On the day a priest in our diocese was to be sentenced for making and distributing child pornography, an e-mail came to me, asking for prayers for him. Another e-mail echoed those prayers, citing the mistreatment he had received from the media. Yes, certainly we must pray for him.
I waited. And waited. And waited. But it never arrived. A call for prayer for the victims and their families was not written.
This priest certainly needed our prayers, but I don’t think we were supposed to pray for him to receive the minimum sentence. His little victims and their families will be in their “jail” for an entire lifetime. He told the judge he didn’t think he deserved the maximum, but the minimum. “Come on”, he told the judge, who probably wasn’t thrilled with that comment. He got the maximum and will likely die in prison.
The call for prayer was for the other diocesan priests and the bishop as well. That’s good. They have all suffered as a result of what this man did. Our entire diocese has suffered and will continue to do so for many years to come. Prayer for them is much needed.
However, there is an entire group of people out there who have suffered at the hands of priests, some in this particular case, but most others by different priests. Their families have suffered. Some have lost their abused loved one to suicide. Some have lost their jobs. Other victims suffer mental illness as a result. Post traumatic stress disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety, borderline personality disorder … so many possibilities. The fortunate ones, like myself, have had help dealing with that – counseling, spiritual direction, medication, the sacraments, a relationship with Jesus. Others spin in a seemingly hopeless cycle of depression, gut-wrenching pain and anger. They have lost their Church, they have lost their God, and they have lost faith.
Where are the calls for prayer for victims? Where? If anyone needs them, it is us. We exist in a living hell, all because of the actions of a “man of God”.
It has been my experience that the conservative, orthodox Catholics are the worst about this. They hold the clergy in high esteem, and rightly so, but when it comes to abuse, it is at the expense of victims. I am so puzzled by this seeming lack of compassion from these folks. The more liberal Catholics are quick to jump on the bandwagon of the victims and to condemn the priests and the Church. Prayer regarding clergy sexual abuse should never be an “either/or” proposition, but must be “both/and”. Pray for both priests and victims. You cannot pray for one without the others.
I am a little left of the conservative, orthodox Catholics, or another way of looking at it is that I’m right of center. I have come to the conclusion that they are extremely uncomfortable talking about sexual abuse, victims/survivors in particular. It is too ugly. It puts their beloved priests and the Church in a bad light. Even though it is truth, it’s “better to not talk about it.” Old school. Regressive. Thinking like that got us to where we are today. Shhhhhhhh…..
I was very hurt when there was no request for prayer for victims/survivors, not because I personally wanted it, but because of the ones who do and felt forgotten. We must never forget those who have been abused, and affirm their need to be accepted, believed, and to work towards gaining trust again.
I sent out a “pray for the victims” e-mail. I had to forgive the e-mail authors. They know not what they do. But it still makes me mad.