Power and Addiction

The Hypocrisy, Betrayal and Failure of the Bishops
in the Catholic Church

Kathleen M. Dwyer
June 6, 2004

Good Morning.

My name is Kathy Dwyer and I am one of the four coordinators of STTOP (Speak Truth To Power) along with Phil Cogswell, Ruth Moore and Richard Oreoa. I am also a survivor of ritual, sexual and spiritual abuse done to me, in God’s name, by a priest, two members of the K of C and my father. I am also a survivor of incest which was also done in God’s name, by my father. I grew up believing that church was family and family was church and that as long as I followed their rules I would not go to hell.

Today, like every other day, we are breaking silences, grounding ourselves in reality and demanding accountability, responsibility and change of a church with a hierarchy that claims to be the moral authority yet behaves immorally. Of a church whose hierarchy claims to be sorry for what has happened to the countless survivors of abusive priests and church members yet continues to pay lobbyists, not only to support their religious agenda but also to defeat changes in the Statute of Limitations that would benefit victims rather than perpetrators. And specifically, today we are here to demand the resignation of both McCormack and Christian. I hope that our presence and our voices will be heard by those in the pews, as well as those non-catholics who think that what has happened in this church does not pertain to them and by those who do not believe at all and therefore may believe even more strongly that what has happened in this church is of no consequence to them.

They are all wrong! What has happened in this church and how it’s hierarchy and the majority of it’s religious and laity has responded to the crimes of sexual abuse does effect everyone and has achieved in setting very dangerous precedents…it has role modeled not taking responsibility by rationalizing, comparing and blaming other people, places and things for what they have done. And, most importantly and most sadly, it has role modeled that if you do it well enough and use the trust, privilege and respect that has been extended to you, not only can you get away with criminal behavior, but you will have countless people still supporting, trusting and following you, resulting in maintaining your control…and maintaining your power.

McCormack, dressed in the priest’s collar and the bishop’s hat is but one example of many. Without the protection and deference afforded this powerful church and it’s priests and bishops, he would be in jail right now with Christian at his side. McCormack in particular has left reams of evidence documenting years of hypocrisy, betrayal and failure. He failed and betrayed those he was supposed to serve in his role as a Licensed Social Worker… a role which afforded him both the information and resources to help abused children. He failed and betrayed those he was supposed to serve in his role as a priest…and he continues to fail and betray those he is supposed to serve in his role as bishop. The church hierarchy along with the state has sanctioned those failures without consequences. But make no mistake, there are consequences.

There are consequences to those of us who survived and know first hand the difficult struggle to survive and the day to day work to live. There are consequences to all who were betrayed and struggle to make sense out of their faith, their church, the men they believed in and indeed, may have had positive experiences with until their consciousness was awoken and they came to accept that there are many different experiences of these men. And there are consequences to those yet to come for until the religious and the state are willing to hold and view the experiences of all, our children are not safe.

Talking to you here today is an honor. But the reality is we shouldn’t even have to be here. One explanation of why we still, after all that has been revealed, are demonstrating is that the church hierarchy is intoxicated on and addicted to their own ordained and nurtured power. They drink daily from their chalices of power and then, not unlike the alcoholic and drug addict, will do almost anything to protect their supply. As a woman who just celebrated her 20th anniversary of sobriety and who for 15 years was director of residential substance abuse treatment programs for women, I see a definite correlation between the symptoms of alcohol and drug addiction and the symptoms of the intoxicating and addictive effects power can have on some.

The major symptom, or the STAR of addiction is DENIAL. And, as you all know, most stars have strong and supportive casts whose role is to make sure the star shines brightly. In the case of addiction, the supporting cast for the “star denial” is RATIONALIZATION, MINIMIZATION, COMPARISON AND BLAMING OTHER PEOPLE, PLACES AND THINGS for what the addict is responsible for.

Of course, actors need an audience. The audience for the alcoholic/addict is known as the ENABLER. Enablers have the very same symptoms as the addict. They deny, rationalize, compare and blame others for what the addict is responsible for.

