For the last several years I have worked on the Sexual Misconduct Policy Advisory Committee, wrestling, with others in the church, over the painful existence of clergy sexual misconduct. Sometimes we wrestle together with issues, sometimes with each other in disagreement. At times for me dealing with the issues has felt ‘soul destroying’: what some victims – who also happen to be my fellow church members – have suffered in sexual abuse and then suffered additionally by the attitude (including hostility, judgmentalism, callous indifference) of others in the church toward them. Below is a poem taken from a fiction story written originally in Russian about a deacon in the church who reported the sexual misconduct of his bishop and was then punished for being a whistle-blower.
LOVE BEYOND THE VEIL OF RAIN
Vassily Borisevitch, Liège, 1981. Translated by Dr Nikita J Eike
[Note from the translator: This poem is part of a short story called ‘The Visit’ that addresses the issue of sexual abuse in the Church. It comes at a point in the story where the Deacon having spoken up about a child being molested by his bishop, is defrocked and has to work in a coal mine to support his family. Eventually an explosion has him trapped below the surface for days where he slowly dies. He is the whistle-blower who suffers at the hands of Church rulers who have failed to become shepherds and who have turned those who should have been their beloved flock, into the impersonal mass of ‘the governed’. ]
My heart is a suffering stone,
Lying helpless behind a gossamer of rain,
Drops forming a watery veil,
As impenetrable as the iron wall that stills the wind in my soul.
My pain grows ever sharper,
I am dying a loveless life,
Screams that never can pierce the silence,
Muffled behind a veil of rain.
My tears are raindrops that never fell,
Cried for a heart that never moved,
Poured for hands that never worked,
On a soul that never rose.
My mind was formed by the hopeless,
Who blinded my eye that never saw,
Desperate my heart refusing to forget,
To hope for the Love Who lives beyond the veil of rain.
My feet will follow the exile of the governed,
Who bear with arms outstretched the lusts of their rulers,
Swift the arrow: the whistle die,
My life bleeds out between my soul and my God…
And the silence fell to the ground a large ruby red teardrop.
One of the most painful images for me in the above poem is exactly when the deacon sees his fellow Christian church members, not as the beloved flock of the Good Shepherd, but as “the governed.” When the Church sees its membership not as fellow baptized members of the Body of Christ, but only as those to be governed – lorded over – it has ceased to be Church but becomes nothing but another human institution intent on controlling its unruly subjects. The power in the Church is not ‘over’ others, but our willingness to love, co-suffer with and for, others.
The next blog is verse I penned about my own thoughts and feelings about clergy sexual abuse and the attitudes I’ve seen in the church toward abusers and the abused.
Next: Nothing Hurts