The plights of two women caught my attention recently. Carie Charlesworth was an elementary school teacher for the Catholic Diocese of San Diego. She was fired from her job because her abusive ex-husband was seen as a potential threat to the school community. Sobhana Gazmer left her rural hometown to live and work in the big city of New Delhi. She endures constant sexual harassment and the fear of rape. Two very different women, with very different lives, yet both victimized by similar sorts of men. And both let down by a larger community that failed to protect them.
It is this last point that keeps sticking in my mind, for it marks an abhorrent rejection of family. Gazmer herself seems to note this in comparing her hometown to the big city: "In Manipur, if any guy bothers you, you shout and everyone helps. In Delhi, it's a very different mentality." And unfortunately, one that appears to be shared by the diocesan officials who wrote in Charlesworth's termination letter that they would continue to pray for her, but left unstated the obvious fact that she and her children were otherwise on their own. What does it mean when even the Church refuses to live as family?
I am sure that the people of Delhi and the Diocese are good men and women who just want to keep violence from touching themselves or their loved ones. What they failed to recognize, however, is that Charlesworth and Gazmer are their loved ones too.
"You are my sibling. We are family. This is the essential truth of life. It is the only moral truth that really matters."
It is not easy being a family. It requires self-sacrifice. Clearly, fewer of us are willing to make those sacrifices than we would like to believe. But we can at least look honestly upon the consequences of that failure. How many Charlesworths and Gazmers must be thrown under the bus for our safety and peace of mind? How much hurt and sorrow must our siblings endure before we finally say enough already?
"Family is about hope, not fear."
Or at least it should be.