Saturday, September 22, 2018

How I Talked To My Kids About The Catholic Sex Abuse Crisis

Below is a conversation I had with my boys about the sexual abuse scandal in our Catholic Church. It’s not perfect, but it’s a starting point. Please feel free to offer your own suggestions or experiences in talking with kids about this difficult issue.

Mom: “Hey, guys. Come sit with me. I want to talk about something pretty serious.”

The kids, excited to stay up past bedtime, snuggled in close.

Mom: “You know how Father Philip said he was really sad during Mass last week?”

Josh (age 7): “Yeah. He looked really sad.”

Mom: “Do you know why he’s sad?"

Joe (age 8): “No. I didn’t get what he was talking about.”

Mom: “Well, he's sad because some priests weren't doing their jobs, and they hurt people. Do you know what the job of a priest is?”

Josh: “To do Mass!”

Joe: “To give us the sacraments.”

Mom: “Yeah, that’s right. Do you guys remember what Jesus asked Peter to do when they were walking on the beach together after Jesus was crucified and came back to life?” 

Josh: “Ummmmm…” 

Joe: “Something about sheep?”

Mom: “Yeah -- Jesus asked Peter to feed and care for his sheep. And who are the sheep?”

Josh: “WE ARE!”

Mom: “Yep. That’s right, Josh. Everyone is a sheep. And whose job is it to take care of the sheep?"

Josh: "The shepherd!"

Mom: "That's right. It’s the job of the shepherd to take care of the sheep. Well, Father Philip and a lot of us are really sad because we’ve learned that there are some priests who weren't doing their job. They were hurting people instead of taking care of them.”

Joe: “How were they hurting them?”

Mom: “You know how everyone has private parts, and we want to protect everyone's privacy, so we don’t talk about or look at or touch other people’s private parts?”

Joe (hesitantly): “Yes.”

Mom: “Well, there were some priests who didn’t do that. They hurt people instead of helping them.”

Josh: “That’s weird.”

Mom: “Yeah, it’s not right at all. You know how Daddy and I want you to trust your ‘uh-oh’ feeling? Do you remember what that is?”

Joe: “Yeah. If something doesn’t feel right or someone makes me feel scared or weird, I get away.”

Mom: “And then what can you do?”

Josh: “We come and tell you.”

Mom: “Yeah, Daddy and I want you to come and tell us, so we can make sure you're safe and make sure other kids are safe too. That's our job!" 

Josh: "Yeah, that's your job!" 

Mom: "Do you guys know whose job it is to make sure priests do their job?"

Joe: "The bishop!" 

Mom: "That's right. If a priest hurts someone, it's the bishop's job to make them stop. But a lot of bishops didn't do that." 

Josh: "So whose job is it to make sure bishops do their job?" 

Mom: "Joe, do you know?" 

Joe: "The pope?"

Mom: "Yes, the pope. And he didn't do very much to help either, so that makes us even more sad. Whose job is it to make sure that priests and bishops and the pope do their jobs?"

Josh: "God?"

Mom: "Yes, it's definitely God's job to help everyone do their jobs! But I'm thinking of someone else. Whose job is it to make sure priests and bishops and the pope do their job?" 

Joe: "The president?"

Mom: "No... it's OUR job!"

Josh: "What? No way!"

Mom: "Yes way! All the regular people in the Church are called 'laity,' and we have a very special, important job. We speak the Truth that God gives us, we connect people with Jesus, and we are leaders by example." 

Josh: "That's a lot." 

Mom: "It is a lot. But God gives us a special helper. Who does God give us to help us?"

Joe: "The Holy Spirit." 

Mom: "That's right, Joe. And that's why we're so sad. The Holy Spirit helps us to do our job. And the Holy Spirit is helping us to see how some priests and bishops have hurt people. So now, what do we do since we know people are hurt?"

Josh: "Tell somebody!" 

Mom: "Yep. Because what happens if we don't tell somebody?"

Josh: "They keep getting hurt." 

Mom: "Yeah. Can I tell you what St. Catherine of Siena said happens when we don't say something?" 

Joe: "Yeah." 

Mom: "She said, 'I see the world is rotten because of silence.' What does it mean that the world is rotten?" 

Josh: "Like, people are getting hurt and bad things are happening." 

Mom: "Yeah, that's exactly what it means, and that's what's happening in our Church because people chose to be silent instead of doing their jobs. So what should we do so that we're not silent about people getting hurt?"

Joe: "Tell someone?" 

Mom: "Yeah, we need to say something. You're right. And we need to tell someone who can do something about it, right?"

Joe: "Yeah. Who can we tell?" 

Mom: "Well, we're going to stay up late tomorrow night so we can join with other laity all the way downtown in what's called a 'protest.' We're going to make some signs for people to read. What should our signs say?"

Josh (laughing): "Hey, bishop, do your job!" 

Joe: "How about 'Don't hurt people'?"

Mom: "Those are both good sign ideas. We'll keep thinking about different signs we can make. But can you guys think of anything else we can do about this sad problem?"

Joe: "I don't know." 

Mom: "That's just it, Joe. I don't really know either. What do we do when we have a problem, and we don't know what to do about it?"

Josh: "We pray about it!" 

Mom: "That's a great idea, Josh. Can we pray about it right now, together?"

Josh: "Yeah!"

Mom: "Dear Lord, please help us. We don't know what to do. People have been really hurt by priests and bishops in your Church. Help us to know what to do."

Joe: "And please help the people who were hurt."

Mom: "Hm-mm. Josh, do you have anything you want to add to our prayer?"

Josh: "No, not really. Um, Hail Mary?" 

Mom: "Yeah, why don't you start the 'Hail Mary,' and we'll pray with you?"

Josh: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen." 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing Charlene! I love the conversation you had with your boys. I am sure other people will be inspired by this post who may not have thought of how they will bring it up to their kids.