I am at peace with the Magesterium.

Thousands of people have been hurt by the priests, bishops, deacons and religious in the church.  But they are not the only Church offenders.  Employees and volunteers have committed crimes against children as well.

We all know, however, that those who have made promises and vows to serve God in his Church are held to a much greater standard.  That they would wound the very souls they were sent to save is unconscionable.  It is morally reprehensible and a crime in itself that bishops and religious superiors did not call the police upon learning about suspicion of abuse.

Thirty years ago, it was thought that a pedophile could be cured of his disposition to abuse after going to a “treatment” center.  That is why bishops thought it was safe to put them back into ministry.

Misinformation aside, there was a moral and civic duty to keep priests away from chidlren after they had abused and inflicted so much psychological damage.

A lot of people hate the Catholic Church and her ministers, and they hate her with a vengeance. There almost seems to be a sub-culture in the world.  So many have been victimized, and re-victimized, and those who stand by and watch become secondary victims who are thrown into the vat of gut-wrenching pain, anger, vengeance, and defiance.

They are sharing their stories.  Hopefully this is healing for them.  Everyone deserves peace but most especially they deserve to know the boundless love and compassion that God has for them.

The Church was cruel to so many.  Downright cruel.  They didn’t listen or believe victims. Church officials accused them of falsely accusing the priests.  And there were people who did bring false allegations, but I am talking about the real victims here.  They were slandered and shamed, beyond the shame they experienced in the abuse.  I read their stories as you do, and am shocked and ashamed as they give details of how poorly they were treated by Church officials.

I may have experienced abuse by a priest, but I have not had the experience afterwards that so many of them had.  I know what I know, and that is my experience.  I am at peace with the Catholic Church and the Magesterium.  I have my moments when I get angry, very angry, but I work through them.  I don’t think I am exceptional, rather the recipient of copius amounts of grace from God and gentle, prudent, boundary-clear spiritual direction by a priest.  I have always lived a life of intentional faith, even while the abuse was taking place. After disclosing it, I stayed close to the sacraments – and a good Catholic psychologist – as I went into the pits of hell. Seven years later, I feel like I have my life back.

Triggers.  When I read an article about a new credible allegation of sexual abuse by a priest, religious, bishop or religious superior, or mishandling of a sexual misconduct case of a bishop or religious superior, I can feel the anger rise from my toes to the crown of my head.  THERE ARE NO EXCUSES FOR THIS! Have they not learned?  

Quite frankly, I believe (and have seen) that some simply do not get it. If they don’t, they need to get out.  Period.  The problem is that they think they have a full grasp of the issue of priestly sexual abuse.  Having been through it, I can assure you, there are those who do not.

I have been in contact with others who have been abused by a priest who continue to practice the faith.  But I still sometimes wonder, am I alone?  Are there more than a handful of people who have suffered abuse at the hands of a priest who want to live authentic Catholic faith joyfully?  Or is it like life: the squeaky wheel gets the grease?

Ten Things Victims/Survivors Taught Us – USCCB

This may be old news to some, but I just discovered it and thought it was worthy of sharing.  I felt a bit comforted when I saw the things the National Review Board learned from Victims/survivors. They get it.  At one level at least.

