The Abuse Embedded in Church Culture

"Ordained into the Ministry of Abuse" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward
“Ordained into the Ministry of Abuse” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

If the news over the last two years has taught us anything at all, it’s that political corruption is intentional. It’s not an accident. 

The packaging claims they are appointed to serve their constituents. But, the packaging has been ripped off and we now know that’s not true. Politicians are recruited to support and perpetuate the corrupt abuse of power and to enrich themselves. To call it out from within is considered a betrayal to the party.

If the news over the last two years from the church has taught us anything at all, it’s that abuse is intentional. It’s not an accident.

I drew this cartoon five years ago to express my frustration with the church system that seems to actually initiate its leaders into a culture of abuse. The systemic abuse is so unrestrained and unchecked that we must conclude it’s essential to the institution.

As our political naiveté has been shattered, so our religious naiveté has been. Hopefully.

Žižek’s severe but necessary critique of the Catholic Church’s sexual scandals deserves attention. He claims… and I agree and have been addressing this for years… that abuse (he specifies pedophilia but I broaden it to include all kinds of abuse) is not just a personal problem for church leaders, but is embedded into the very culture of the church institution that perpetuates and protects it, so that “if a priest seriously (not just rhetorically) denounces these scandals, he thereby excludes himself from the ecclesiastic community, he is no longer ‘one of us’.”

Is this not what we’re witnessing now when sexual abuse and other kinds of abuse scandals surface in the church at an increasing rate? When a church leader or even a member speaks out, it’s considered a betrayal of the church and even a vicious attack on the very body of Christ.

When church leaders actually provide, rather than just promise, safe spaces for people where they refuse to manipulate, pressure, compel, control or abuse people, they are opting out of the culture of abuse the system demands. Indeed, they are loudly proclaiming that they are not one of them. They become enemies of the church.

Churches must make an intentional effort, not only to address the abuse that has taken and is taking place, but to absolutely assure that “it will not happen here!” It requires, not a passive hope or a naïve denial, but an active and deliberate determination to guarantee its people that, within this body, they are safe.

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