By: Fr. Nicholas A. Marziani, Jr., ~ D.Min Pastor Emeritus, St. James Church
Like many of us, I was appalled months ago by the revelations of terrible sexual abuse that occurred in the context of the American women’s gymnastics Olympic team.
As a member of the Roman Catholic clergy, I am all too aware of similar charges lodged against a few of my own calling, but the particulars of this case involved a perpetrator whose professional status modern society tends to generally give liberal passes on when it comes to intimate bodily interactions.
Dr. Larry Nassar was able to commit, by all estimation, likely over a thousand instances of sexual assault, under the oft-repeated cover phrase, “well, he’s a doctor.”
Incredibly, this seemingly genteel monster with a wife and children, and whose surname ironically means “Protector” in the language of his ancestry, never came onto any responsible overseer’s radar for years.
What especially set me off regarding this matter was an interview I recently watched on a Catholic television program featuring one of the victim survivors of Larry Nassar’s “practice”. This beautiful young woman indicated that, on the one hand, she definitely felt uncomfortable repeatedly submitting herself to this physician’s focused attention on her private areas in the name of “therapy”. On the other hand, while trying to invoke the Christian virtue of forgiveness, she appeared to really not have processed what happened to her, even using self-talk reassurances like, “after all, it was just Larry”, to minimize the very real warping of her psyche that had occurred as a result of what she endured.
Bottom line is that she decided to stuff her real feelings, partly out of a misdirected acceptance of societal convention, and partly out of the fear that she might lose her position on the team if she “sang”.
It was a “just play ball” kind of thing, and play she did. Had she trusted her gut, really acknowledging what was going on inside of her, physically, mentally, and spiritually, she might have spared herself and many teammates the prolonged, if suppressed, pain being inflicted on all of them.
Beyond this specific example, don’t all of us often enough get what we call “gut feelings” about people, or places, or situations that make us wary?
I’d like to propose what some might consider a novel interpretation of those feelings. Maybe they don’t always emerge from our own internal processing. Maybe some of them are really and literally our good angels, trying to warn us about immanent dangerous or compromising situations.
So, especially during the active summer months, if something strikes you as “off”, please consider it a friendly intervention of your guardian angel, and adjust your thinking and plans accordingly.
If anything, spirituality is practical as well as other-worldly, something that all the great masters have taught us. God bless you, and have a wonderful summer!