Clergy and Religious Leader Abuses of the Laity
Religious and Spiritual Consequences
When you walk to the edge of all the light you have and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen. There will be something solid for you to stand upon or you will be taught to fly.
It is possible to identify and to describe the religious aftermaths of sexual abuse done by religious leaders and clergy. It is also possible to identify and to describe the religious aftermaths of clericalism and institutional malfeasance as institutionalized forms of collective abuse and betrayal. Finally, it is possible to identify and describe the religious aftermaths of community denial, betrayal, rejection and aggressive hostility.
It is, therefore, possible in a similar manner to carefully delineate and describe survivors’ traumatic responses to their social and personal experiences of sexual, institutional, and social abuses in the spiritual realm.
Therefore we can theoretically separate religious aftermaths of complex forms of abuse from their spiritual aftermaths. We can do this definitional and diagnostic work in three manifestations of abuse inside religious environments:
-The survivor’s lived experience of sexual abuse acts (such as rape) done by clergy and other religious institution leaders;
-The survivor’s lived experience of institutional denial and attack behaviors as the survivors confront institution managers about their abusive, duplicitous, and complicitous mismanagement of known sexual abusers. In common language this is the result of managers covering up or covering for the sexual abuser’s presence inside the institution. Common forms of this according to Doyle include minimization, denial, outright lying, and frontal attacks on the survivors of abuse. Victims of sexual predation by clergy are thus twice abuse and twice betrayed.
-The survivor’s lived experience of their religious community’s disbelief, disdain, victim-blaming and victim-shaming behaviors. These forms of community betrayal are, therefore the third and complicating form of attack behaviors on the survivors of clergy sexual abuse.
It is important to note, however, that an individual’s lived internal experiential reality in these matters will likely be inchoate, confusing and deeply troubled. This is due to the experiential difficulty, after traumatic encounters at a personal level, of separating religious experiences from spiritual experiences. Doing this kind of heuristic separation is, therefore, counter-intuitive.