First … tell the story
and tell it again, and again
Then … feel the feelings
allow yourself to connect on a gut level with your pain
Finally … heal
and then take the next piece and start over………….
John’s passage describing his “revelation” succinctly explains the perspective of the Church and the reason why things have been so slow to change.
Originally posted on Catholics4Change:
Click here to read: “I Was Once a Victim,” by John Salveson, class of ’77, ’78 M.A., Notre Dame Magazine, Summer 2013
Slowly, eventually, I figured out the reason for the lack of progress within the Church. It really was simple. I had long believed the Roman Catholic Church considered the child sex-abuse crisis to be a moral issue. So I expected clergy to care about the victims and to do the right thing.
But the simple truth I had learned over time was this: Much of the Catholic leadership does not view this as a moral issue. They view it as a risk-management issue. The focus is on managing settlements, keeping the topic out of the media, telling the faithful everything is taken care of and, most of all, doing everything humanly possible to ensure none of these cases ever make it into a court of law.
Blue eyes, wide
In a knitted sweater
Crafted with care
She looks real
She’s soft and warm
Why did they make her like that
The doll makers
Because They want real skin
The softness, the smell
Mingled with Their spit
They rub and rub
And she just looks
Wide-eyed and still
Clasping the knitted lamb
Crafted with care
They’ll be done soon, little lamb
Then we can sleep
But for now we play the doll game
And remember not to cry
“Hard work awaits pope and abuse survivors”
Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea | NCR Apr. 23, 2013
I read the article and was impressed, as always, by Frawley-O’Dea’s passionate and insightful comments. She not only counsels but truly understands the struggles of victims. Not all therapists can comprehend the spiritual devastation of priest abuse.
Then I read the comments and was sickened by two themes: 1. The problem is homosexuality; 2. Compensation is a miss-use of church funds and neglects the poor and needy.
To the second point I want to say that the victims of pedophile and sexually abusive priests are, in my experience (11 years active in the survivor community; 54 years living with the effects of the abuse) some of the poorest, most damaged and needy people in the catholic community. Sadly they are no longer actively catholic and hence not included in the charitable giving of the church. But the reason they are no longer actively catholic IS the church – the behavior of abusive priests in the church.
I have known suicides, alcoholics, drug users, homeless, bankrupt, mentally ill victims whose lives were irrevocably damaged by suffering priest abuse. Counseling is vital, but so is the ability to earn a living, a place to live, and food to eat. Unfortunately the emotional and psychological ability to process a claim against the church is beyond the mental and certainly fiscal resources of most victims. This is where pro-active lawyers must step in and when they do the claims made must cover their fees and they are expensive. And getting a large settlement is what lawyers do. It helps their reputations. This is just the facts. If the church would make settlements before lawyers are engaged it would lesson costs to the church. But the bishops are the first ones to lawyer up. Again, my experience: 17 years seeking help for therapy, the bishop eventually said – “don’t write to me any more, talk to my lawyer. ” It was downhill from there.
Now to the first point. Homosexuality is not and never has been the issue. No more than heterosexuality. If we throw out homosexual priests we have to throw out heterosexual ones too, because pedophilia and ephebophilia are two very different issues and not strictly homo or heterosexual. Sexually abusive priests I have known, or learnt about, were psychologically deformed in some manner. Some abused girls and boys, some abused adults and children. One of my abusers raped my mother, molested me and one of my brothers. How should he be categorized? Simply a sick man with a corrupted morality and deformed psycho-sexual nature. He was an opportunistic abuser, not a homosexual or heterosexual abuser. We have to stop labeling this a homosexual issue. Healthy homosexual relationships are between consenting adults and are as committed as heterosexual ones. The problem for some of the commenters is that homosexuality is seen as evil so it must the root of the sexual problems of abuser priests. Wrong! If anything, the common sexual issues for abusive priests are chastity and celibacy.
Postman Pat and his black and white cat,
Early in the morning,
Just as day is dawning,..”
The children’s tape player sang the words through its red and white face. Primary colors for a baby’s room. The tape was a distraction for me, and it covered my cries – but his hand usually sufficed.
People ask, How could a man, a priest? It’s popular to ask, now, those taboo questions. Safety in numbers for those who dare to criticize God’s men.
But that night, so many nights, no safety. No one questioning. Not even the mother. And the father? He was around.
My face hurts now, as I tell you this. Pain in my jaw like after a long session at the dentist. As if it had been stretched wide beyond its comfort. And my throat is tight, golf-ball sized anxiety, so I can’t catch my breath. Give me a minute, here!
It was always hard to breathe during story time.
And now the inevitable pain in my rectum. Even though I am telling you this over 50 years later, the pain memories are so near. They live in my muscles under my skin.
In prison there are similar pains for many of the inmates. But I am separate. Solitary. Suits me just fine! Dangerous, they say, to myself and others. A sociopath by nature, or a victim whose violation of his body caused an irreparable tear in his soul through which all feelings escaped. Which am I? Maybe you don’t believe in souls or God. That’s fine. I’m The Wrath of God … and no one wants to believe in me.
I sought out one of them, one of the owners of those bodies that stole my breath and my sanity. One of the Men in Black. I burned holes in his body where he had torn holes in mine. Pathology or justice? Am I a righteous man or a criminal? It’s up to you to decide, my twelve peers. But let me ask, first, that you take my place for just one night in that child’s bed, just one, and then you can judge me.
It’s only in looking back that I realise I was depressed these past months.
It’s only in looking back that not wanting anything more than sleeping on the weekends seems like a clue to a low mood.
It’s only in looking back that finding myself unable to work on my book or rejoin the choir seems telling and weeks of easy tears seem abnormal.
I think when you’re depressed it’s easy to miss it, even when you have a history. Maybe because you have a history. A little depression is just a common state of mind, so who’s to say when it is becoming a problem, when it is becoming “clinical.”
But today I went for a walk, even a little run; I enjoyed becoming breathless – it didn’t take much. I raised my face to the sun and my arms to the wind. I spread the fingers of my hands and felt the air between each one. I felt myself opening up, and wondered – not for the first time – where have I been?
An excellent idea if you have the fortitude, and the trust.
Originally posted on Catholics4Change:
One of the more promising developments over the past year has been parish-based forums on clergy child sex abuse. We need more to do so. Some have held healing services, but I prefer “information forum” for several reasons. While healing is most certainly needed on all fronts, it seems that would come more easily after all other appropriate steps. There is little trust that the entire hierarchy is taking all those steps. In the meantime, information is critical. Bringing the issue into the light will enable the faithful to enforce efforts.
At a recent parish council meeting on whether or not to hold a forum, someone said this issue is best dealt with in private. What? Child sex abuse happens in private. Cover ups happen in private. The solution will be found out in the open. We must shine a light on this issue. Hasn’t Penn State, the Boy Scouts…
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