EPISODE 41 (BONUS)
How do we maintain our course towards greater authenticity and integrity when our Church is rocked by scandal?
In this podcast I talk about how important it is to acknowledge and include our emotions in our response instead of denying, repressing, or bypassing them.
I also share some tips and resources that can help with processing our complex thoughts and emotions in these challenging times.
Watch the original video of this episode here.
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EPISODE 41 | AUTHENTICITY & INTEGRITY IN TIMES OF SCANDAL
It's been a difficult time, basically, to be a Catholic, I mean, 1. you have to deal with the reality of such darkness and evil and sin in your own faith, in your own church. And at the same time, well, you're going to have a lot of people coming up to you – especially those who are maybe not Catholic, not Christian – asking you what's the Catholic church's problem.
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Okay. Hi guys. So, you know how I'm always going on about integrity and authenticity – how, what it means to live that in our lives, how to be whole, how to become more whole and how to be real. And especially in the context of being a Christian, being a disciple of Christ. Well, today I'm going to talk – I'm going to talk, I'm going to try and tackle a little bit of an application of this, okay – in something that is, I hope you will find timely and important.
Cause I'm going to talk about what it means to have integrity and authenticity in a time of scandal. So, for those – if there's anyone of you who are watching this and you don't know who I am, my name is Ann Yeong. I am a Roman Catholic living in Singapore, and I create content, as well as speak on living a more authentic life becoming, you know, who we really are, who God created us to be, finding our unique direction and purpose in the world. And making the world a better place by being the person that we were created to be, right.
So, as a Catholic living in Singapore, I have been rather rocked by scandal now coming into my backyard, or at least, you know, having now to deal with it. You'll hear – you'll see what I'm talking about in a little bit. And it just occurred to me that I think a lot of people may also need to hear what I have to say, which are basically things that I've been reminding myself of and sharing with my close friend.
So, whether we like it or not, church and scandal is the new norm. I think ever since the first big exposé 20 years ago now, of you know, the widespread sexual abuse in the Catholic church that has been covered up. We've heard about it in the States and Europe and Australia and just too many countries and places to count.
And it's been a difficult time, basically, to be a Catholic, I mean, 1. you have to deal with the reality of such darkness and evil and sin in your own faith, in your own church. And at the same time, well, you're going to have a lot of people coming up to you – especially those who are maybe not Catholic, not Christian – asking you what's the Catholic church's problem.
Why is this happening? What kind of moral witness are you guys providing, you know? You know, you say you stand for all of these values, and this is what's happening. Now, these are very difficult conversations to have, right? When people ask us. And I know for a fact that many of us are getting these kinds of questions whenever something of this sort hits the headlines.
Now the dark side of the Catholic church is a reality. I hope that that goes without saying now. I hope that – I hope that you're not still trying to hope, you know – wish away that this wasn't true. And if this is true in any place at any time, because this permeates the whole history of the church.
Okay, and it goes beyond just, sex abuse. If you just follow news in the last year or so, you will see that it's our past is also tied up with colonialism, with racism and well, a lot of very sad and unsavoury things, right? So, the dark side of the Catholic church is a reality.
And not just historically, but currently, okay. There are things that are going on that we do not know about. There are things that never make it to the headlines. That doesn't mean that nobody is suffering, that nobody's at the hand of some injustice that's happening. And sometimes, these things are never really fully resolved, okay.
Pain and suffering continue, right, on all sides – on all sides. We have to deal in the present. We have to deal in the present with truths that emerge from acts done in the past. Right, I mean, a lot of these things that have been coming to light in the past 20 years were issues that had been happening –
– abuse that had been happening decades ago, decades earlier. Just a few months ago, the French church – the French church had actually asked for a independent inquiry, right. And what has come up is that about 300,000 children, young people, had been sexually abused within the Catholic church in France, by both by clergy and lay people over the last 70 years. 300,000.
And that was a number was not what they were expecting. In fact, apparently the French church thought that this problem couldn't be as bad in their background – sorry, in their backyard – as it is in other countries, right? So, whether we like it or not, this is a reality and we can't just focus on good things about our faith or the good that the church has done for others and keep quiet and run away from the real harm that has also been perpetrated often in the name of the church or hidden under the cloak of power that was given from within the church.
So, abuse is a reality and abuse is not just limited to sexual abuse. There's physical abuse, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse.
A lot of times these different kinds of abuses, they happen together. They come together, right? When there is some kind of power differential, it often comes with the possibility of abusing someone. And this is true, not just in religious context, right? I mean, at work, in schools and families – anywhere. It's just that the church is not exempt from this.
