The Other Victims of Clergy Abuse: Faithful Priests

The tragedy of clergy sexual abuse leaves in its wake a trail of lifelong pain. However, those who have been abused are not the only ones who suffer as a result of their perpetrator’s sin. Every man in the priesthood and diaconate suffers.

First of all, as they sit with victims and listen to their stories, their hearts are wrenched with the pain they sense from the empathy they have.  They see before them an innocent little lamb that had entrusted itself to the care of a gentle shepherd.  As it had followed with docility, its shepherd turned and savagely injured the little lamb.  Just as the Lamb of God was led to his slaughter, this one was as well.

Priests know better than anyone the magnitude of their sacred office.  They know such a violation on the spiritual level is akin to rape by God.  Although some victims cannot put that into words, they feel it.  That is one reason clergy abuse is so devastating. This man who stands in persona Christi, “Father”, perpetrated a most egregious harm to the most intimate aspect of our being, reserved for our spouse alone.

Having empathy for a victim, broken and angry, who comes to him for help, brings the priest into the circle of pain.

However, where the priest himself is a real victim is the automatic scrutiny under which he comes simply because he wears a collar. The world tends to paint priests with one broad brush.  Because there are abusive priests, they must all be abusers.  It’s an absurd assumption.  Some people simply hate priests because of what others have done.  They are yelled at, cursed at, have children protectively pulled away from them on sidewalks, are spit at in airports and much more.

This is the price they pay for wearing the Roman collar.

And they do it in silence for the most part.  There is a level of sensitivity they maintain, as they suffer inside.

Those of us who have been abused by a priest have suffered. Some of us have sat across from a faithful priest and worked through the issue with him, and have seen the pain in their eyes as well.

Abuse is evil incarnate.  Healing can come, but it may take years of counseling, spiritual direction, sacraments, prayer and tears.  Have faith!  God WILL get you through it.  The secret is to ALWAYS HAVE HOPE and know that while you may not feel it, you are never, ever alone in your journey.  Jesus will love you through it, and I am here for you as well.  Been there, done that.  And lived to tell about it.  Praise God!

30 Replies to “The Other Victims of Clergy Abuse: Faithful Priests”

  1. Thank goodness I have healed from all the anger! Blaming EVERY priest is like blaming EVERY MAN because men are more likely to abuse than women are! Generalizing doesn't work. I wish all those with anger- peace!

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  2. This is a good post. Very little sympathy is offered to the good priests who have been hurt by this issue. To those who say they all knew and did nothing, you could as well said all laymen and police officers all knew and did nothing. The truth is some knew and some did not know. For many of the ones that did know remember that at that time many people were totally unaware of what action to take. The APA at one time was very close to saying adult sex with children was ok as long as everything was consensual. The APA even had a nice name for this called 'inter-generational sex'. The fact is there is no organization on the face of the earth doing more to prevent sexual abuse of children than the Catholic Church.

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  3. Father, thank you for so courageously sharing your story. Thank you also for your priesthood. I am sorry you suffered abuse at the hands of a priest but am so happy that have found some healing. You, better than most, can minister to victims because you understand. It gives us a burning passion to prevent it in the future, doesn't it? God bless you, and may his healing hand reach down and touch you.

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  4. As a priest who was sexually molested by a priest when I was in elementary school more than fifty years ago, I share the pain of many who were harmed and my heart and prayers are for them. I was fortunate in seminary to courageously share the information about the abuse with my spiritual director who requested I report this to the archbishop which I did after ordination. The Archbishop apologized and wrote the bishop where the priest served at the time. Four years later as the pastor of a parish, the local chief of police called me to his office. Once there the chief reported a gentleman similar to me in age had been raped by the same priest. I was shocked at the time that this happened to another child. I told the chief to contact the Archbishop immediately, that this priest had been removed from ministry and reported to police.
    The trauma I experienced in my own abuse and later apologies provided some healing. It taught me to hyper aware to anyone that could touch a child in a harmful way. I have and remain a strong advocate for truth telling for all and protection of all children in every setting – family, school, church, social groups, etc. I am not the expert but completed my clinical graduate studies in psychology to help all who are being or who have been abused. I'm most grateful for the trust others have placed in me. I'm sorry I have only been able to intervene in a few situations where children have been harmed and many where women or men have been harmed.
    The openness of the current culture to speak to, prevent and protect our children is necessary. Those who hide, harm or remain silent, this is no longer tolerable. What was not known when I was child is known now. We must share a collective voice for safety and end these attacks. Accountability and safety for all is the way of Christ.
    Teresa, thank you for your post. I've never written in the public forum about my childhood abuse.

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  5. John, I cannot speak for what priests do in private. I do not read the editorials so I cannot speak to that either. I do know that they have spoken from the pulpit encouraging victims to report their abuse to civil authorities, and repeatedly so. There is a sign in every church in the diocese with instructions to call the police to report abuse as well as the diocesan ombudsman. Her number and the victims advocates number is in every bulletin and diocesan newspaper.