National Review Board
May, 2010

  1. We have learned that it takes great courage for a victim/survivor to come forward with his or her story after years, sometimes decades, of silence and feelings of shame.
  2. We have learned that to the victim/survivor it is so important to finally simply be believed.
  3. We have learned that, in spite of their own pain and suffering, many victim/survivors are just as concerned that the Church prevents this abuse from happening to more children as they are about themselves and their own needs for healing.
  4. We have learned that, while each individual’s story is different, what is common is the violation of trust; some survivors trust absolutely no one, to this day, while others have been able to work through this pain with the help and support of loved ones.
  5. We have learned that today there are methods of therapy that work particularly well with and for survivors of childhood sexual abuse and that individuals can be helped even after many years of unsuccessfully trying to simply “forget about it.”
  6. We have learned that very many victim/survivors have lived for many years with the belief that they were the “only one” to have been abused by a particular priest.
  7. We have learned that the abuse has robbed some victim/survivors of their faith. For some this means loss of their Catholic faith, but for others it means loss of any faith in a God at all.
  8. We have learned that, while some victim/survivors have been unable to succeed in various areas of life (marriage, employment, education, parenting, etc.) as a consequence of the great emotional/psychological harm, others have gone on to lead very healthy and productive lives. We have learned that between those two “ends of a continuum” there is as much variation as there are numbers of victims.
  9. We have learned that to be privileged to hear an individual victim/survivor’s story is a sacred trust, to be received with great care and pastoral concern.
  10. We have learned that we still have much to learn.

The National Review Board is an advisory group of 13 laypersons with expertise in such areas as law, education, media, and psychological sciences. The board was established in 2002, when the U.S. bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People to oversee efforts of the Office for Child and Youth Protection. The National Review Board is responsible for a three-year Causes and Context Study being undertaken by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and due for release in 2011. The study looks at the clergy sexual abuse of minors problem to ascertain what factors led to it and how it can be prevented going forward.

Ten Things Victims Taught Us

Bishop Finn

I wanted to let the furor die down a little before commenting on the resignation of Bishop Robert W. Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph.

What remains unknown is whether he resigned willingly or was forced out.

What is clear is that there is pain on all fronts, whether you are a supporter or detractor of Bishop Finn, and there will be healing.

In an open letter to the diocese, Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas explains his role as the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese until such time another bishop is named.

Bishop Robert W. Finn

The case of Bishop Finn, Father Shawn Ratigan (now laicized), and the employees of the Diocese of Kansas City – St. Joseph is very complicated.  I have followed this closely from the start several years ago. In the many news and opinion pieces as well as blogs on the issue, I have yet to see a piece that captures the entire picture correctly.

Facts point to media bias on the reporting. The links I am providing throughout this post lead to articles that come closest to the truth.

The landscape in the city was ripe for a scandal when Father Ratigan began taking upskirt pictures of little girls.  The diocese was split right down the middle theologically.  Years ago, when the orthodox Finn went to Kansas City and cleaned house of the previous liberal establishment, he quickly made enemies.  There were previous abuse lawsuits, which brought with them hurt and angry victims in search of healing and closure.

Politically, the county prosecutor, Jean Peters Baker, had an agenda. The case had holes throughout. She had plenty of time and resources to prosecute this, yet her is lenient to violent offenders.  Violent offenders. She wanted to make her mark on history, and she did.  Meanwhile, violent offenders went  free and often returned with victims in their wake.

This is not to take away from the failings of Bishop Finn.  It is to put into perspective the overall picture.

To get a good grip on the story, one must read the findings of an independent investigation released on September 1, 2011.  It was commissioned by Bishop Finn to delve into diocesan policies and procedures and events surrouding claims of sexual misconduct.  It details one problem after another, but no clear-cut cover-up or intent to mislead authorities

Sadly, Bishop Finn has become a symbol of lack of bishop accountability in clergy sexual abuse.  He is the highest official to be criminally convicted on the issue of clergy sexual misconduct.  But read carefully: he was not convicted of “covering up abuse.”  He was not convicted for “not reporting abuse.”  He was convicted of failing to report suspicion of child abuse.  And the child abuse that took place: one picture of child pornography that he never saw.  Suspicion is the key word in the state of Missouri.  This article explains that many other employees also had suspicion, were mandated reporters, but never made a call.  Bishop Finn was the only person prosecuted.

He will return Kansas City to preside over the ordinations of seven deacons to the priesthood later in May, a move that has been met with mixed reviews.

We all know the devastating effects of clergy sexual abuse of minors.  The Catholic Church is riddled with problems.  The case of Bishop Robert W. Finn is tragic.  Post-2002 Dallas Charter, we should know better.  He was only one of many in a chain of people who could have, and should have, reported suspicion of abuse.

