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

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.

Faith

Faith is a demanding lover – tempestuous, moody, hot and cold, constant and traitorous. You give it everything and wake to find it disappearing like cigarette smoke on a damp, misty night. When you need it most it seems to have abandoned you. But sometimes, sometimes, it offers you a gentle kiss of transcendence.

Dear Pontiff — Letter #3

September 10, 2010

I just wanted to drop a note and thank you for the invitation, but I really can’t make it.  I hope you have a good visit with the other victims, though.  Mona 

Happy Rosh Hashanah,

What if the Pope really had invited me to one of his face-to-face meetings? Would I have gone? I gave this some serious thought and realized that in order for me to experience such a meeting as safe and positive I would need my own “people” with me to help me survive and remain emotionally healthy. This may seem ridiculous to you, but as a victim of profound and prolonged sexual abuse as a child, by more than one priest, I want you to know that I write this in all seriousness. I want you to understand the scenario as it would impact me and I imagine many other victims like me. 

How can I summon up some of the feelings for you?  Imagine a nightmare in which you are being chased. It is nighttime. Someone is trying to hurt you, to kill you, to rape you. You are running but you can’t escape. You enter a room but the door doesn’t lock. You keep running, keep running. Now imagine that this awful nightmare was actually based on the real fears and real danger that you experienced on a regular basis as a child — bad men who were always trying to get you alone to hurt you, and then threatening you if you told. Imagine the nightmare haunting your sleep for years during your childhood and then imagine it returning in times of stress for decades long into adulthood. Now imagine that you are going to a meeting in which the players in your nightmare drama were going to be in the room with you, in the flesh. And imagine all the fears of being chased, hurt, raped and killed, that haunted your nightmares rising up in your guts and into your throat and swirling around in your mind as you walk into this room, sweating, shaking, clammy, nauseated. Now you have a sense of what it would feel like for me. 

What would I need?
 ~  I would need my therapist because I would need “handling.” Someone talking me through the preparations and keeping me grounded in the present. “They cannot hurt you. You are safe. You are no longer a child, you are an adult. They can’t keep you here against your will. You are going to leave with us and go home. You are not doing anything wrong; you are allowed to tell.” Advocacy and compassion.

~  I would need my husband next to me so I could hold his hand or just lean on him and know he was there and that I would be leaving with him. Safe, male touch.

~  I would need a  group of strong, religious women in the room to balance all the men in clerical garb. Preferably these women would be American Dominicans from the Dominican Alliance. Feminine, Catholic, strength, wisdom and spirituality.

~  I would request that the Pope not wear a medieval costume but the simple, white cassock and zucchetto (cap). I have really bad memories involving a priest in a black cassock and a black biretta (three-ridged, square hat). But I know that would be pushing it.  

As it would not be possible to have all the above people with me when I met with the Pope and all his “people,” it would not be a good experience — at all. It would very likely lead to a serious mental health episode. I worry about those victims who do meet him and the conflicted feelings they must experience. And I worry that they don’t get to bring their “people” with them.  I hope they can process the visit and remain safe and that it gives them what they are looking for.

Finding Healing in Broken Places–my new project.

I have a new project, “Finding Healing in Broken Places.” I am going to try and pull together some journal reflections on religious faith and the pursuit of  healing after suffering trauma and abuse. I want it to be hopeful and I want it to address the issues of healing from trauma and loss in a broader sense than just sexual abuse. So I think my energy will move there. I will leave these reflections on-line and I hope they will continue to be of some use. Thanks.

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

Statutes of Limitation

Statutes of limitations mean that most all the priests who have been identified as pedophiles cannot be prosecuted; so calls for civil and criminal prosecution are pointless. We need to change our laws to protect victims by making it possible to prosecute the offenders whenever the victims have the courage to come forward. My abusers are dead; that is the only reason others are safe from them. They both died as priests in good standing with the church even though complaints had been made.

I cried this morning because I miss my faith, I miss the comfort of it. I miss feeling safe in a church; I miss being able to pray. All I have right now is sadness, fear, nightmares and anger…so much anger.