In times of old, saints had visions. They acted on them and things changed. Joan of Arc, for instance, led an army that fought for France’s liberation.
I am no saint, but please allow me to relay this “vision” that came to me after reading two unrelated stories: the story about the Spokane Catholic Diocese bankruptcy hearing and the story containing allegations that boys were beaten and abused at Morning Star Boys’ Ranch.
In the vision, Morning Star Boys’ Ranch is closed. It has outlived its purpose. In this litigious era, it is no longer feasible to operate a ranch for troubled boys, especially one run by a Roman Catholic priest.
The ranch is beautiful, set on 224 acres at the foot of Browne Mountain in southeast Spokane. Developers salivate over the prime land. The property is valuable, worth millions.
The survivors abused by Spokane Diocese priests over the past 50 years believe they deserve millions for the wounds of the body and spirit they suffered. Some of the victims believe that the church should pay these millions by selling off the diocese’s parishes and schools.
In my vision, Morning Star Boys’ Ranch is given to the abuse survivors. Even though it is an independent, nonprofit agency now, the ranch grew out of the Catholic culture, and depends on it still. Bishop Bernard J. Topel first envisioned the building of the ranch in 1956. And Catholics throughout the decades have contributed time and money for the support of the ranch and its mission.
In return for Morning Star, the survivors drop all claims. The diocese surfaces out of bankruptcy. The parishes and schools are safe.
The survivors discuss whether to sell the land to the eager developers and divide the profits among them. But the survivors possess wise souls. Some are prophets. A few are saints in the making. They broke the silence about the abuse that festered for decades in the church. They helped change the institution, making it much safer for young people now.
The survivors healed by telling their stories to one another, day after day. They healed by talking to anyone who would listen compassionately about their betrayal and hurt. They understand that money alone cannot salve wounds of the soul.
So they do not sell the ranch to developers. Instead, on this land with mountain vistas, they open The Center for Healing and Reconciliation. They invite to this nondenominational center any person, young or old, abused by a person of trust – by father, by mother, by uncle, by aunt, by cousin, by Scout leader, by teacher, by youth minister, by priest.
They offer sanctuary for as long as the person needs to heal. They listen to the survivor’s story, over and over again.
They also invite to the center any of the abusers willing to confront their deepest demons. They ask the abusers to listen to the survivors’ stories, to hear how much damage they inflicted on the innocent.
They listen to what happened in the abusers’ lives to twist their psyches in such dangerous ways.
They also invite to the center spiritual people from all faith traditions.
These leaders – together with those who are healing from abuse – pray, meditate, break bread, sing, laugh and dance in the great open spaces at the foot of Browne Mountain.
The spiritual leaders help the broken ones see that women and men can rise above great hurt and harm.
Survivors need not get stuck forever in anger nor mired in their need for revenge.
There is hope.
But millions of dollars will not buy this hope.
Shuttered schools and parishes will not open this hope.
Close the schools and the children who learn there suffer.
Close the parishes and you shut down the community work that feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, comforts those who mourn and supports those who fight for justice’s sake.
And thus ends my vision, a brief respite from the sad and disturbing stories emanating this week from Catholic Land.
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