We, as Church, have a lot to learn.  It is up to us to look for the red flags that signal potential child abuse, whether in a home or a church.  If we are mandated reporters, make the call to the Division of Family Services!  Courage, people.  Have the courage to do what you need to do.  Don’t wait for someone else to do it.  That is what happened in Kansas City.  As a result, children were harmed.

The Lance that Pierces Victims

Holy Week comes with it a meditation on the cross of Jesus.  We carry our crosses in the shadow of his.

en.wikipedia.org

A pope, a nuncio, a bishop and a priest have squarely placed a new and very painful cross on my shoulders.  Elizabeth Scalia over at the Anchoress has done a fine job of laying out what is known about the bishop and his alleged accessory to abuse.

I had such hope that Pope Francis would crack the whip on Abuse within the Church.  Maybe he still will.  But this appointment sends the wrong message.

And for people like me who have endured abuse, it reopens the wound we had hoped was forever healed.

Or as in case of Holy Week, it is the lance the pierces the side of the crucified Christ.

Movement, and not, Among Hierarchy

The Vatican announced on Friday, March 20, 2015 that  a senior Cardinal in Australia resigned  over “sexual impropriety allegations”.

An Australian Archbishhop was charged on Tuesday, March 16, 2016 with covering up for a pedophile priest in the 1970’s.

A newly appointed Chilean bishop who has been linked to a notorious abuse case is causing waves.  He has the full support of the Vatican while many are calling for his removal.

Peter Saunders, a member of the pontifical commission on abuse, has been critical of another case in Missouri where Bishop Robert Finn has been criminally convicted of failure to report suspect abuse and remains in office.

Is it any wonder that there is criticism, confusion and a lack of confidence the the Vatican will do anything to resolve the problem of among bishops?

Case One.  The Cardinal removed himself under Vatican pressure.
Case Two.  The Archbishop was criminally charged. No action from the Vatican.  Yet.
Cast Three.  A Bishop known to be associated with an abuse case was appointed by the Vatican.
Case Four.   A Bishop criminally convicted remains in office after a apostolic visitation to investigate the case, with no action taken by the Vatican. Yet.

What are we to make of this?

With the new Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Children, I tend to think that they are developing their guidelines and subsequent action will be taken based on them.  However, commission guidelines are not needed for the Pope to act if action is necessary.

As they say, facts are stubborn things.  Public perception can be fuelled by strong emotions, especially when deep pain is involved and injustice seems to be taking place.

We don’t know all the facts in these situations.  We know what has been made public, and even that may be skewed.  Lord knows there is plenty of public opinion.

photo credit drdivaphd.wordpress.com

I will always beat the drum for the victims.  As we watch things unfold, and read articles that usually contain painful stories, many of us are snapped back to those deeply painful areas of our soul that perhaps we thought had been healed.

The Lord heals a bit at a time, layer by layer.  Sometimes I want to wrap myself up in a cocoon to protect myself from reinjury.  I don’t want to read the papers, listen to the news, watch the Twitter feed or the blogs.  However, I have come to realize that lancing that wound is part of the healing process for me, so I do watch the news.  It is not pleasant, but the Lord is always there to hold my hand, as well as those in my support system.

I hope you are experiencing healing.  Educating yourself can bring immense freedom from shame, the sense of aloneness and even self-blame.  You will find resources on this web site.  Visit your diocese’s Office of Child and Youth Protection and see what your Victim Advicate has to offer.  There is help.  And most importantly, there hope.

You are in my prayers.

Possible causes of abuse

There is a wonderful article in the National Catholic Register that discusses the link, or lack thereof, between priestly celibacy and sexual abuse.  A member of the pontifical commission on abuse spoke to the press about it.  I urge you to read the article.  It is well done and very informative.

