This weekend I read William Lobdell’s moving, and very sad, article Test of Faith in the Los Angeles Times.
Lobdell, a committed Christian, chronicles his time as a reporter on the newspaper’s religion beat. He describes in depressing detail how he investigated allegations of sexual abuse by church leaders of every faith. At first he appears to have been suspicious of victims who came forward with allegations of sexual abuse that were sometimes several decades in the past:
But then I began going over the documents. And interviewing the victims, scores of them. I discovered that the term “sexual abuse” is a euphemism. Most of these children were raped and sodomized by someone they and their family believed was Christ’s representative on Earth. That’s not something an 8-year-old’s mind can process; it forever warps a person’s sexuality and spirituality.
After spending years covering stories about sexual abuse, fraud, and deception by people of faith he finally realized…
My soul, for lack of a better term, had lost faith long ago — probably around the time I stopped going to church. My brain, which had been in denial, had finally caught up.
Clearly, I saw now that belief in God, no matter how grounded, requires at some point a leap of faith. Either you have the gift of faith or you don’t. It’s not a choice. It can’t be willed into existence. And there’s no faking it if you’re honest about the state of your soul.
Many survivors of clergy sexual abuse that I have assisted have told me the biggest loss they suffered, the harm that cannot be healed, is the loss of their faith. I have nothing but admiration for the survivors that I have had the privilege to represent who not only had the strength to come forward to demand accountability from their abusers (and those in authority within the Church who allowed the abuse to continue) but who despite everything they have gone through, still maintain their faith in God, and in their Church.
There has yet to be any reported court decision in North America that has awarded compensation for “loss of faith”. Perhaps it is about time…