This is my letter to the bishops of New York.
I am writing to you and the rest of the bishops who are in charge of dioceses in the state of New York to plead with you for help and leadership in the face of the clergy sexual abuse scandal. I hardly know where to begin. I am a priest who also happens to be a victim of clergy sexual abuse. I’m one of the exceptions because I never blamed God. I don’t hate God. And I don’t hate the Church. I do extremely dislike how victims are, or more accurately are not being helped. I think that victim assistance offices are great. Measures put in place to help prevent future victims are wonderful but what about those who have already been victimized.
My victimization happened in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. I am currently a priest for the Diocese of Wilmington. Because I came forward and even though I was hurt by a member of the clergy, I gladly accepted the Archdiocese’s help in payment of my therapy. My question to you and all of the other bishops in the Church is; what is being done for victims? This is the rub. Men and women came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against some members of the clergy. They were often rebuffed and sometimes worse. Because most victims’ names and addresses are known to the diocese/archdiocese I have to ask was healing help offered. Did every single person that you know of receive a personal letter, (not a form letter), from the victims assistance office? These letters should be tailored to the victim, should not be on diocesan letter head and should not be signed by any clergy. Because each victim is an individual they need to be treated that way. And because of the grievous nature of what was done to those abuse victims our efforts to make positive contact must be continuous. Hostility and a rejection by the victims do not give the Church permission to claim that they did what she could and are moving on. Offers of help must be made and remade ad nauseam if need be. Alas victims are being treated as a group, in the vernacular, as ugly red-headed stepchildren.
I have two more things that I really need you to consider, pray about and incorporate into your policies and procedures. This crisis in the Church was created by the clergy and hierarchy of the Church. Because of that it needs to take precedence in the Church’s charitable endeavors. Although these things; homelessness, hunger, poverty are issues that the Church usually deals with the Church did not cause them. We, (the collective we), caused this so we must fix it. It was members of the Body of Christ who were hurt so it’s scripturally mandated that we help.
The second thing I would like to address is settlement money. Just throwing money at this crisis is not going to make it go away. The focus should be on healing. Money should be given and focused for healing. Besides private therapy the only group that I know of doing this work is Grief to Grace, www.grieftograce.org .
I expressed to my therapist once that God, the potter, has fashioned us all uniquely but in his own image and likeness. Since we are all battered in life by our own sin as well as the sins of others we carry around the cracks, dents and mars of this life. Those of us that have been abused have been thrown down and shattered. And now Mother Church must pick up the pieces and put them back together. Victims will always carry signs that we have been shattered and reassembled, just like Jesus Christ raised from the dead shows signs of his suffering and death.