Finding Hope after Abuse

traces of hope

How do I process my grief?
Does suffering have any meaning?
Do we live in a random chaotic universe?
Is it time to re-evaluate my understanding of “God”?

This book is for anyone who has suffered a loss – of safety, of one’s home, of health, of a loved one or a relationship, or of one’s faith … and found themselves asking, “Why?” And then wondering, “Who am I asking?” and hoping they were not alone.

http://www.amazon.com/Traces-Hope-Surviving-Grief-Loss/dp/1937943275

Traces of Hope

Over the past few years I have used the opportunity offered by this blog to reflect on many aspects of my healing from sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

I have a new book coming out that tells the story of my healing journey and my journey through grief and loss if you are interested in my full story.

http://www.amazon.com/Traces-Hope-Surviving-Grief-Loss/dp/1937943275/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1426982211&sr=1-1&keywords=Mona+villarrubia

“The Wrath of God” A fictional story of a victim who becomes a murderer

postman pat“Postman Pat, Postman Pat,

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.

Murder, Suicide and God’s Plan

Someone posted a letter on-line today with news of the death of a Benedictine monk – his abuser. The death may have brought “closure” for his abuser, he reflected, but not for him.  Over the years he had planned then rejected both murder and suicide, but now he expressed sadness — for victims, but also for his abuser who, he realizes, must have been a troubled and twisted individual. The writer ended the letter with a blessing for his abuser!  I was shocked. To have moved from considering murder, not so many years ago, to offering a blessing was incredible, I hesitate to use the word but — miraculous.

In his words:

“Today I visited Montserrat Abbey, the oldest Benedictine monastery in existence. I went into the Church. I don’t know God’s plan for me, I don’t know God’s plan for Fr. Roger, but in my own simple way, I said – And May God bless him.            
                                                      C Michael Coode (SNAP  Tennessee)

Here was a victim who had retained his faith in God and was now dedicated to advocating for and supporting other victims through the National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) and through leadership in his local branch of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and religious (SNAP).  He had maintained his faith in God despite the overwhelming proof of negligence, deceit, and denial by the Catholic Bishops. He could still enter a monastery and not run out shaking and crying. He could still pray to a God he believes has a Plan.

I know one thing with absolute certainty: If there is a God and if there is a Plan it doesn’t involve abuse of children. What makes most sense to me is that God’s plan — call it “the best of all possible worlds” — is thwarted every time someone chooses to reject God in favor of doing evil. And so God has to adjust the plan. My heart tells me that in responding to evil with a blessing Michael has more than lived up to what God would hope for. There is NOTHING more powerful and more loving and healing in the world than responding to evil with goodness, offering a blessing instead of creating more suffering — by hurting oneself or others. 

So, I responded to his post and offered Michael a blessing:

May you be blessed and comforted, may the light of Goodness shine upon you and bring you peace, and may you be filled with the healing power of Grace. You are my hero today.

To read the letter in its entirety you can go here:

 http://nationalsurvivoradvocatescoalition.wordpress.com/___-8/

For those who are struggling today

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be.
                                                                                                Anne Frank

This poignant, optimistic comment was written by a young Jewish women who spent two years hiding in an attic unable to enjoy the world of nature she describes. It is good to be reminded of the things we take for granted: nature, beauty. Even if we are not sure of God, nature is always there to show us the cycle of life and death and life that is enacted every year. Some days that is enough.

Spiritual Drought

I haven’t been able to attend church regularly for three years now and I miss it. I miss the music and the words of the scriptures, the security and comfort of a religious practice. But more than that I miss my faith in God. I had felt so close to God for so much of my life, even when I was fighting with God there was still the closeness. But now it is the emptiness that hurts…like the nightmare of coming home to find your parents have moved and the house is empty. Absolute existential aloneness.

So I try not to think so much and instead I try to “be.” I find that just paying attention to the world around me reminds me of the miracle of it all. It is a miracle that anything IS. And yet here we are. I don’t know why or by whose agency life exists, but I know it does. I know that I am going to sing Handel’s Messiah in December. I know that last weekend I heard the symphony play Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. I know that today I had a wonderful morning walking in the French Quarter and sharing a meal with my husband. I know that three birds flew into the courtyard and up into the blue sky. I know that I could feel the sun and breathe the cool, crisp air of the fall. These things I know. And these moments of wonder and beauty keep me going.

My 3.00am Prayer — Parental Discretion Advised!

Fuck you, God!

I know — not exactly a good Catholic school-girl prayer, not a very reverent prayer, but real. And you haven’t exactly lived up to the Catholic deal, you know. That whole, “Angels guard me through the night, and keep me safe ‘til morning light” thing? Because they didn’t!  Not even close. I mean, shit! I was what, three? Four? And do you know how long it has taken me to get close to accepting it, facing it? Well of course you know, fifty years. FIFTY YEAR S.  And I still don’t know who that other penis belongs to.