However, in addition to the addict and the enabler, there is also the INTERVENER. This is the one who is able to see what is happening and, however differently, may have a little power of their own, and with that power chooses to do an INTERVENTION. Often, it is a former ENABLER who, finally, and for various reasons, became able to see what was really going on and that their denial did not help the situation but rather made it even worse.

So, in summary, we have the addicts, the enablers and the interveners. When applied to the abuse in the church what we see is that the church hierarchy and some of the priests, bishops and church members are the power addicts, intoxicated on power. They have abused and betrayed those they should have been nurturing and standing with. They then deny the abuse and betrayal and even with evidence to the contrary, they rationalize, minimize, compare and/or blame others for what they have done. For example, when the churches own documents were finally released in Boston, the church had to stop denying that abuse had happened. However, they immediately began to rationalize, minimize compare and blame others for what they are responsible for. They rationalize that they thought they were doing the right thing by moving the perpetrators to other parishes, they minimize that it was only a few, they compare the church with schools and the larger population and they blame gays, the 60’s as well as the newspapers for Catholic bashing. Of course, these are just a few of the ways they tried to keep returning everyone to the denial of their atrocities, less their “supply”…their power be decreased, or worse still, taken from them.

In McCormack’s case, he denied his role as a Social Worker by claiming his role as a priest …He rationalized his role as priest by claiming he answered to those above him …as Bishop, he minimized his cooperation with “authorities” to deny it kept him from being prosecuted, ultimately resulting in his maintaining his Bishop status.

The ENABLERS of these Power Addicts are those who blindly support the church hierarchy and the priests and church members who clearly are responsible. Some deny that the abuse ever happened, they rationalize that they knew the perpetrator and that he was never like that with them…others who accept some abuse may have happened rationalize that most survivors are just after money. They minimize the extent of damage abuse can cause and often demand survivors “let it go and get over it”. They too, compare it with other institutions and likewise blame homosexuality, the 60’s or catholic bashing for so much being made of it. These people remain in the pews, donating and entrusting their money to be used however the church hierarchy sees fit to do so in order to keep themselves and the public in the denial.

And then there are the INTERVENERS. Some call us protesters…some call us demonstrators …some call us things I dare not name. But it is we here today and many others not here who, however differently, have been able to bust the denial, rationalization, minimization as well as the comparing and blaming and see what is and in so doing place responsibility on the guilty parties. It is we who recognize that as long as the church, it’s hierarchy and some of it’s people remain in denial they have no reason to change. It is we who recognize that it is not homosexuality, the 60’s or catholic bashing that causes such abuse of power…but rather what the people who have the power do with it is where responsibility lies…it is we who recognize that this abuse did not just start in the 50’s or 60’s but is rather an on going pattern of abuse that needs to be stopped…that needs to be corrected…that needs to be intervened on in if a truly safe and holy space is to be created for all people. It is we who are the interveners…the ones who know the insidiousness of power abuse…the ones who know that the very same priest who ritually and sexually abused me and others may have also celebrated with still others the births and weddings of their children and grieved with them the deaths of their loved ones. It is we, the interveners, who are able to hold up many truths and then, recognize that while some of those truths may be positive, some of those truths are just so horrific that there is no amount of positive behavior that would warrant giving someone a “free pass” for the horrific ones they are also responsible for.

McCormack and Christian…you must resign now! Not just because it is the right thing to do for the larger community, but also because it will give the potential for your own healing. My hope is that there was a time in your life when you were idealistic…when you wanted to make a difference and were filled with a positive spiritual belief. Somewhere along the way, undoubtedly while still quite young, you started to drink your ordained power recklessly until you landed in a state of constant intoxication. It has cost so many so much but it is not too late to change…to start a new cycle. Rather than one of intoxication and abuse, start one of healing and recovery. One that begins with you but who knows where it may spread. Like Law, after you resign, you undoubtedly will be given a position at the Vatican. How wonderful would that be if you could spread healing and recovery there. If you could help the chalice be filled with love and compassion rather than abuse and grandiosity. Take responsibility for your behavior…only then is there any possibility of you becoming a positive instrument of change…only then, is there any possibility of you becoming what you claim to be…and only then, is there a possibility of honoring all the vows you actually took. And if none of what I said makes any sense resign anyhow…if you wait too long, all the spots in the Vatican may be filled.

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