In life, there are subjects that one may find difficult to discuss and then there are those topics that create such an emotional upheaval within the soul that few dare venture to acknowledge let alone give words to. Fortunately, a voice has been raised via Carol Kuhnert, author of "No Longer on Pedestals," a book that exposes the darkness that resided in the life of Carol's brother, Fr. Norman H. Christian. The purpose of the writing is made quite clear within the journal's introduction: "My purpose in writing this book is to open the minds and hearts of those who find it difficult to believe clergy have been sexually abusing children for many decades and that the Catholic Church has made protecting the abusers and the church's assets its number-one priority, while leaving the victims, their families and church members to fend for themselves in trying to heal, understand and cope."
The backdrop is created as the reader is immersed in the daily activities and beliefs of the early years of the Henry and Verona Christian family of St. Louis, Missouri. One can relate to the memories that unfold upon the pages, particularly those readers of a Catholic upbringing. Amid the pleasantries of the past, particular characteristics begin to emerge in Carol's brother's personality, ones that will replay in future events. Fr. Norman Christian attended seminary and was ordained a priest on March 18, 1961. Carol writes of a common belief that was shared in that generation: "During my childhood, I held all clergy, priests and nuns as people with a very special calling from God. I was taught to trust them completely. They were right next to God in my eyes..."
As the years unfolded, it was revealed that Norman had harbored a dark thread of dishonesty and deceit that touched innocent lives; just as a pebble is thrown into a pond, one quickly views how the rings breaking the water expand outward, revealing how one introductory action multiplies and expands in time. And so it was with Fr. Christian.
Throughout the pages of the book, the author unveils the years of pain and torment her family and others endured upon learning that the family member in their midst had sexually abused an ever-growing number of young congregants of the various parishes that Fr. Christian served in. We learn of the atrocities that were hidden, cloaked in bureaucratic red tape. We are introduced to a young man named Tim, one of the victims, and with candid clarity and compassion, we learn of Carol's personal choice to advocate for the very victims that were violated by her own brother.
I was so personally moved by this book; as upsetting and disturbing were the revelations, I gained enormous insight as to not only the reactions of the Catholic Church but was shocked by the behaviors exhibited by some parishioners against the victims. I heartily agree with the author as she writes: "I hope my book encourages Catholics to truly live their faith and do all they can in bringing about change in how the church deals with these issues...Victims have endured decades of guilt that never belonged to them. They are the innocent ones." This book will make the reader ponder many difficult issues yet, no matter the level of discomfort, one can make a positive difference and chose to break a cycle that has gone on for too long. It is time for other voices to be raised and compassion and healing to begin.
Laure McCourt Lopez
Carol Kuhnert is a lifelong member of the Roman Catholic Church. Upon discovering the truth that her brother is a pedophile, she has made it her mission to confront the issue and push for change and reconciliation. She has been married for over 52 years and currently resides in Missouri.
"No Longer on Pedestals"
By Carol A. Kuhnert