So this was my prayer one night, one sleepless, nightmare-drenched night. Not intentionally scandalous or sacrilegious. Just honest. Let’s face it, it is more real than most of the wordy repetitions mumbled in the name of prayer. And I think God, if there is a God, prefers it real. At least I hope so. Otherwise I am SOL!

And, for the record, it seems I am not done with this blog yet. The impending visit of the Pope to England has me all a dither. Manic, tearful, afraid. Maybe because I recently just narrowly escaped the need to go to England and Ireland myself. I don’t want it to, but it disturbs my equilibrium just thinking about it. So I’ll keep blogging here while I need to.

One Mother’s Son

Conceived in poverty
raised in a working man’s home
taught a trade

Catching his dream only to have it stolen
doing the bidding of a father
so much more to give
duty bound

Did he fulfill one father’s demands
or watch it all turn to sand and flow
between his fingers
desperately grasping

Will death be a comfort to this
one mother’s son
or will he cry out in pain
recognising his betrayer as he gasps

Will he stare at the horizon
willing the sun to hold back from setting
begging for one more moment one more breath
preferring the pain to oblivion

And will he surrender at last and breathe
It is done as tears fall on his cooling cheeks
and jackals gather to gnaw on his bones

Oh that in death he could meet
one loving father’s embrace
and hear
you did well, son,
you did well.

This poem began as a poem about my dad, and then became a poem about Jesus, too. Or the other way around. I’m not sure now. It just took shape around 3.15 am.

Jesus was a victim too

I am very angry with my church. I have been angry with my church in different ways since 2002. Sadly, this Easter season I was given new reasons for my anger. Yet this Easter I have also received a gift of grace; I met Jesus again on the road to his cross and I found in him a victim, too.

Jesus was made an object of public scorn. Catholic victims and their advocates, while championing the rights of children and petitioning for the release of documents that would provide clear evidence of the presence of serial child abusers in the clergy and serial conspirators in the hierarchy, have likewise been made the objects of public scorn. The comparison continues:

  • Jesus spoke up against injustice in his faith community.
  • Jesus recognized children, spoke to them, and condemned anyone who would harm a child.
  • Jesus was rejected by the leaders of his faith community. He no longer “belonged” because he had dared to speak the truth and challenge their hypocrisy and immorality.
  • Jesus was innocent of a crime but was judged responsible for his arrest and execution because he had incited the crowds by telling the Truth.
  • Jesus was mocked, vilified, humiliated, and ultimately abandoned by his community.
  • Jesus knew the pain of injustice and abandonment. But unlike many abuse victims Jesus did have a mother and a friend who stayed faithful and continued to believe in him despite what the authorities and community members had accused him of. At least in that way Jesus was blessed. Many victims have lost even those last vestiges of support. But we do not have to carry our crosses on our own.

I believe Jesus would willingly wash the feet of abuse victims, weep over them, and anoint them with oil, in abject sorrow over the sins perpetrated by those exercising authority in his name.  I believe that Jesus would willingly take up our crosses and walk in our shoes in an attempt to express his love, in an attempt to convince us we had not been abandoned. I believe that Jesus already has.

 What would Jesus say to the Catholic Church today? What message of hope would he share? There is nothing he could say to defend the indefensible behavior of the Catholic leaders, from local bishops to Vatican officials. I think he would speak to the victims and their families and to the ordinary, faithful and disillusioned Catholics. I think he would tell us to support each other, to reach out to each other, to share our pain, to create a community of faith, to continue seeking justice against oppressive and corrupt organizations. To really be “ekklesia” a people gathered with a common purpose and a common faith and commitment to God, Truth, Justice, and the marginalized. And I think he might remind us that we don’t need a certain building or a certain form of religious government to do this.

This resurrection season may victims and their advocates continue to rediscover the message and person of Jesus of Nazareth in hopeful and healing ways. And may the voices of truth and reason continue to be heard above the voices of hatred and anger.

by Mona Villarrubia

Learning about the extent of abuse: a two-edged sword

When the extent of the abuse in America began to hit the news it was a double-edged sword for victims. On the one hand it felt very affirming – I am not crazy, I am not alone, people might believe me now. On the other hand it felt overwhelming, devastating. Ironically many of us had remained in the Church, believing our abuse was an aberration, our perpetrator a criminal unknown to his (her) superiors, and we still experienced the beauty and solace of our faith tradition. But the other side of the sword was the realization that not only was our perpetrator not an aberration in an otherwise healthy community of priests but one of many such men whose predilections had been the subject of jokes among fellow clergy (I heard this from a priest). And their superiors, far from being unaware, had been complicit in their protection from civil authority and their reassignment to unknowing parishes whose children became the next prey. This was the knowledge that robbed us of our faith in our church. And robbed me of my vocation to teach religion in the church: the behavior of the hierarchy was indefensible and I would not attempt to defend it to my students.