Listening to the Child Within

Bernard G. Prusak’s article “Who Knew?” (October 2022) is music to my ears and my soul. As a clergy sexual-abuse survivor, one who was horrifically raped by a charismatic priest in 1965 and has spent most of my career trying to educate others about the prevalence of sexual abuse and the silencing and shaming of victims, I am relieved. Mr. Prusak captures what I have experienced over and over and over again: the minimization of our stories and the inability to listen to the whole truth of grooming, deception, mind-tripping language, physical harm, and penetration, while being left to carry the “sins of the Fathers” alone. Can we begin as a community of believers to listen to the child within the adults who have been sexually abused? To really listen, and then create an inclusive and validating response instead of taking another dismissive or blaming action? Children try their best in their own awkward way to speak up, and adults may or may not listen. Can we as a Church listen to the cries within our communities and dare to create the change that is needed for real reform and healing? I hope so.

Patricia Gallagher Marchant
Milwaukee, Wis.

 

A Compassionate Voice

I would like to thank Adam A. J. DeVille for writing his article “Who Can We Forgive?” (October 2022) and Commonweal for publishing it.

I have a brother who is currently in prison for sexual crimes against children. His most recent offense is his second. The first offense occurred when he was approximately twenty-one, the second when he was approximately fifty. The first time he received counseling and probation, and the second time he was sentenced to fourteen years in prison, of which he has served seven.

My family was devoutly Catholic. My brother was adopted when he was a baby from Catholic Charities. He had problems from infancy and was unable to do well in school. He currently reads and writes at about a third or fourth grade level. I have come to believe that he probably had fetal alcohol syndrome, and suffers from all that diagnosis entails. Impulse control has always been a problem in most areas of his life.

My family (parents, sister, and I) have suffered in many ways related to my brother’s life. Needless to say, I don’t usually talk about my brother or his situation. I cannot count the number of times I have heard people say incredibly terrible things about what they think child sex offenders should suffer.

This article is probably the first time I have heard any kind of compassion or attempt to explain the pathology behind this problem. I do not think my brother chose his life. I don’t think he has the capacity to live any other life. Only God knows the answers, and She has not offered them to me, despite years of prayer.

Annmarie B. Brennan
Palm Coast, Fla.

 

The Most Liberated Person in the Room

Thank you for reprinting a December 1970 article by Doris Grumbach (“Father Church and the Motherhood of God,” January), taking note of her recent death (at 104) and her many contributions to Commonweal. Her evident gifts of insight and expression are enduring.

One reader of the original article on the Graymoor conference on feminism, however, did not feel Grumbach had adequately reported the remarks of some at the conference. While Grumbach had written admiringly of the last speaker, Dorothy Day, she commented that Day “said nothing about women’s liberation, never mentioned the words, never stated her views on the subjects of economic equality, careers, chores, society’s institutions.” Grumbach contrasted this to Betty Friedan’s speech the day before, in which Freidan had addressed those issues.

In the June 1971 issue of The Catholic Worker, Day responded to Grumbach’s criticism, writing that the “report of my speech in the Commonweal was that I did not mention Women’s Liberation but reminisced about my life and travels.” Day countered that, in fact, she had taken up three points of Mrs. Friedan’s talk. First, that women “did not need to be involved in children for more than fifteen years of their lives,” to which Day responded that she felt very much involved in the lives of her nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Second, that technological advances had “freed women from drudgery and gave them more time for public life,” to which Day counterposed her experience of living with the poor and her recent visit to India. As far as Day was concerned, the real struggle “was still a class struggle, and the big issue today was world poverty.” Finally, Friedan’s view of competing gender roles was countered by Day’s observation that “Around the CW I like to remember those words of St. Paul, ‘…neither male nor female.’ Certainly we see plenty of men at the sink washing dishes and resetting tables for the lengthening soup line.” Day concluded by recommending that “Women’s Liberation groups which are Catholic” should “remain loyal to their sisters by finding concordances” with them; but at the same time, they should continue to look to Mary as their model.

Years later, Sally Cunneen—who had also addressed the conference and was referenced by Grumbach—wrote an article for CrossCurrents (Fall 1984) touching on the Friedan-Day exchange. Cunneen remembered Day telling the conference that the only “authority at the Worker was the cook”—and that the audience had not known what to make of her story. “Hoping to hear Dorothy’s dry, ironic voice,” Cunneen wrote, “I replayed the tapes of that conference and found that her story had been removed. Yet it had been the only thing I remembered.”

Cunneen reported it was understandable that women at the conference might have found Day’s commitment to self-sacrifice and service unappealing. “Yet she had already gone through the struggles so many were facing,” Cunneen wrote, had chosen her own way, and long before “had broken away from conformism and consumerism.” As Grumbach herself had noted: Day was already the most “liberated person” at the gathering.           

Patrick Jordan
Brooklyn, N.Y.

 

What Were You Thinking?

It’s too bad that your January issue’s cover art could not show the real magnitude of income inequality. It’s not even close. With Elon Musk measuring in at 163 millimeters for $23.5 billion, the delivery person should be .00022 millimeters tall—a fraction of the thickness of a human hair. By my rough estimation, if the delivery person were the size of the dot on the “i” in “Francis,” Elon would have to be about two thousand times taller—a little over one thousand feet. The numbers are so bad that words fail me.

Bob Brunette
Madison, Wis.

Published in the February 2023 issue: View Contents
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