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  6. Teresa, do you think it is possible that the three different priests who stopped you from killing yourself three different times have saved a survivor from suicide? I'll bet they have. Have these priests publicly challenged their bishops to turn over the diocesan secret archive on sex abuse over to the authorities? Have they organized support groups for survivors and given them a place to meet on parish property? Do they mention the issue of clergy sex abuse regularly from the pulpit and ask survivors to report their victimization to the police? Have they written letters to the editor demanding justice, healing and reconstructive compensation for survivors? Do they challenge the double sex lives of fellow priests who use parish money to have a good time with their male and female companions? I'll bet they don't. The “good priests” play a very important role in sustaining the culture of abuse in the priesthood.

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  7. A friend of mine, presently a transitional deacon, will, Lord-willing, be ordained to the priesthood next summer. He is not the youngest of vocations, so those who make assumptions like the above will tar and feather him who is twice-innocent.

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  8. The abuse continues. The RC bishops and priests continue to lie, minimize and deny. Why are they not confessing and taking accoutability for all these years of devastation? It's a business and as long as they get support from lay people and remain unaccountable the rape, psychological abuse of the inocent children will continue. God help the catholic church. God will comfort the abused. Truly so sad.

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  9. I totally get what you're saying here. And you're right. Not every priest is responsible for what happened and not every single one is complacent in it happening and we should not put the blame on all. Although trust me I really want to, it isn't fair to do that. I think your article is good. And correct. And anyone who disagrees obviously does not know anything about true grace.

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  10. glorybe — When you say , “They all knew and did nothing,” you are making it up. There is no way you could possibly know that for a fact. You are defaming people.

    My pastor, who was appalled by the abuse, said a certain monsignor should have been made a bishop. We only later found out that the monsignor was one of the abusers.

    You need to get in touch with reality and stop letting your pain and justifiable anger lead you into absurd overstatements.

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  11. Please don't forget the countless men and priests who suffered from the hands of perpetrators who were sent to seminaries, who brainwashed, psychologically tortured and even abused young seminarians. These priests along with their enablers in the episcopacy did irreparable damage to so many who eventually became priests. Pray for these men, who suffer so much in silence.

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  12. Thank you Teresa (and Jim)!
    I am a priest who truly tries to be holy. My diocese has had a rather high number of priests who have been found to be abusers, but I never knew of any of them until after the were charged- like most priests I never covered any abuse.
    The pain I've suffered for the actions of my brother priests will never compare to that of those who suffered the abuse, or of their families- but does that negate the fact that I suffer?
    It's terribly un-PC to express compassion for priests, but I think Jesus has enough compassion, love, and mercy to embrace the abused children, their families, and all priests- those who have abused children as well as the rest of us.

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  13. I am my own person. No one is stringing me anywhere. I walk where I darn well please and think and do as I want. I do not speak for everyone's experience or viewpoint here, just mine. I've posted every comment I've received, but if they continue to be nasty, I'll just shut it down.

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  14. The article was published because this is my blog and that is how I see things. I was abused by a priest for 19 years. I understand the pain of abuse. I don't know how many times I contemplated suicide because of what was done to me. But you know who stopped me? A priest. A who stopped me the second, and third and other times? A priest. I've seen the bad, ugly, and the good. You are not alone in totally disagreeing with me, and vice versa.

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  15. John and Globybe well said! It's about time that the clergy own up to the fact that ordination confers on every priest the grace of omniscience. We can no longer allow priest to pretend that they do not know of every injustice every suffered!

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  16. John I applaud your convictions, opinions and honesty. They are exactly mine. They all knew what was going on and did “nothing” Iam so glad we left this indecent place 12 yrs. ago and after 60 yrs. of brainwashing. Good priests,nuns and brothers they are not!

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  17. Teresa, they string you along with false hope. They minimize your suffering by talking about the good priests. It is just more grooming. The facts paint a very clear picture of sexual corruption and moral failure in the priesthood. Every exposed predator wants people to trust him again. Every compromised organization is going to extole the small good they do to distract all the evil that they have allowed to take place in their ranks. Religions are businesses and you are a revenue unit. Reality always trumps myth when it comes to true healing and survival.

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  18. Yes, good priests have experienced suffering as a result of this crisis. But there is simply no comparing the suffering of a child who was raped and the lifelong pain that comes from that and the experience of a priest who “shares their pain”. There is no comparison to the child rape victim who later commits suicide or to their parents who mourn their loss and the priest who “listens” to them. Any priest who stands silently by while this crisis engulfs the entire church, who does not have the courage to speak out, who allows the cover up of the crimes to continue, and allows victims, their parents, and Catholics to be lied to repeatedly is an accomplice and not a “good and holy priest”. A “good and holy priest” stands up to evil and stands publicly in solidarity with the victims.

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  19. Welcome to those who have landed here from the BA web site. Nothing or no one takes away from the experience and pain we suffered at the hands of a priest or other clergymen. I'm sorry if my post adds to your angst. There have definitely been priests who have been complicit, but please remember, the vast majority of them are simply doing their job, not involved with any abusers, and are working very hard to protect children and vulnerable adults. You have every right to hate priests and the Catholic Church as most victims do, but that does not change the facts. There ARE VERY GOOD AND HOLY PRIESTS who help save souls on a daily basis.

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  20. The so-called “good priests” could have stopped this child abuse atrocity years ago. Their cowardice has made them complicit. Now they have the gall to try to usurp the role of victim away from the children whose lives they helped to shred.

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