Frontline airs documentary on clergy sex abuse in Alaska
"The Silence," which airs on KCTS 9 at 9 p.m. on Tuesday (April 19), tells a powerful story of the suffering and recovery of an Alaska village where 80 percent of the children were abused by the clergy.
By Anthony B. Robinson
Reporter Mark Trahant, a Northwest journalist who writes for Crosscut and many other publications and was for several years the editorial page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, narrates the story. By way of introduction, Trahant notes, “As a journalist, and member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe, I’ve been writing about Native Americans my whole career, but little could prepare me for what happened in St. Michael.”
A unique part of the 2009 court settlement was a requirement that Fairbanks Bishop Donald Kettler travel to all the affected villages, including St. Michael, to meet in person with the victims and apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church. Frontline is able to tape these 2010 meetings of Bishop Kettler (who was not bishop at the time the abuse took place) being confronted by the victims and apologizing.
"The Silence" has been broken. The victims themselves have broken the silence of shame and guilt by speaking through their tears. The Church has broken its silence and complicity by facing the victims and apologizing. But viewers may experience another silence. I found myself moved to silence by this broadcast, a silence of sorrow and deep sadness.
Finally people are listening to us. Now we can stop carrying this terrible silent burden alone within our families.
By Mary Annette Pember
She makes ominous, veiled references, still filled with fear of retribution from the priests and sisters who ran the school. They have robbed my mother and so many others of any real peace or serenity.
Comment: The Silence was indeed a powerful report. A few observations:
In other words, it's about like seeing half your tribe killed by disease and hunger, another third killed by warfare, and the rest cheated out of your possessions and herded into concentration camps far from your historic homeland, sacred sites, and cultural ties. It's like having your entire world overturned, shattered, destroyed.
You may still live, but everything you know and believe will be gone. No wonder you'll feel lost, helpless, suicidal. It won't be the least bit surprising if you lash out with alcoholism, abuse, and violence yourself.
That's essentially what happened to the victims in St. Michael, Alaska. And to victims of priestly abuse everywhere. And to many of the world's indigenous peoples in general. White Christian Euro-Americans treated them like dogs, which turned them into whimpering wrecks or angry attackers. It's "natural" for humans and other living beings to respond to treatment like that.
For more on the subject, see "Res-Love" = Abuse and Alcoholism and Intergenerational Trauma = PTSD.