Now, disfunction is a reality. I think this is not a problem for any of us to acknowledge, especially when it is far from us. When we are looking at somebody else's family, somebody else's organization, somebody else's life – sometimes, or often, it is actually easy for us to pick up that there's something wrong – that there's a dysfunction there.
But when it happens in our own lives, in our own families, our own communities, and in our church, I think it's a lot harder for us to grapple with it, for us to even look at it and acknowledge it, right. So, what happens is we don't talk about it often. There's no opportunity to talk about it openly, when sometimes bringing new things into the light and acknowledging it could be the best way to move things towards healing. Reality has a way of catching up.
Right, and actually for the longest time, as I watch all these headlines – I mean, as a Catholic, grieving at what's been happening around the world in the church. A part of me always wondered when something like that might happen in my backyard here, in the church in Singapore. So, reality did catch up.
And this was in the headlines a few weeks back. This is not even our local newspaper, but it did also appear in several of our local publications – that well now, you know, somebody, a member of a Catholic order in Singapore has been charged with alleged sex acts with teenage boys. And, you know, even as this is unfolding, although nothing is, you know, there's no outcome yet on the case, already we're already having to deal with questions.
And more importantly, I think we're already having to deal with how we feel, right? Because surely, we cannot find out about this, especially as Catholics and not feel anything.
So, how did you feel when you first found out about this news? Maybe when you saw the headline, or you heard from someone you knew about this. And a lot of times we don't talk about how we feel. Talking is one thing. I think, a lot of times we don't even pause to listen to our own emotions, right. Now, the thing is, we cannot stop our emotions.
They're there, but we do suppress them, right? We do ignore them. Especially when they're uncomfortable. We are afraid that they are going to complicate matters. And whenever we talk about – whenever I talk about integrity and authenticity, integrating our emotions is a big part of it. We cannot be integrated and whole, we cannot be authentic if we cannot integrate our emotions into our lived reality and live with it in a healthy way, right?
So, it's important, I think, for us to revisit this now. In this difficult reality, we need to learn how to be in this difficult reality with integrity. The reality is there whether we like it or not.
There may be more things coming up in the news, as things unfold, whether we like it or not. We cannot wait to tend to our emotions. We cannot wait to start processing. Because the longer we wait, basically, the more emotions pile up and accumulate. And the more we ignore them or suppress them, the more likely it's going to come out sideways, one way or the other, right.
And we're not going to be people of integrity. In fact, I think it's very important for us to bear in mind that everyone else as well, outside of our church, they know of this reality. And they're also watching us as to whether or not we can acknowledge that such dark aspects of, well, sin and the possibility of sin – and real sin in general – whether we're able to accept it and knowledge. If we cannot process this for ourselves, we can't integrate it within ourselves, how are we going to have conversations with other people about it?
If we do without integrating the difficult emotions that we have, then usually what's going to happen is we're not going to be very good witnesses. We're going to be very defensive or angry, or we ourselves are just going to, you know, wait until one point when we can't take it anymore and maybe just, you know – just leave, right.
And that's not going to be very fair to us as well. Whatever our actions are, we need to learn to accompany ourselves in our difficult emotions. So, even as things and events continue to unfold, okay – even as it is still happening, our interior reality matter, okay? Our interior reality really matters. Our emotions, our thoughts, all this, they matter just as much as protocol.
You know, what we can or cannot do, what we should be putting in place. You know, sometimes when news like this come up, what I do see in terms of comments that come up, maybe in social media, or hear people talking about – it's always kind of like what measures have we put in place? Or, you know, don't worry –
– we have really put such and such measures in place now, and such things should not happen anymore. Those do not address our interior emotional reality. Right? So those, impacts. But they don't help us become more integrated and authentic and whole. So, what do we do? How do we have integrity and authenticity as we deal with scandal?
First of all, I'd say no denial, right? Let's not pretend it didn't happen or that – okay, when I say it didn't happen, I'm saying let's not pretend that there was such a headline, okay – that people have read about it, that people know about it. Whatever the facts of the actual event – I mean, what had happened, we do not know, and that's still pending and all that, but it's already out there.
People are already having emotional reactions. People are already horrified, shocked, you know, et cetera, et cetera. Let's not deny that. Let's not minimize the impact that something like this would have on us. Let's not try to make it smaller than it is. Let's not try to reason it away. Let's let it take up space.
Okay, because it's not a small thing. And just because we don't hear people addressing it or talking about – let's say within our own circles – doesn't mean that it's unimportant. Let's not minimize it. And if it happens to matter to you, like if you feel very strongly about it, just because nobody else around you seem to be feeling strongly about, it doesn't mean that it's not important.
