Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ellen's Thoughts

I was in the PC for four years, then consecrated until I left in 2009. I haven’t though through everything, but here are some of the things I think about my experience and the institution as a whole:

I had a lot of good experiences, but I don’t think the good should be attributed to the institution. I think the good experiences we had came from the people we were with. I know I met a lot of truly, deeply good people while in the Movement, and am still good friends with some of them. A lot of us deeply loved God and our Catholic faith, and genuinely and generously wanted to dedicate one or more years of our lives to discerning a possible vocation (PCs) or living a life of consecration in the Church (3GF), or just doing some form of good volunteer work in a Catholic context (coworkers). Because we were genuine, enthusiastic and eager to do good, many of us did indeed have good experiences – because of the goodness of our hearts, not necessarily the institution.

I agree with those that say you can’t blame everyone/everything involved in an institution for the sin of one man (MM) or a few (supporters). However, I think that’s a very weak defense. The story doesn’t end there. I didn’t leave RC because MM sinned. I left for two reasons:

1. I came to recognize that his sin was more than a personal sin. Given his position in the institution, he was able, whether deliberately or not, to ingrain the mentality behind his own actions into the overall functioning and methods of the institution.

2. Once the news had come out regarding MMs personal life, the abuse cases, and the need for reform of the institution, I don’t think RC/LC handled the situation correctly. First of all, the Gospel says, “The Truth will set you free,” yet the consistent approach taken was to withhold as much of the truth as long as possible. Even after the Vatican itself began sending communiqués, directors passed them down with a watered down explanation making everything seem “not so bad.” I don’t think the victims of abuse have yet been directly addressed and dealt with. I don’t mean to imply that LC/RC has withheld truth out of malice. There might be some cases where it has been done for some sort of power or gain, but it is also possible that, in many cases, denial is simply easier than acknowledging a truth that requires change. I know that surface level things have changed (e.g. shorts on outings for PCs, more free time, access to the internet for consecrated, etc.), but I don’t think the deeper issues have been addressed.
And, while acknowledging the truth and addressing the victims of abuse is very important, I don’t think that is the extent of the problem.

I believe that LC/RC hasn’t even begun, at least publicly, to address or reform serious flaws in the congregation that came about due to MMs leadership. These flaws pervade the fiber of the institution at all levels, and until they are addressed, true reform can’t even begin to happen. As long as LC/RC takes the position that, yes, MM, and some other LCs have sinned and made mistakes, but the institution itself is good, nothing will really change, even if consecrated now go around in sandals and ponytails.

As a specific congregation/Movement with its own identity, LC/RC basically became a “subculture” within the Church. There is no problem with subcultures that share the same values as the larger Church, but live them out difference (as the Dominican teaching order, for example, has a different religious culture than the cloistered Carmelites, but both are united with the greater Church in essence and differ in ministry and tradition). LC/RC, however has formed a subculture that mirrors (or at least mirrored) genuine Catholicism externally, but was really a perversion of it. Faith and reason are two very important dimensions of the human person, and I believe that LC/RC perverted both of them. Faith became blind, and often “dumbed down” obedience, in which there is a direct correlation between what the superior says and the will of God. This goes in direct conflict with the true Catholic teaching of conscience, which states that, in the end, we will be held accountable for what our conscience tells us. Yes, we have the responsibility to educate our conscience, but it is to be educated with the TRUTH and guided by reason – the opposite of suspending reason to blindly accept the word of another and assume that we are not responsible for our actions because they have been directed by the superior. And, reason has been perverted by being marginalized. Obedience is always more important than our reason, and even though LC/RC tells its members that they are free to think, it directs them as to how they should think, so the “reasoning” generally follows a set track that has been thought out in advance and fed to the members. Every time my reasoning led me to a different conclusion than what the directors/Movement said, I was “corrected” for being “too rational.” This is completely against true Christian philosophy, which sees reason as one of our greatest gifts from God and a means to bring us to him through the truth. I’m not saying our reason is always perfect, but I am saying that it shouldn’t be marginalized, overlooked, trampled on or put out of the picture. It should be respected and cultivated, not by telling us what to think, but by letting us think for ourselves, explore, discover, discuss, debate, and in the end, draw our own conclusions, even if they differ from the “party line.”

I believe that the greatest tragedy of the institution is not the life of the founder, but the harm it as caused in the lives of individuals and in the life of the Church it professes to love and serve. I don’t just refer to the individuals that were victims of abuse, but to all that have suffered spiritual, psychologically, emotionally, physically or in any other way due to their experience in the Movement. From reading different comments in this discussion and others, it seems that some had very negative experiences and others had, at least on the personal level, positive ones. I don’t think that the good experiences some have had make up for the difficulties so many others go through, or for flaws inherent in the institution. The Church as a whole has also suffered, because many people, possibly some of you included, have lost their faith or have a negative experience of it due to LC/RC. LC/RC took different concepts, terms and aspects of the Catholic faith and used them differently. Prayer has a true meaning. Spiritual direction has a legitimate place in the Church, but it isn’t what the Movement calls “SD”. Obedience really is a virtue, but not as the Movement taught us. Docility, humility, etc. really are good things, but I’m sure many of us can’t stomach the words now, because of the connotations taken on in the LC/RC. This hurts the Church as a whole by tainting some very good parts of the faith. Many of us have a hard time praying, or going to confession, or going to someone for advice, not those things are actually bad, but because we are turned off by the very idea due to a negative experience. And even when we go back to, or discover for the first time, what the Church really means by those things, there will always be a bad residue by virtue of association.

I am still Catholic and still practicing, but I fully understand how some of you might not be. I believe that I am because I had a very strong education in my faith from my family prior to going to the Precandidacy. When I left the Movement, I had something to fall back on from before entering, something much truer that I still remembered. I also did a lot of studying and thinking after leaving to reorient myself with the Church and draw my own conclusions, and I ended up being able to separate “Church” from “Movement.” I sincerely hope that each of you that have in some way been hurt is able to find peace and healing, and draw close to God in whatever way you can, not because you “have to,” but because he IS there, and is worth knowing, even if we feel that the “friend” that introduced him to us betrayed us.

Regarding the Movement itself, I still wish it the best, even though I no longer support it. I still know many people that are in it, and I know that many of them are truly good people. I hope they are able to see the truth and act accordingly, even if it is hard.

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