Today is National Poetry Day, on occasions I dabble in a bit of poetry and I thought I might do so today.
For many people poetry is all about pastoral poems, but what is below is far from pastoral, indeed some might find it disturbing. Poetry shouldn’t just be about clouds of golden daffodils, or love, or a horse galloping, it should also be about those dark satanic mills, and subjects which are difficult or painful, the poem below is such a poem. It concerns sexual abuse and the Church.
Night of Sorrow
On knees in the cold dark,
reaching for a way out,
searching for some peace,
sweat tinged red beading on a face.
Another face watching on from the shadows.
Shame, deep shame, but the shame should have been with him.
Standing there stripped bare,
the cold night air alone to clothe.
like an ice cold shower turning flesh colder still.
An innocent and a self-styled judge.
A crowd, once crying out with joy,
now whispering in dingy corners,
growing tangled webs to shield, hide, confound.
Takes a bowl and slowly washes hands.
As the innocent visits death.
Yesterday I found myself pondering over these words from Bonhoeffer:
The Church has often denied to the outcast and to the despised the compassion which she owes them ….. She has stood by while violence and wrong were being committed under the cover of the name of Christ.
Then this news broke:
Peter Ball acted in a way that was totally and utterly unacceptable, unacceptable regardless of what his work, faith or sexual orientation is. Unacceptable because it was abuse of another person, a person who was not in a position to get up and walk away. But what is worse, yes I said worse, is the way the Church has dealt with it and continue to deal with it. I totally disagree with the Bishop of Durham who is interviewed in the link above. He says that he hears the concern that their might have been a cover up but a review needs to be done because it might have been done as well as could have been expected according to the standards of 1992-93. Now let me take a little minute to cool my boiling blood before I complete this post ….
This individual did wrong, admitted he had done even more wrong and sought immunity from prosecution for that wrong. The Church did not do what it should have done, what it teaches, even if the Church wrongly believes it acted in an acceptable manner with regard to a cover-up because it was the 90’s. The Church did not go to his victims and offer them support. That has nothing to do with whether these crimes took place in the 1990’s of the 1490’s or in the day’s of Christ himself. The Church looked and protected its own rather than the ones who had been violated and they did it under the name of Christ. The Rt Revd Paul Butler, uses the word shameful, shameful doesn’t even begin to cover it. The current Archbishop of Canterbury should have made a public statement himself apologising for the way the Church had handled this case and committing the Church of England to address any other such cases lurking in dusty filing cabinets whilst urging other faith communities, who might also have similar files, to do likewise.
An individual committed these crimes but the Church has made that crime seventy time seven times worse, for they have turned their back on ones they know have been mistreated. They have taken on the role of the priest and levite on that dusty road; they have slapped the other cheek rather than turning it; and they continue to wash their hands as Pilate did.
While this particular case is with regard to a Church of England bishop it is not just the Church of England who, in my opinion, need to think again about how they deal with this issue.