The Silence

Originally posted on April 20, 2011

Last night PBS aired a Frontline program called The Silence. It covered a horrendous case of sexual abuse perpetrated against children in remote Alaskan villages by Catholic priests and clergymen. In one village, almost 80% of all the children were abused. The Silence shows how silence and inaction perpetuates abuse.

According to the 20-minute piece, the Church at first ignored the claims of abuse. Later it moved the accused abusers from parish to parish. It took years for the Church to acknowledge what occurred, and longer before anyone from the Church went to address the problem, and even the latter was done primarily because it was ordered by a court.

The Silence also shows how sexual abuse embeds itself in every aspect of a person’s life. Many of the men and women featured in the piece still suffer the effects of the abuse. The pain remains just below the surface, and it takes very little to bring it up. The piece also shows the ripple effect sexual abuse can cause. Ben Andrews’ father beat him after Ben told him about the abuse he suffered. His father then left to get drunk, returned home, and shot and killed Ben’s younger brother. Ben held his brother as the boy died, and he has held on to the guilt that he caused his brother’s death for all these years.

This is the effect abuse has. It taints everything. The Silence is something that people who tell abuse victims to “get over it” need to watch because it shows what people go through. There is no easy way out, no easy fix, no quick “moving on”. The abuse is always there. That does not mean that people have to let it control their lives, but it is hard battle to keep it from doing that.

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9 thoughts on “The Silence

  1. THE SILENCE wasn’t shown at 8pm in Hawaii.
    I really wanted to see it. Is there anyway to watch it online?
    Thank you for writing about it..
    I imagine that the natives here like on the mainland and Alaska and all over the world have similar experiences with the priests?

  2. The court ordered the bishop to visit every church affected by clergy sex abuse and to apologize to the survivors. I’d rather see the courts order all the bishops and cardinals who covered up crimes against innocent children to be sent to Rome. Truth be told, we don’t want catholic bishop or cardinals in America any more. Neither do our children. Get the hell out and don’t come back. You’re more concerned about protecting dysfunctional sex freaks than innocent children, God’s most precious commondity.

    Go to Rome where you can dress up like Barbie dolls and parade around the Vatican with the rest of the pedophiles.

    Mike Ference

  3. I watched last night — as priest and as victim of abuse. It was very difficult and disturbing to try to comprehend 80% of an entire town being the victims of sexual abuse! The mind just doesn’t want to fathom it — yet the facts are in front of us.
    I agree to a degree with Mike Ference above — but instead of sending the bishops etc to Rome I am thinking of someplace a little less comfortable — like jail cells. In conscience I had to step aside from ministry because of these bishops. In faith I could no long stand for all they say and do, knowing what they have said and done in the past. I cannot do enough good in the remainder of my lifetime to offset the evil they have brought upon the church and upon the innocent souls who have been damaged.
    I presume all who are reading these words are victims or understand victims. If you are still struggling to understand where we are coming from, take the time to watch this video we produced to teach non-victims — http://www.vimeo.com/13900438

  4. How could this have happened?

    Because these children had NO ONE to tell. Not even their loyal catholic parents.

    This is exactly what child predators count on, in order to continue to sexually abuse kids, and the church officials count on the victims to stay silent to protect their church and their power.

    The only reason the church leaders had to acknowledge this abuse is because they were forced to do so.
    The brave victims forced them to admit this happened and they refused to stay silent. They did not wish for another child to go through what they had to endured.

    Anyone who has been harmed by a priest, brother, nun, bishop, cardinal, deacon, or employee do not carry the horrible burden of being sexually abused.on your shoulders and in your heart, ( it is their burden to carry).. It was NOT your fault.

    We thank all of these brave victims, now survivors… for speaking up and exposing the truth. This is the only way to get this abuse stopped

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
    snapjudy@gmail.com
    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests”
    http://www.snapnetwork.org/
    .

  5. I just wanted to punch that bishop in the mouth!

    Mike is right; ” we don’t want catholic bishop or cardinals in America any more. Neither do our children. Get the hell out and don’t come back.”

  6. “I agree to a degree with Mike Ference above — but instead of sending the bishops etc to Rome I am thinking of someplace a little less comfortable — like jail cells. ”

    BP, let’s split the difference and send them halfway to Rome.

  7. War tactics should be applied to Vatican City ¬– where the devil takes his holiday
    By Mike Ference

    Every day brings new evidence that we no longer live in a civilized and principled society. The worst part, it usually concerns another case of sexual misconduct involving a Catholic priest, young children and a church hierarchy that helped to cover up the case.

