of radical transformation. We live in a world that is filled with new awareness of the dignity and respect due to each individual, without regard to race, sexuality, religion or class, recognizing that these are all artificial constructs. This transition is extremely difficult, with many of us demanding a return to the good old days – while others are demanding to be listened to – as equals.

The ongoing scandal of child-rape by priests and the more offensive cover-up by those in positions of authority – placing the image of the institution over the destruction of children, is forcing fundamental structural change. The long-standing patriarchal institution is beginning to crumble. This brings fear to those hanging on to their pretentious of royalty and control. The people of God are beginning to understand that the Church is not based on a class system – it is a community where all have a voice, that demands to be heard.

The cry’s of the poor demand to be heard. It is time that the Church – the people of God – assume real leadership in this ongoing transformation. Control begins with imposing either fear or guilt on others. Many people acquire great power by creating an atmosphere of fear – while they claim to have the power to protect others from their illusion. In a similar and connected fashion, guilt is used as a weapon, creating a culture of weakness in need of strength and power. Priests and others have used guild as a weapon and a shield in order to control others. We depend on priests to forgive our sins and keep us out of the way of God’s wrath. This becomes all too often a power trap that allows rape to occur, especially the rape of those who have now power and are struggling with their own need for purpose or self.

The clerical brotherhood has become in many cases, a safe place where everyone protects everyone else. The vows of complete and total obedience between the ordained clergy and their bishop, creates a strong bond – a band of brothers standing together, helping and protecting one another. This structural reality, once again, has it’s strengths an it’s weaknesses. We live in a world and at a particular time, when radical change or a reformation is both needed and in progress. The Spirit of God leads and in our own limited humanity, where we are all blind, deaf, and limited, we respond. We learn the hard way, by doing stupid things because that’s the way we have always lived. We hang on to the past and change is a struggle – a war – that people have been engaged in from the beginning of time.

Love one another. What an interesting idea. Once upon a time, an itinerant rabbi walked the streets, owning nothing, challenging those in power, and calling himself a servant – and asking others to follow him in proclaiming the Good News of God, the faithful lover, walking with suffering and wounded humanity, on our common journey of creation. He had no mansions, private jets; wore no crown nor other signs of royalty or power. He asked his disciples to let go of their own ego needs and to serve others – as a community. He proclaimed the presence of God in all of Creation – that all life was and in sacred. Because he challenged the establishment, he was put to death – as a threat to the established order. But in that action, he showed us the way. Today, we proclaim that we are the living body and blood of the Christ – and that we are called to walk with the unclean and the dispossessed – we weakest among us. We are called to let go of our need for power – a need that results in inquisitions, wars, divisions, and to create a community, not based on conformity, but on diversity.

Radical Transformations always come from the bottom.  A seed is planted and begins the struggle of growth and life giving. Life is filled with death and resurrection moments, but like Jesus, we are called to enter into the death moment; to let go of what was, so that we can continue the journey of life. Life is filled with surprises and wonder; with pain and loss; with joy and sorrow. Life is also dynamic and changing. We admit our errors, live with the consequences, and enter into change – transformation – one step at a time.

At times, we forget that we are born into relationships – we are not meant to be alone. Loneliness is a sense of emptiness that demands correcting.  All too often, violence, rape, drugs, alcohol, addictions to power are symptoms of loneliness. When we begin to examine the needs of our world, we could well start there. We are not called to separate children from parents, brothers and sisters from each other. We are called to build community. In the past, we have at times celebrated virginity and celibacy as gifts. We therefore have created all kinds of rules and restrictions on marriage and divorce, spousal abuse, human sexuality, and pro-creation, without considering the wider needs of entering into relationships that are life-giving and fulfilling. It is time to reflect and to reconsider some of our viewpoints and decisions of the past. This is a painful process to enter into, but the Spirit of Life, leads us on, not demanding, but calling.

We have a few choices. We can simply ignore the issue and walk away, and presume that we simply do not have time to get involved. We can, at the same time, allow ourselves to be filled with self-pity. Poor me; poor us. We feel so sorry for ourselves – and walk around wrapped up in our selves. We can become angry, and let our anger lead to condemning, criticizing, attacking and feeling justified. In this level of anger, we presume that we are in someways, superior and one of the good guys. Or we can let our anger lead us to become change-agents. We can get involved and push hard for change in the way that we as a community of faith, reach out to others – especially the lonely, the wounded, realizing that we are all wounded – fractured. How do we get involved in healing – is the question. When do we as a community let go of our obsession of guilt based on a model of control and negativity. We are called to provide a positive and life giving welcome to our world. We cannot leave it up to others – when we are all called to proclaim the Good News by our actions. Many have already made their choice to leave – to walk away. The choice is one that each is confronted with and our responsibility, knowing that the Spirit of God walks with us in any case.

 

 

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