The richly Multicultural Catholic Church of the United States is a microcosm of the GLOBAL CONTEXT described in the previous module of this broadcast series on Abuse, Faith & Pastoral Care.
World cultures have enriched U.S. society for centuries, but those who brought these gifts to the United States and to the U.S. Catholic Church often carried wounds from famine, war, or other trauma in the land from which they fled. For example, those escaping genocide and the horror of war or famine may have, by contrast in trauma, been more ready to minimize the affect of sexual abuse.
First generation immigrants in the United States were guided by lived realities in their country of origin. Subsequent generations often shared in traditions and the immigration trek as family stories, which were both family and personal identity. How abuse was seen (or ignored) was passed along generations, even as younger people bore wounds of abuse visited upon them by an older generation that "didn't know better." We see this theme in memories of survivors both from established populations with immigrant ancestors (e.g., Irish, Italians, Germans, Cubans, Koreans, Philippine, Vietnamese) and from newer arrivals (e.g., Puerto Ricans, Nigerians, Caribbean blacks, Chinese, Central and South Americans, and Mexicans).
The long-term collective effects of cultural or historical abuse are not limited to immigrants, however, because not all ethnic or cultural groups were voluntary.
Enslaved persons made no choice to emigrate. African Americans have nevertheless still added great treasure to the nation and have worshiped together even while suffering enslavement, de-humanization, as well as institutionalized racism across generations.
Indigenous peoples were driven from ancestral land. Their traditions were crushed by government policy "legally" and culturally. In some places, Church schools implemented these policies. There, the sexual abuse of children, who had been isolated from parents and villages, offers a clear example of the generational progression of abuse.
No matter the group, survivors' memories similarly blend factors like culture, tradition, and generational trauma. Where abuse hit in a Church environment, many understandably rejected the Church for its many sins, along with culture, tradition, and even family. Reactions vary. There are less noted examples of individuals or whole groups who found a way to keep the evil done distinct from their thriving faith, even the faith among those who continued to suffer, e.g., due to racism.
For many generations Rome viewed abuse stories coming from the U.S. Catholic Church as uniquely American, which is strange if one considers how the Multicultural U.S. Catholic Church is full of rich traditions from every corner of the world, and full of the wounds that the worst of humanity can inflict on the innocent. The U.S. Church has no monopoly on the wounds of abuse perpetrated in a fallen world.
Effective and knowledgeable pastoral care in the U.S. Church is not well-known or broadly practiced, yet in some (not all) places it has been evolving in sophistication over several decades. One way it has been evolving is, like Fr. Hans Zollner in his worldwide safeguarding work, an ability to work with the multicultural nature of clergy-abuse survivors.
Let's take a look at a some ways survivors' stories make us aware of how cultures and traditions play out in abuse, faith, and pastoral care.
Learn how culture and ethnicity can affect response to child protection and pastoral care initiatives.
1: Latin and Hispanic Immigrants
2: Black & African Americans
3: Native Americans
4: Europeans 1880s-1930s
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