Tolkien and Abuse

Recently, a post in uCatholic.com highlighted J.R.R. Tolkien’s lesser-known references to the impact of failures in the Church on faith. The comments may prove helpful to our readers.

In his August 28, 2018 post entitled “J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lost Prophetic Message on Abuse in the Church,” Billy Ryan pulled excerpts from a letter Tolkien wrote to his son, noting how 55 years ago Tolkien was talking about having an “unwavering faith despite grave scandal in the clergy.”

Two excerpts from Letter 250, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien:

Besides the Sun there may be moonlight but if the Sun were removed there would be no Moon to see. What would Christianity now be if the Roman Church has in fact been destroyed?

Our love may be chilled and our will eroded by the spectacle of the shortcomings, folly, and even sins of the Church and its ministers, but I do not think that one who has once had faith goes back over the line for these reasons.

There is much more in Billy Ryan’s blogpost, including the centrality of the Eucharist for withstanding the downward pull of scandals and ecclesiastical failures on faith. This observation echoes what many survivors of clergy abuse describe – the centrality of the Eucharist that drew us back to the Church despite its terribly hurtful and damaging role when we were younger.

One thought on “Tolkien and Abuse

  1. I agree.

    In the wake of clergy abuse as an “adult child” several times I attempted to find solace in another Christian Church. In fact, I even experienced “home church” when it was too difficult because of what I was processing to go to any church. Maybe I was angry in my grief even towards God.

    I tried going to other Catholic Churches not in my city. There I would at least have anonymity and no reminder of what I have lost in my church community because I chose to report the abuser. Once loved, I became the subject of disdain and anger that the community expressed towards me in their own grief. The priest was transferred. I was still there. They couldn’t express their sadness and disappointment directly to him. I was a visible presence. I didn’t leave even when shunned. I don’t attend Mass for them.

    The week before Easter I confessed, in another church, that I was struggling to attend Mass at times. The priest suggested I not focus on the priest at all but just on the Eucharist. He said to try and keep forefront why I am going to Mass; to experience Christ in the Eucharist. He said a priest is a messenger who is flawed and who struggles with sin like the rest of humanity. Don’t pay him much attention.

    When I receive the Eucharist I ask Jesus to fill the void, the cracks from scars and wounds, with His body. Cover me on the inside like a protective parent would lie over the body of his/her child in an earthquake to shield him/her from falling debris. Only Jesus’ body covers and shields us on the inside.

    Once I asked the pastor at my church if it was ok when I attend a Protestant Church to partake in their monthly communion service. He explained that since they do not believe the “cracker” is the consecrated body of Jesus and because I would be participating in a spiritual practice the answer is no. Why take the symbol when at Mass you have “the real thing”? Good point. I respectfully decline now if I do attend a Protestant service on occasion. I attend Mass on Saturdays which leaves Sunday open if I wish to encounter God in another service besides the Catholic Church. He is everywhere.

    Another priest told me to not rush going back and that it was even ok to stay away as long as I felt I needed. Don’t push myself.

    Yet, I missed the Eucharist. It is what called me back time and again when I could not attend Mass in order to be present to Christ inside of me. That presence feeds me even when I don’t consume the Eucharist. Over my life I have received communion countless times.

    You become what you consume.

    We can go without food but not water for some time before being completely depleted. The Eucharist, which I have consumed so many times, is a part of my body too. It sustains me even in my absence. It sustains my spiritual body.

    Yet, like the body in the absence of food will crave for food at some point so does my body crave to once again partake of the Eucharist.

    Like

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