When It's your friend(s), then what?
I must be honest, I am in pain. My heart and spirit have all been preoccupied with the revelations now spreading across Catholic Media and Liturgical Music circles. What I write here is my thoughts, none of this is meant to tell anyone what to do. Ok?
I have been relatively silent surrounding the allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse against my friend David Haas. Those of you who know me know that I count David as a friend and mentor. These allegations surrounding David are complicated for me to personally process because they haven't followed a familiar path from previous experiences regarding abuse reporting. At first, I'll admit that to me, it appeared to be a character assassination in the court of public opinion instigated by a relatively unknown advocacy group called IntoAccount. Now I see that a growing number of over two-dozen women have come forward to name their abuser, and that's no small potatoes. That's an outright pattern. That is social proof of misdeed and wrongdoing.
To add insult to injury, a portion of allegations are connected to Music Ministry Alive! Alumni. MMA is an institute from which my entire life has stemmed. It was the one credit I had going for me when I applied for my first church gig. It was where I learned the basics of the liturgy, and it allowed me to grow as a pastoral musician. You can view what MMA Associate Director, Lori True stated publically linked to this passage.
Additionally, IntoAccount has utilized SNAP- The oldest and largest Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests to promulgate these allegations. What I now see is a good reason. At this same time, I am not sure about where their aims toward justice might be found... But that's not why I am writing this. I am writing this because I am watching and listening. I am examining my own thoughts and feelings.
My heart and prayers are primarily focused on compassion for those who have come forward. The hurt they live with will never cease. That breaks my heart in ways I didn't know possible. While their names are a mystery, given the number of people reporting, I am sure that I count them in my number of people I call friends. So here I stand between friends. It is a place where one friend has potentially done irrecoverable damage to the others. Friends in pain, I am with you. I stand next to you as you come forward to confront this pain. I believe you, and you are not alone in any way today or tomorrow.
My prayers also focus on David, whom I will still count as my friend. I would not be imitating Christ if I abandoned a man because his sin is more severe and different from my own. "If a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit..."
So I am doing my best to approach all of this with a gentle spirit.
I have taken time out of grief and shock to examine what I am witnessing regarding David, the numerous friends who are survivors, those adamantly advocating for them with whom I stand, and my mind and heart keep leading me to the same place. The scriptures keep speaking to me about what to do. The current moment in time also unifies my thoughts. So let me explain.
"If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, 'I am sorry,' you should forgive him."
- Luke 17:3-4.
We have every reason to be angry. And rightfully so! Anger lets us know our dignity is threatened or abused; anger also clouds us from clearly seeing with pure hearts. Our anger stops us from being focused on real justice, mercy, and reconciliation. Those are the overwhelming themes of the Gospel. Our call as Christians is to focus on those themes and apply them when we are angry. Doing so IS NOT EASY! It's an uncomfortable process; it is a painful journey. It is one we best step back from the initial anger and become focused on a pillar of our Baptismal call. True reconciliation.
The problem is, the accused, in this case, hasn't offered any repentance. We cannot force an admission of guilt. Maybe that will come? I don't know... Honesty and transparency from David need to be the challenge we place before him in this situation. Upholding that honesty in the future through accountability as friends are where those who choose to not abandon him might find our own peace. I don't know? If you're reading this, David, I'm sorry. I still love you and hope that true justice comes forth from the truth revealed, whatever that truth may be. The only way forward seems impossible from one side or the other. That is why I offer a middle perspective.
Stuck between the friends who are injured, and the friend who caused the injuries, My only position can be to build a bridge of reconciliation and mercy. I believe that is where my heart will find peace and lead others there as well.
"The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned." - Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
Let us measure our characters in how we approach the victims and the accused. We must not attack either side and do our best to quell our anger. People deserve the freedom to deal with this trauma. I am saying this as an alternative to the piling on of outrage. I am saying this as an alternative to staying one-sided and instead embracing our unity as people of God. For any healing to take place, there must be reconciliation through the lens of mercy. I believe the accounts of those who have come forward want to find peace. I think they hope that their alleged abuser wants to heal and be healed. These are lessons we have learned from the Gospel, and they are a narrow path indeed.
Please don't hate on this post- it is merely my thoughts about an awful situation, and I haven't the energy nor the emotional capacity to debate anything at this point. I am still too raw. Coming to this incomplete position has been exhausting. Like it or ignore it.
My heart hurts so damn much because I love all parties involved.
If anyone who is reading this is sitting in silence, bearing pain from any wrongdoing that is abuse, PLEASE file a report with RAINN (https://www.rainn.org/ or 800-565-HOPE), Your local Diocese and your local police department.