I sent a new letter, a combination of two letters sent to Cardinal Justin Rigali, to all the bishops heading up dioceses in NJ as well as PA.
Here are some things you may want to consider regarding the current unpleasantness surrounding the clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Church. As a member of the clergy who was also a victim I’ve taking this entire situation to prayer, to spiritual direction and to therapy. I have made some conclusions and connections that I believe are inspired by God.
When individuals first approached the members of the Church hierarchy and those in their employ with allegations of abuse, (or at the very least, unseemly behavior), they were ignored, not believed, disparaged, threatened, some combination of those things and ultimately silenced. Therefore some victims of abuse retained lawyers in an attempt to be heard by Church hierarchy. Sadly it seems when the strong’s assets are involved then the weak are listened too. Would lawyers have become involved if the problems were dealt with as they arose? I think a case could be made that lawyers would not have been involved.
The reaction and inaction seems puzzling because it is the antithesis of what the Church really stands for, that is, the gospel of Christ.
Ugly things have been said by both sides on this issue. Unfortunately even more negative things have been added by third parties who have a negative agenda that is not congruent with the moral authority given to us by God. That said, here are perceptions of what Church mouthpieces have put forth, from a victim/survivor of clergy sexual abuse, one who has worked extensively with an array of abuse victims.
- Wanting to be heard and acknowledged by the hierarchy of the Church is not in and of itself anti-Catholic. Please don’t go there.
- Citing diocesan need to hold onto money for charitable works is an insult. It suggests that helping the victims of abuse is not a charitable work. (More on that later.)
- Putting forth that the viability of Catholic Schools is as important in the mission of the Church as helping to heal the psychological wreckage imposed by clergy et. al. is also insulting and hurtful. (More on that later too.)
- Shifting the blame of the scope of the scandal onto the media and disparaging lawyers who have been retained by victims is a red herring and takes the focus off of what the real problem has been. This tactic also encourages the faithful in the pews to attack the victims.
Many, if not most, of the victims are or were active, baptized, members of the Church therefore they are a part of the Body of Christ. There are some members of the Body of Christ who now hate God, (wrongly), for what was done to them and the uncaring, (sometimes vicious), reaction of the hierarchy. As you are aware God is all too often blamed for bad things and the sins of man.
Because of this fracture in the Body of Christ it behooves us to actively seek out those members of the body who can be considered lost sheep. It is vital that we seek them out, minister to them and if possible bring them back to our glorious Church…or at least get them to a point where they don’t hate God any longer. Causing someone so much pain that they now hate God is a sin I cannot fathom.
The ministry of seeking these lost sheep and reconciling them with the Church should be the number one, most important thing that we do as a Church at this time in history. In the gospels Jesus seeks out the lost sheep. He heals them as our loving, compassionate, merciful brother and God. That is the outreach work that is mandated by love. That is the outreach work that is mandated by the example we have in Christ. Abandoning lost sheep is anathema to Jesus.
For now this needs to be the only charitable work of the Church. Everything else is chaff. Taking responsibility for driving some people out of the Church and taking responsibility to reconcile them teaches people more about the love of God, love that should be reflected by the Church, than any school ever could.
There are no other diocesan considerations as vital and as essential as this. God will provide for the Church. Things, assets, money are not important…people and the salvation of souls is what is important.
I believe that help must be offered over and over again to the victims that have come forward. Offering help once and then walking away if a victim is not receptive is not an option. The hierarchy must be persistent. Offering help once and then it being rejected does not signify that we have done all that we could to help. It is a false notion to hide behind the façade of respecting the wishes/desires/privacy of a victim. It is a cop out on the part of the Church. These are the lost sheep of the Body of Christ. They are human beings. That seems to be forgotten.
You must remember that many of the victims were rejected over and over again by the hierarchy, by other members of the body of Christ and in a lot of cases even by their own families. The pain and the anger of these men and women are almost unfathomable. As a Church we cannot walk away from that, not just because we caused the pain in the first place, but because in a very real way we represent God and God would not abandon any of his people.
I think that healing being offered to victims needs to be couched differently than just, “spiritual”. The healing must be holistic and must be offered as holistic. The only ministry that I am aware of that is working toward holistic healing that envelops spiritual healing is, Grief to Grace, (www.grieftograce.org). It is not a magic bullet but an experience that gets participants out of the circle of lies that they truly believe about themselves and about the world/Church. These lies rule victims’ lives and influence their decision making ability in a truly diabolical way, being removed from that cycle allows healing with a competent mental health professional to commence.
I prayerfully suggest that a new outreach be started by every diocese. An outreach that acts as a sort of hound of heaven for victims who have come forward already and actively seeks out those who have not come forward. (Remember, an initial rejection of the offer of help does not give permission for the Church to abandon a victim.) I would also prayerfully submit that non-clergy members be the ones to do the interacting and initial outreach with victims and their families, at least until they request clergy interaction. The healing purpose of this outreach is not served if those who need it are distrustful, angry, hostile, and have been hurt by the entity offering help.
Please, please, please do something that can be considered pro-active and not reactive. Catholics and non-Catholics all over the world are watching, waiting. In so many cases they are criticizing us for a lack of meaningful action.
It has been eight years since the revelations about the scope of the Boston scandal, eight years. And then the revelations from other dioceses and archdiocese kept coming. Why give people that hate us, people who do not really understand or even know what it is our Church truly believes and teaches, ammunition to justify their anti-Catholic bias? Do something. Do something that is consistent with the gospel of Christ that we cling to. I know the Church will survive this scandal like she has so many scandals in her past. And I know that the gates of hell will not prevail. But isn’t it important that the Church do more than survive? We need to take the lead in helping the victims, who have been so injured that they have fled, embrace God again…embrace the healing God offers.
Two letters combined with a little added stuff. Now we wait.