This past week has been very difficult for me in regards to the magnitude of revelation of abuse by priests in Philadelphia. As you all know, I am a Catholic, and I love my faith. Some might even consider me ‘charismatic’ (and I think many who aren’t Catholic are quite surprised that I know and READ my bible. 🙂 Which always makes me smile because we go through the Old Testament and the New Testament every Mass and if you attend daily mass and Sunday Mass in three years you will have heard the entire bible…)
But I digress…the shame and pain that comes with this revelation is very real and felt not only by me personally but by the church. The ‘church’ being my brothers and sisters who celebrate Mass with me every Sunday.
I have been speaking with our parish priest in regards to how best to confront this situation and what opportunities does this lend to helping many survivors (not just by priests) heal.
One woman, that I have worked with and who has become a very close friend, is a survivor of child abuse by a Roman Catholic priest. She has written her own statement and I felt compelled to share her response as it comes from someone who is as close to this situation as you could possibly be.
After her response I will share a few more ideas/suggestions on what you and your own parish/ church of ANY Christian faith, can do to help heal survivors.
AN OPEN LETTER TO MY CATHOLIC FRIENDS
Whether this is the right time, venue or audience, God is with me and I trust you will be as loving as always. You are part of my Catholic family.
Some of you know me as lector, bible study leader, pediatrician. Others know I am a wife, mother, daily Mass attendee. I absolutely love my Catholic faith.
What you may not know is I am an adult survivor of child sexual abuse. One of my abusers was a Roman Catholic priest. This abuse WAS reported to Church authorities, investigated, and uncovered some horrible truths not unlike what is in the Pennsylvania report. I have experienced a miraculous healing and, thanks be to God, I am writing this today—healthy and whole.
I am in such a blessed place due to the incredible support from my husband, family and friends and because of the selfless support of a few PRIESTS, some from this archdiocese. These priests were not afraid to face the evil of abuse and help me trust Jesus and His Church again. It is not an exaggeration to say that I owe my life to these precious priests.
Though I am healed, I still hurt. I hurt for other survivors and for faithful, holy priests. And I hurt for the faithful like you who also share in this wound.
For the past few years I have had the privileged opportunity to hear from many survivors from across world. I belong to many networks of survivors and helped start a chapter of the Maria Goretti Network in the Seattle archdiocese (a support group for survivors of abuse).
I have personally heard from many clergy abuse survivors (including non Catholics) and from hundreds of other abuse survivors. Some of these survivors are current or former clergy and religious.
I’m sharing my story because I want others to know they ARE NOT ALONE. If you are a survivor of any kind of abuse, reach out for help. To be clear, clergy abuse is not one of the most common forms of abuse. Most abuse happens in homes and most victims know their abusers. If you believe the statistics, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been abused in their lifetimes. One in ten children will witness domestic violence in their homes. Again, if you are a survivor or know someone, please reach out. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233.
I’m sharing my story because I’m FIGHTING for my Church family. The Church has been HURT and she needs to HEAL. But she can’t heal fully if her wounds are not brought out to the light of TRUTH.
I’m sharing my story because I GRIEVE. I grieve not only my own personal loss but I grieve for other survivors who have lost hope they will ever heal or be heard. I grieve for the families of the abused.
I’m sharing my story because I am ANGRY. Church leadership failed many of us as children and families in the past. This evil of abuse did not just start in 2002, or last week. More people just know about it now. Now we know that the leadership has failed many adults, particularly seminarians. My heart breaks for the seminarians and clergy who are facing their own wounds. The abuse has not ended just because some of the abusers were caught.
I’m sharing my story because I BELIEVE in us, the Church. I believe in the Church because Jesus Christ believed in us.
I have tremendous HOPE. My hope is solely in JESUS CHRIST.
My thoughts on the next steps:
PRAY. For healing of all survivors and their families. Pray for the holy priests who now bear the burden of the sins of others. Pray for the conversion of bishops and other leaders who IMHO need to learn to be priests again—smell like their sheep not like desks and offices. PRAY for each other.
ENCOURAGE priests and bishops to have Masses of reparation and healing. Encourage open dialogue and prayer for all those wounded by abuse. Encourage the holy priests who are following Christ in humble and sincere ways.
LISTEN to each other. We as Church must open our hearts to another’s sorrow and sadness. We survivors have felt alone too long. It’s ok to talk about fear and anger and doubt, just don’t hold on to this. Give everything to Jesus.
Learn about SPIRITUAL WARFARE. This is a spiritual battle. Pray the rosary, read Scripture, recite spiritual warfare prayers whenever you start to despair or feel anxious or with unholy anger.
Be open to the Holy Spirit in how you may be guided in this journey. As I tell survivors, you are not alone. We are one family, the Body of Christ. We have work to do, but I take Jesus at His word, He will never abandon us. He will come to us when we call. Call upon Jesus, cast all your fears on him. He is The way, The Truth, The Life.
Thank you for reading. God bless us all. +JMJ.
She has given some great thoughts into what to ‘do’ and I also suggest the following:
- Create a ‘crisis team’ within your church community – bring in lay people who have backgrounds in peer support and or counseling backgrounds, lawyers, a victim of abuse who has come through the healing, a PR person, and a mother and father of young children. Create a plan as to what the protocol will be if someone were to speak up and meet with this group regularly.
- Don’t be afraid to let people TALK …. maybe create an email solely for reactions to these crisis’ that are popping up.. or a drop box in the office for memos, and promise a RESPONSE to them, get the Crisis Team to answer. Be in front of the conversation, not afraid of it which is only perpetuating the situation.
If you have other thoughts or suggestions please leave them in the comments.
As my friend has said, please PRAY for all involved, especially for those who are suffering and need the healing touch of Jesus Christ.