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Survivors' Voices: What I Want to Say to Catholics, Part 2
Last week, I launched the new In Spirit and Truth Survivors’ Voices series with this post: What I Want to Say to Catholics. I am so grateful to the women and men who are chosing to share their personal experiences as abuse survivors (more about the panel here), to help all of us listen and learn and seek understanding.
Today, I’m sharing more answers on the same topic as last week, and I invite you to read with an open mind and open heart.
What is one thing you would like to say to Catholics about the problem of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church?
The crisis is not over. There are still untold numbers of victims who have never disclosed.
Abuse in the Catholic Church is unlike abuse in any other institution: home, family, school, work. We can flee from those places and those people to the safety of our loving God, to our church, the body of Christ. When abuse occurs within our religious tradition, our faith - our one place of refuge - suffers a wound like no other.
THE COVER UP. I want people to know it's real and it's still going on. Everything I was taught about Catholicism - when I was a boy and I wanted to be a priest - has been shattered. For example, the Catholic Church continues fighting against victim compensation for their own criminal acts of sexual abuse. That's the complete opposite of the values I was taught in CCD and decades of attending church.
Priests do not become child molesters. Child molesters become priests.
I had a priest tell me on and on about how abuse victims are: Church-haters, money-grubbers, etc. I finally stopped him and said, "Father, you're talking to one right now." He was completely thrown off. Confused. Finally he said, "That's not possible. You love the Church." I said, "I do love the Church. And I am one of the victims." It shifted his thinking, what he thought he knew. We're still friends but have far deeper conversations.
Pope Francis and Pope Benedict have NEVER taken responsibility for their part in the sex abuse scandal. They both knew it was happening and stayed silent.
[When I reported my abuse], I felt as if I was seen as a problem that had to be dealt with, carefully, and at a distance. When in reality, I was the women at the well, drowning in my shame. I was the hemorrhaging woman, grasping for the hem of the Lord’s cloak, desperate for His healing, but also, desperate for the Lord, in His Body, to come close. To see and hear me. To accept me as I was, even as I was in shock from all that had been lost, and to show me first how to stop the bleeding, and then to sit with me while I grieved, and finally to help me find a way forward.
As victim-survivors we often have to make choices that others will disagree or find fault with, such as whether or not we can attend Mass. For many of us, Mass is a trigger, and we need to learn to be gentle with ourselves by avoiding those activities, actions, or people that cause us to be triggered. Being told that we are in the wrong for making these choices only hurts more. Please support our decisions rather than judge them or judge us.
Thank you for reading and taking these words to heart. Please subscribe to the blog for future posts and pass this post along to others who might be interested. You can find August’s post here: Survivors' Voices: What Has Helped Me Heal.
If you have experienced sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, I would be honored to include your perspective in this “Survivors’ Voices” series. You can find more information and express your interest here.