Your emotions are important, okay? So, let's not minimize that. And no bypassing. So, what does that mean? Don't bypass your own feelings. A lot of us do that. I think, especially in terms of our cultural conditioning, on things, you know, Singaporean; we like to escape into our heads very quickly, instead of dealing with what's in our hearts and what's our emotions.
So, one way of bypassing would be intellectually bypassing our emotions. And that would mean, you know, jumping straight away to the logic of, you know, why it is that this is now hitting the news, you know – or what is the likelihood that such and such a thing is actually, you know, the truth or not.
It's very easy for us to just leap into debates or fast-forward into just trying to do and make sure all the measures are in place – that such a thing doesn't happen anymore, right, to our young people. That would be bypassing our emotions, and a lot of times relying on our logic and doing part of ourselves, okay – to skip over how we actually feeling.
Another very common way of bypassing would be spiritual bypassing. Let's not do that. Let's not spiritually bypass our emotions. What's a spiritual bypass? That would be when, for example, quote scripture, and just, you know, not that there's anything bad, that's good.
But if we quote scripture to try and get people to not talk about their feelings or tell them this is how they should be feeling instead, or that we should just surrender things to God and God will take care of things. That's basically also not dealing with the feelings by trying to be spiritual – trying to be spiritual about it.
Okay. It's not integrated, right. We have a spiritual part of us. We have an intellectual part of us, but our emotions are just as important a part of us in all this need to come together. They need to be processed together. God is in the real and the messy. And if we cannot encounter God in the real and messy, we are only able to talk about God in what seems to be the good and the beautiful – you know, when I say seems to be; as in what appears to be good and beautiful, and we cannot deal with a mess and the real.
That usually shows that we still need more integration in our faith. Okay, because integration is about the whole person, both the light and shadow. And it requires us to engage all of us, right? God just didn't create us with an intellect. He created us with heart, with, you know, many parts of ourselves – with the body, with our emotions and with the spirit and all of these are gift.
And all of these gifts have a role and have a purpose. And we honour Him when we honour all these parts, and we can acknowledge that we are broken and disintegrated and fractured in our lives and that we need to bring them back together and we need Him to help us bring it back together, right. And this is so important to live through our daily lives.
And especially in times of scandal. No one can tell you how to feel. So, if you do have let's say anger, for example, and somebody tells you, you shouldn't be angry or you have every right to be angry at that kind of response – because nobody can tell you how you should feel. Your emotions are yours and emotions have no right or wrong.
They're just data, okay? So, in a sense they are data. And please don't then tell somebody else how they should feel because their emotions are their own as well. And our emotions always have something important to tell us, okay. On their own raw emotions, they're like raw data. But we're afraid of listening and attending to how we feel, we will be wilfully neglecting important data that God is actually communicating through us.
Through the body that He has given us – and that would be irresponsible to that. That would be – we wouldn't be able to discern or to act really as, you know, in the best way that we can, because we are neglecting – and a very important part of us that is giving us important information about what we need to know.
Information doesn't just come from the intellect. It comes from our body, comes from all our emotions as well. So, and I just want to also remind you it's okay to tell God exactly how you feel. He can take it. He really, really can take it, okay. You don't have to censor your emotions with Him. Take a page from the Psalmist.
I mean, they don't censor themselves with God. They don't worry about being politically correct or appearing forgiving or compassionate, when what they're feeling is just still raw pain, rage, indignation, you know, at the injustice – and all that, they express all that. And that's such an important first step.
We shouldn't jump ahead to try and be, you know, like – I don't know – whatever we think a good Christian response is. That's not authentic if we don't actually go through the steps of processing our emotions, okay – that just becomes performance. Or really, a denial of the reality within us. Okay, that can't be healthy and that can't be witnessing because then we would just be very defensive about everything that we don't like to see about us or about our church.
So, here are some resources that come from content that I've created – that address what I've talked about so far. And if you're looking for resources and you don't quite know where else to find them, maybe you can check some of these out. So, I recently wrote a blog entry on my blog and the title is we need to talk about Bruno.
Okay, and it's precisely talking about why it is that we need to not be alone in our pain because that's something that will come out sideways in very unhealthy ways later on. So, we need to talk about Bruno. I will link these resources to the video – if you're watching this on YouTube or to a page on my website.
And also apart from the blog, or in that blog, I also encourage you to find safe spaces. And what I mean by that is safe people; a safe person or a safe group of people – emotionally safe people who are not going to shut you down if you're honest about how you're feeling. Because we all start off when it's something like this happens, maybe not even really knowing how we feel.
And a lot of us may already be uncomfortable or a bit scared of what we might discover about how we actually feel. And if we're not with someone that we're emotionally safe with, it's even less likely that we are going to be able to find out how we actually feel about things, right? So, find a safe person or emotionally safe group to process how you're feeling.
