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Much of the news lately, at least in the US, has been dominated by the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. I find this degree of coverage surprising because (1) this is really nothing new (it was extensively covered in the early 90's as well, with no apparent change in the Catholic Church as a consequence), and (2) that the abuse has sparked so much interest in the 'lay' community to warrent extensive coverage.

As I was sexually abused by a priest at the age of 17, I know such stories are not beyond the realm of truth, particularly since I know that I was not not the only victim of my abuser. My particular abuse was made that much more tragic because I was in counselling with this priest to attempt to heal the effects of paternal incest and maternal emotional and physical abuse. What this priest did, in effect, was to let me know that virtually no person in authority can be trusted to abstain from inflicting severe harm on those dependent on the particular form of authority in question.

I have since become aware that it was, perhaps, my reliance on authority that was the problem....as witnessed in my odyssey through the mental health system. It strikes me that abuse by religious leaders is qualitatively no different than abuse in therapy.

The same elements are present: A relationship between a person viewed as an authority with one viewed as needing 'guidance' or 'healing' -- which occurs within a self-governing, closed system wherein input from clients or 'lay' people is either discounted or discouraged. In other words, both of these types of relationships are, in effect, 'beyond the law' as there lacks a system of checks-and- balances present in other systems (such as, to a small extent, within our political systems).

Abuse has been known to be rampant in other closed systems -- within other religious groups, and within well-known (and not so well-known) cults. So, it should come as no surprise that a closed system spawns abuse. It is my opinion that the news coverage granted to this most recent of scandals is evidence that something very important may be happening within modern society.

Perhaps we, as adults, are finally 'growing up' and are becoming aware that, once we give our power over to a perceived authority figure, we lose a tremendous amount. We lose our sense of self, we lose sight of how important it is to remain true to ourselves, and we lose our ability to discern (at least temporarily) that negative behavior of so-called authority figures is, in fact, negative.

Perhaps most important, we lose sight of the fact that we are adults who have been endowed with the gifts of self-insight and free will. In effect, we allow ourselves to become prisoners of 'authority'. Perhaps the time is finally arriving that we will, at long last, know that we are each our own ultimate authorities -- and that no one, whether that person be church leader, therapist, medical doctor, or teacher, can tell us more about ourselves, and what is good for us, than we ourselves can. Perhaps the time is coming when we will stop searching for the 'magic bullet' outside ourselves."

-Ellen Edwards