    The Catholic clergy sex abuse scandal continues to spiral out of control from one country to the next; while the pope still refuses to solve the problem. It’s now clearly documented that across the globe tens of thousands of innocent girls and boys have been sexually violated – used and abused as sex toys by Catholic clergy, yet, nothing has or will ever be done. Thousands of pedophiles, former Catholic clerics, roam the world and no one really knows where these monsters are, how many victims they have left behind or how many more will suffer from priests trained to sexually abuse since their seminary days.

    So — what should be done now that we know it’s a pattern of terror orchestrated by the Catholic Church hierarchy and repeated everywhere the dysfunctional sex freaks have established a church, school, hospital or other institution; then covered up in every layer of the all male run society – even by the pope, himself. Given the level of wreckage and anguish caused in the lives of so many people, it seems appropriate to look to the war on terror for a model strategy.

    A first prong of attack at the Vatican might involve a Special Forces unit made up of highly skilled and trained military personnel capable of tracking down and obtaining confessions from any current or former priests accused of acts of sexual abuse against children. If rights are violated, if military personnel sometimes go a little too far, so be it. The Catholic Church had ample opportunity to fess up and repent. Those incapable of civilized behavior shouldn’t expect the rights and privileges of civilization.

    A deck of cards can be created to help identify hard-to-find priests as well as the disgraceful church leaders who permitted, and in essence, condoned the sexual abuse of young children. Photos of the most deviant and reprehensible church officials accompanied by a list of their offenses will encourage us all to do our patriotic duty in helping the authorities track down suspected priest-terrorists or at least be able to identify the culprits as they come and go freely because their sins where covered up and the time to criminally prosecute has expired.

    Another option would be to divide the world into territories. A color-code warning system would be established, alerting parents about abusive priests being transferred into their respective regions. Depending on the designated color for a particular region, parents would know whether their children should serve at Mass, go on field trips, or even attend Catholic school that day.

    To aid this unique war on terror, a pool of money should be collected, not involuntarily from taxpayers, but voluntarily from those decent human beings who believe crimes committed against our children are sins that God takes very seriously. Some of the funds raised could then be turned into outrageously tempting reward sums for information leading to the capture of our targeted criminals. Once the rogue clerics have been imprisoned and forced to talk, I recommend that their confessions be given to someone like Steven Spielberg or George Romero. Hollywood writers and producers could create a blockbuster movie like Roots or Schindler’s List to serve as a bitter reminder that these crimes should never again be permitted to occur. Tom Savini could be hired to recreate the horror on the faces of child actors chosen to play parts.

    Proceeds from the movie could go to victims of abuse and their families. And no matter how old the crime, compensation would be available. There should be no statute of limitations when the rights of children have been violated by those who lived much of their adult lives perched on a pedestal heightened by the trust of innocent and vulnerable believers. In fact, I would extend compensation to the second and perhaps even third generation of sufferers. It would certainly include siblings denied the experience of growing up with a brother or sister untraumatized by such abuse. And since crimes of abuse tend to echo, it would extend to the victims of the victims as well.

    If all else fails, is it any less rational to declare war on the Catholic Church as part of a war on child abuse than it was to declare war on Iraq (which had nothing to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda and apparently had no weapons of mass destruction) as part of a war on terror? How many innocent children have been verifiably lost to this menace — and how many more will be lost if we don’t make a preemptive strike?

    As horrific as sexual abuse by priests may be, the perpetrators might merit a more forgiving place if only their superiors had the courage to do the right thing. For a few, counseling and close supervision might have been enough to prevent future abuses. Others clearly required something more intensive — a mental hospital or a prison.

    But repeated abuse, as well as willfully hiding the crimes and the criminals — as far as I can see, this brings us much closer to the realm of mortal sin. And the sinners include not just the church hierarchy, but also attorneys who ill-advised parents not to buck the system and take on the Catholic Church, or may even have provided inside information to thwart legitimate cases against the church, law enforcement officials who may have thought it best to warn church officials of pending investigations, and janitors, housekeepers, teachers, and employees of the Catholic Church who kept silent because of concerns about a paycheck, a 401K, a pension, or a fear of standing up to church authorities. God has a place for everyone — and if you abuse children or protect the abusers of children, we can only hope that your place is called hell.

    Mike Ference has been an advocate for clergy sex abuse survivors for over 21 years. He has written about the problem and works with clergy abuse families in Pennsylvania and across the United States helping victims work through the corrupt bureaucratic maize of injustice. He attributes much of the problem to corrupt leaders in government, organized crime and Catholic Church hierarchy more concerned about power and money than the salvation of souls. He has labeled the commonwealth of Pennsylvania a Pro-pedophile state where Catholic clergy sex abuse cover-ups are still the norm. (Mike, I edited out your personal information. If you want people to contact you, please create a blog or a page on another site for them to do so, and you can post the link on here so that they can find the site. However, you ought not release your phone number online – TS).

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