A response to commenters on Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea’s article on NCR

Reference:
“Hard work awaits pope and abuse survivors”
Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea | NCR Apr. 23, 2013

A response:

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.

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“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.

Where was I?

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?

Hold a Child Sex Abuse Parish Information Forum

An excellent idea if you have the fortitude, and the trust.

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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Catholic guilt; Catholic shame

Guilt and shame. Staples of a Catholic education in the 50’s and early 60’s. The very foundation of Catholic moral instruction in this era, especially in the area of human sexuality.

So how is it that the priests themselves did not seem to feel the guilt and shame they preached?

Young boys were tormented with threats of hell if they masturbated, but chasing altar boys was the topic of dinner time jokes in seminaries and rectories. For teenage boys touching yourself was a shameful and guilt ridden exercise in self damnation; but for priests, touching young boys was an exercise in power and control.

What about when they were found out? The boy victims were beaten by their fathers or by another “Father.” “How could you say such lies? You are going to hell for such sins.” And the priests were told by their bishops “We will pray for you, my son, that you can overcome this temptation from the devil. Remember he strikes hardest at the holiest among us.”

Oh, so if priests are tempted that is a sign of holiness; If young boys “give in” and “allow” themselves to be touched, that is a sign that they are agents of the devil. The shame and guilt is theirs. The priests deserve our support, our pity, our prayers; the victims deserve our condemnation.

So, the problem lies in the lack of shame and guilt on the part of the priests, and their bishops. And their complete lack of compassion for young children molested, raped, and sodomized by members of the clergy.

We won’t get anywhere in the search for justice unless the Church begins to teach its priests about shame and guilt.

Cold

cold

cold, cold, hard, damp tiles

bare feet

they didn’t care

with their thick shoes and heavy clothes

pale legs above bloodless toes

the cold hurts

before it numbs

but fear is hot

insides shaking

lips trembling

don’t cry, she warns

don’t whimper or weep

it will be worse for you

stand strong, little mona

stand and stare

see what they point to

see it and know

there is no safety

for little girls

who don’t do what they are told

tears fall silently

on downy cheeks

please don’t notice

i promise i’ll be good

i won’t make a sound

i’ll be daddy’s good girl

you’ll see

Philly grand jury recognizes the truth

Too many times victims are re-victimized by the victims advocate. The Philly grand jury clearly understands why church sponsored advocacy doesn’t work.

“….the present process is burdened by misinformation and conflict of interest. The Archdiocese’s “victim assistance coordinators,” for example, mislead victims into believing that their discussions with the coordinators are protected by confidentiality. That is not the case. In Pennsylvania, licensed rape counselors are indeed required by statute to maintain confidentiality, like lawyers. The church’s victim assistance coordinators, however, are not licensed counselors to whom the statutory mandate applies – and they do not keep victims’ statements confidential. They turn the statements over to the Archdiocese’s attorneys, who of course have an ethical obligation to protect their client from potential civil and criminal liability.”

Their recommendation:

“First, experience now demonstrates that programs for aiding victims of clergy sex abuse cannot be operated by the church itself. Victims should be assisted by the state Victim Compensation Board, or by a completely independent non-profit organization that is not subject to Archdiocesan control. In either case the church must provide the necessary funding. The church, through its lawyers, is of course entitled to defend itself against civil or criminal claims; but it can no longer try to play both sides of the fence with its victims.”