In one of my podcast episodes, I actually talk about what it means to have a safe space. You might want to listen to that – it's episode 21 on the Becoming Me Podcast. It's on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever it is that you listen to podcasts. So, I have that episode on what it means to find safe spaces.
If you don't have someone or a group right now, offhand, and this has really been – it has been building up for a few weeks already. I created a resource that's free and available online.
It's actually a Padlet. Don't worry if you don't know what that is. I will also share the link to this Padlet, and you just need to follow the steps, okay.
So, read the explanation of what it is and follow the steps. They are like guiding questions. Imagine it's like if we were having a real session – I would be facilitating this by asking these questions and guiding you through the questions so that you can connect slowly from your thoughts to your feelings to how your body's feeling.
To kind of, you know, be able to settle in what is it that you're feeling and then to process it by communicating it some way, right. Whether it's talking, writing a letter to God, or, now talking about or thinking about how does this impact your relationship with the church.
Just giving you, step-by-step, leading you to see what is it that you need. So, you're very welcome to use this. You can post anonymously; you don't need to have any login credentials. And I think you can just go there and just post, and it will appear as an anonymous post. Some of you may prefer to use the questions there and write privately in your journal.
You could do that, of course. Right, but I just want to make a case also for posting this. Because 1. nobody's going to know who you are, but there may be other people who don't have someone or a group or community to talk to, and it's going to help them to know that they're not alone. It's going to help them to see that there are other people who also having different kinds of emotions about this, or thoughts about this.
Okay, so, have that in mind as well. If you decide to check out this resource. The process that I have in the resource comes from a framework that I've developed. And I talk about the principles of that framework in the podcast episode, Living from the Inside Out – which actually talks about the layers of our lives, including, you know, what's outside of us and then to what's going on inside of us, to the very core of identity. And the work of becoming more whole and integrated, actually consists of learning how to integrate all of these layers as we live our life.
And, if you are someone who has trouble being hospitable to your difficult negative emotions, you might also want to check out episode 22, which I did with my friend and collaborator Edwina Yeow, who is a spiritual director on how we can be hospitable to our own emotions and become a safe space for ourselves.
So, I would be uploading this video and all these other resources, they would be linked to my website at integroformation.com. You can also follow me on Instagram and Facebook. If what I've just said here speaks to you and you want to find more resources, these are the avenues that I share them on, as well as on YouTube, which are linked to my website.
Okay, so, I would like to just end with an invitation. First of all, please don't let yourself remain alone. Don't ignore how you're feeling. Please find yourself some support to listen to how you're actually reacting and responding to all this news of scandal that is coming up in – well, in the news, right – in our own diocese. It's a reality we cannot run away from.
And, you know, we cannot stop by the people asking us about it and pretending that it's not there, it's not happening, not talking about it, even within our own communities – that's not going to stand us in good stead, just in general, okay – but also with our own selves. We're going to know in our own hearts that we are not being authentic and we're not caring about what is really true in us, okay.
So, we need to go through this process of helping ourselves listen to, and acknowledge, and accept how we feel. We need to bring this as it relates to our relationship with God and hash it out with Him; be like Jacob, you know, wrestle with God, fight with God about it. Tell Him exactly how you feel.
We need to process what this means to us as Catholics or what this means with our relationship with the church. And I think we need to also allow ourselves to be boldly honest even about all the bad things that we may be feeling about the institution, about our leaders, about ourselves, about all that – is held in grace.
All that is held in love. Okay. It's because we have that grace that we can be okay with acknowledging what is true, even if the truth is inconvenient, even if the truth is humiliating, is excruciating, is painful. Even if it is shameful, it is not the end of the story. I mean, as people of faith, that's what we believe.
And I think now is a wonderful opportunity to grow in practicing what is it that we proclaim that we believe. But we can't do it alone. So, I invite you to find the support and the people that you need. It may not be the people that you wish you could talk to. Sometimes people are not ready, and we can't force them to be ready. But find someone who is ready to be that safe space for you.
And in your own way, as you get more integrated with this, maybe you can let someone else know that you're okay with talking about this as well – that you are okay with being a safe space for him or her. So, let us keep one another in prayer, our whole community and our local church, as well as – well, just everyone really; the whole world. Because I think ultimately integration is really becoming one with God and loving all of that He loves.
And that is really, really everything. And trusting that somehow in Him, all these contradictions, and all these things that cannot find complete closure in our life on earth, somehow from eternity, in eternity. There is justice and there is mercy for all.
Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin.
The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at becomingmepodcast.com and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, Happy becoming!