The parade of people coming forward to say they have been sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, or sexually abused by people ranging from Hollywood moguls to politicians to comedians to journalists to actors, and on and on, is enough to make a person heartsick.
The stories are shocking and sordid and reflect the kind of behavior one might have hoped was something out of bad movies or out of a past age. Yet here it is, and it has even hit close to home here in Minnesota, with at least three public officials having been accused and two having resigned.
Two living U.S. presidents — including the current one, who won election despite the existence of a recording of him seeming to boast of such behavior — have recently faced such allegations. The many accusations made years ago against a third living president have also received fresh attention, as have the excuses made for him at the time.
A reckoning is happening.
This problem seems to cut across many boundaries. Some of the alleged perpetrators are Republicans, some are Democrats. Some of the abuse is heterosexual, some is homosexual. Most of the victims are women and girls, but some are men and boys.
No one needs reminding (but it must be said anyway) that the Catholic Church is in no position to look down on other institutions facing these kinds of problems. Our own reckoning has been ongoing. Abuse by clergy is particularly heinous, and abuse of minors is even more so.
But the church still has important things to say if we are to be converted from these things and help build a healthier, safer, saner culture.
First, God calls us to understand the dignity of every human person. People, all of them, are not objects for gratification, they are persons made in the image and likeness of God with an inherent dignity we are bound to respect.
Second, God calls us to recognize the place and purpose of human sexuality. The church’s teaching on this does not derive from a prudish fear, but rather the contrary, a recognition that the marital act, which belongs in marriage, is not just good but holy and powerful and worthy of reverence.
Those coming forward with stories of how they have been hurt deserve our respect and compassion. We can honor them and work toward ending #MeToo by living in the truth.