Sunday, 11 January 2015

Palls of Silence - Truth under Wraps

Palls are placed on coffins. To remind us that we are all equal and that we will all die. A coffin may be ornate bronze, solid oak, simple wood or cloth-covered. these days, there are even simple, eco-friendly coffins made of bamboo and other materials that will return to the earth more quickly. No matter the coffin, the pall covers it. There is no high or low, rich or poor. Death claims us all and we are all equal in God's sight.

There are figurative palls of silence.  And I keep wondering ... when will the pall be removed, torn off by winds and storms of truth-telling? My cousin in Liverpool wrote on her facebook page, "Tic toc..." in response to further revelations of child sexual abuse by people in high places in the UK. Paedophile rings. Vulnerable youngsters often 'bought and sold.' Tragic stories beyond our comprehension. Names begin to be named; some arrests are made. Scotland Yard continues to investigate. The pall of silence is being removed if not in one great sweep, at least bit by bit as people come forth, some in terror for their lives.

And I wonder as I also hear 'tic toc' - when and how the pall will be removed on the historical abuse in our churches by clergy and lay people? What will it take? In Canada, government and churches have begun to address the horrific abuses in residential schools. And so we should. I wonder though - what about the churches? Under rugs. On rugs, actually - or on blue blankets in a church office.

The Roman Catholic Church is being forced more and more to address the historical abuses, the slipping in the night of clergy to other parishes or dioceses where they continued to molest. Protecting the image of the church came before the ruined lives of children. What about the other churches? Anglican, United, Presbyterian ... we're smaller - perhaps less visible in the larger picture - no less culpable.

The Presbyterian Church USA put together a document to help churches address past child abuse after it became aware of extensive abuse in missionary schools in Africa. The Episcopal Church USA has a procedure/protocol for victims of sexual abuse within the church to come forward. I don't know how well 'advertized' it is. At least one American Episcopal diocese (Western New York) placed pamphlets in all of their churches inviting any who had been abused to come forward and tell their stories. An avalanche was expected; an avalanche didn't happen even though the numbers were there. However, those who wished came forward. A beginning.

The present 'wisdom' is that people don't necessarily want to sue the churches. They want to tell their truths, to be heard and believed, to receive an apology for their childhood being stolen from them - not to mention their trust or even belief in God.

When will we have the to courage to open our hearts and minds to listen and hear? To allow for some measure of healing for those who were abused - and in the process to heal some of the churches' wounds we sustained in the process of secret-keeping. 

Palls cover things. Palls are heavy. They speak of death. 

Are we going to wait until someone sues our churches? Are we hoping against hope that no one will come forward, at least not in our time? Have we convinced ourselves - of what? - that if the victims of abuse really wanted to come forward they would? Does it have to go to court for us to hear their stories? 

There is a great sickness out there. I keep trying to understand ... what holds us back? 

Jesus meant it when he said, "The truth will set us free."

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