-- Frank Sinatra
Like so many others, I was a personal witness to that historic moment, albeit from the safety and comfort of my living room. When Sinéad said "fight the real enemy" and threw the pieces of the pope’s photograph to the floor, I jumped to my feet and shouted “Right on!” At the time, I was in the throes of self-discovery, wrestling with the knowledge of my own childhood abuse by a Franciscan priest, and entering a long and painful process of recovery through therapy.
On November 29, 1993, a little more than a year after Sinéad's public protest, the provincial minister of the Franciscan Province of St. Barbara held a press conference in which he disclosed the report of a year-long independent investigation. The findings concluded that between the years 1964 and 1987, 34 young boys had been molested by 12 friars at St. Anthony’s Seminary, the Franciscans’ boarding school in Santa Barbara. At the time, it was the largest reported case of institutional clergy abuse in the country and it made front page news nationwide. I was one of those initial 34 boys, and the news that day filled me with a numb sense of relief and sorrow.
In subsequent years, further investigations and multiple civil litigations would eventually reveal the deceit and the depth of the abuse that occurred at St. Anthony’s and it would include hundreds of survivors and dozens of Franciscan perpetrators. Many Individuals have understandably chosen to remain silent for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to spare themselves and their families from the real possibility of revictimization. But many others have chosen to come forward to share their stories, with some reporting abuses by clergy that have stretched back as far as the thirties and forties.
Today, far too many of us in this country find ourselves engulfed in a political and cultural war where deception and distraction are used to normalize, justify and make palpable the next big lies. A traumatized citizenry struggles as a whole to recover let alone make sense of the repeated breakdown of civil discourse and democratic principals. History may attempt to be rewritten by those who can never admit they are wrong about anything, but in the end, seeking truth is a moral imperative, a spiritual practice, a daily reminder to continue Sinéad's call to fight the real enemy.
NOTE: In case there's an interest, the "Sinéad Was Right" t-shirt I'm wearing in the photo (above) is available for purchase exclusively from the good people at Latchkey in Philadelphia.