Let’s STOP Tolerating Misleading & Hurtful Language About Abuse

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Let’s STOP tolerating misleading & hurtful language about abuse.

Words matter.

They can lead to more clarity or more confusion.

All too often, words by church writers, church blogs or church publications lead to confusion (either by ignorance or by design).

For instance, a Catholic website called Church Militant wrote than an alleged victim “admitted” his abuse.

https://www.churchmilitant.com/news/article/detroit-archbishop-sued-for-fraud

Wrong.

The phrase should be “acknowledged” or “disclosed” his abuse.

An admission is something you do when you’re guilty, when you’ve done wrong.

And victims are never to blame for their suffering.

Another Catholic outlet wrote about “the second round of clergy abuse scandals” that “broke in the summer of 2018.”

https://angelusnews.com/news/nation/usccb-announces-new-head-of-national-review-board/

Wrong again.

While public attention understandably waxes and wanes, for the last 35 years (since Louisiana predator Fr. Gilbert Gauthe made national headlines), the church’s “abuse scandals” never really ended. So there is no “second round.”

In fact, there really is no “clergy abuse scandal.” The abuse is only half of the equation. It’s a “clergy abuse AND COVER UP scandal.”

Another annoying and misleading word choice: when church officials call this crisis “a tsunami,” or speak of “a flood of victims coming forward” or “a tidal wave of allegations” that “hit the church.”

First, weather-like terms give the impression that thousand of abuse reports against predatory priests, nuns, seminarians, monks brothers and bishops could never have been predicted. They just inexplicably and suddenly started surfacing. That’s baloney.

Second, claiming abuse reports “hit the church” makes it seem that victims are out to hurt the church many of them still love and belong to. And it makes church officials seem like victims.

So those of us who really care about kids and victims must be careful. We must really consider the word choices of wrongdoers and think twice before repeating them, lest we inadvertently minimize the risks and horrors of abuse and cover ups.