I am only a survivor, but I have read a few things over the years.  It seems to me that the causes of sexual abuse by priests are many and complex.  It is not as simple as homosexuality only.  Or celibacy only.  Or loneliness, or power, or “a sickness” only.  There is a probably a mixture of a few of the above in any one priest who abuses.

As is evidenced by myself, not only boys are abused.  And it is not only very young people.  Victims are vulnerable people of all ages, sexes, races and socioeconomical walks of life.   They don’t ask for the abuse.  They don’t deserve it.  The responsibility lies with the priest.  He is to blame.

While abuse by priests is a complicated issue, the basics are simple.  There is no single cause and there is no single fix.

"The Gift of Peace"

Joseph Cardinal Bernardin gave a gift to the world with his small book, The Gift of Peace.  Originally published by Loyola Press in 1997, it is a work that the Cardinal produced in the last two months of his life. He tells of traumatic events in his life, which include a false accusation of sexual abuse and cancer, which would eventually take his life.

The spiritual insights this man has are profound. Meditations are interspersed with chapters in the book.  I was amazed at the simplicity of his wisdom, and the confidence in Jesus. As I read his short meditation on suffering, tears continually rolled down my cheeks.  The suffering I felt as I worked through the abuse was so deep and painful.  He was able to put into words what I was unable to.

“As we look upon the cross and recall the specific ways by which people share in its mystery, there are many perspectives to be considered.  I will highlight only one:  The essential mystery of the cross is that it gives rise to a certain kind of loneliness, an inability to see clearly how things are unfolding, an inability to see that, ultimately, all things will work for our good, and that we are, indeed, not alone.”

I don’t know about you, but as I processed my abuse, I felt very alone and abandoned even by Jesus at times.  Nothing made sense.  It was all so difficult to describe.  For me, Cardinal Bernardin conveyed it perfectly.

For those who have been abused, I think it is easy to get touchy when people speak of priests who have been falsely accused.  Reading this man’s journey through that ordeal will give  you an entirely new insight to it.  It is also a good reminder not to be judge and jury when an allegation is made.  Anyone can make an allegation.

I heartily recommend that you read this book.  You will be touched spiritually and emotionally.

The Response to the Response

This will not be a popular post.

People are funny. When they have been deeply hurt or shamed, they can be unpredictable.

As a survivor of clergy sexual abuse always a practicing Catholic, and would be considered “right of center” in my view  of the Church (and world) I have been a student of human nature as regards abuse within the Church. 
God has gifted me with enough healing that I now generally can read about the issue with no longer feeling great pain. However, when there is what I consider injustice, all bets are off. 
Cardinal Sean O’Malley
Photo Credit: NBC News

Pope Francis has released the hounds. They will do some digging and return to him what they have found. 

This is wonderful news!
You wouldn’t know it if you only read many “right of center” bloggers and publications. Only a few reported on it Monday.  I don’t understand this. Are they ashamed? Do they not want to bring this dark subject into the light?  
Monday was a very bad day for me, not because of the Vatican Abuse Commission, but because of the silence of much of the conservative media. I felt hurt and betrayed. I have fought for the Church and tried to get the word out about the progress she has made in the protection of children. Now that MAJOR work is being done, we hear near silence instead of shouting from the mountain tops, “We care and are taking more action!”
For those who claim to be advocates for victims but clearly want to see the demise of the Church, (good luck with that), this action isn’t enough. There is always a “but” or “we will believe it when we see it”.  Rarely is there unconditional acknowledgment that the Catholic Chirch is doing good work.
Thank you to the Vatican, the “left of center” and secular media and just a few “right of center” groups for making us aware of the good work. It is an important and difficult task, especially when you consider they are dealing with countries all over the world, including third world countries. Abuse isn’t an American problem, an Irish problem or limited at all. This commission has their work cut out for them. Pray for them and the pope. 

"Making the Church a safe home" – Commission Concludes

Their round of meetings has concluded.  Please go to L’Osservatore Romano for the story.  Also check out the Vatican Abuse Commission” page for more coverage.

Pray that healing will come out of their work.