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.


“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.



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

Nightmares that linger

What is it about nightmares that gives them so much power in the daytime? After all they’re not real, right? Right! And yet…

What seems to make my nightmares so powerful after I wake up is the fact that the feelings are very real.  When I wake up I don’t leave the fear, panic, nausea, panic (yes I said panic twice — not sure how else to emphasize it) behind.  It’s all still there. Even though the images are gone — as long as I can keep my eyes open and don’t slide off into the nightmare again — the feelings remain. And the feelings suck! 

Last night, or to be precise 4.10am this morning, I woke up in the middle of a nightmare. I had been pursued by a rapist who morphed into a man in black (no surprises there) and I was somehow looking down on the top of his head trying to fly through a broken window to escape. Then he flew too, and all of a sudden the figure became quite demonic and exaggerated, evil personified if you like.  The more religious might be inclined to say he became the devil, but to me “devil” is just a metaphor for evil. Either way you name it I was being pursued and trying to escape with my life. As is typical for me in such dreams, even when I try to interject the saving device of phoning for help, I can’t remember the phone number for my therapist or the police, and then the phone doesn’t work etc .etc. More panic.

This time I decided to jump into a body of water to escape … I think I was mixing religious mythology with the Wizard of Oz and hoping the devil would dissolve (melt). He did for a while and I sank into peacefulness. Quite happy to be succumbing to the watery depths.  It was such a relief. The he loomed again in front of me in the water …. And I woke up.  Panicked.

I paced the house for a while, trying not to wake my husband whose sleep patterns aren’t much better than my own, waiting for his alarm to sound so I could hang out for breakfast and experience some normalcy. 

So, the dream was fiction but the feelings were real? Yes. And yet…

There it is, you see. Freud and Jung, psychologists and Jackson Square“mystics,” they all know there is more to reality than just our conscious, immediate awareness. However much we try to deny it, there is some “real” in our dreams. Connections to events, feelings, senses, movies and TV images, memories, thoughts, memories of thoughts, thoughts of memories…whatever.  They can all play a part, as can our body chemistry. As a diabetic I know that I have cycles of blood levels during the night and that can affect the rest of my body I’m sure.

How we interpret dreams should I think be our own individual adventure.  Look for repeated themes or obvious connections to the Law and Order episode you watched before bedtime.  Consider what you ate or drank before bed and what your body might be trying to tell you. Don’t assume anything is a “revealed memory.”  Just unwrap the feelings during the day, maybe journal, and then let them go and see what seems to want to stay around. Then … well then you have to ask the piece that won’t go away … What is it that I need to learn? But if you don’t get an answer, leave it be. If there is something for you to learn, it will come up again another time.

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:

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.

Just Trying to Survive

There is no cure for pedophilia, just as there is no cure for alcoholism. Alcoholics in AA are given tools and support, not sent out to work in bars. It is expected that they will fail. But they can always come back and start over, because THEY ARE NOT CRIMINALS. But if they do break the law while drunk they are not given a FREE PASS from criminal prosecution.

Pedophile priests on the other hand were told there is a cure for their ”behavior,” that they can pray for healing and be absolved of their sins through reception of the Sacraments. And then they were sent out ”all fixed” to work with children in church schools, and take altar boys on trips.

When are we going to let go of the magical view of sacraments as a cure for psychological disorders. Sacramental healing is insufficient;  pedophiles,  given access to children will continue to offend, despite weekly absolution and daily Eucharist. It has been proven. 

Prayer can be one tool but prayer alone is not enough. Pedophile priests have never been cured only moved around, and their perversions protected through systemic secrecy. They should have been required to attend pedophile support groups where the first thing they would do is introduce themselves and say, “I am a pedophile.”   They should never be given work in parishes; they should have to identify themselves to the local law enforcement and communities as sex offenders. Of course that would require that they get prosecuted through the criminal courts first, and the financial and legal protection of the church and the complicity of civil authorities, along with the limitations of the statutes of limitations for child abuse cases, has made criminal prosecution virtually impossible. Pedophile priests should live under strict supervision like house arrest.

Finally, for those who say sexual abuse is a minor crime it doesn’t end lives, it most certainly does. SNAP has a data base of victims who have committed suicide, some after receiving a ”settlement.” The numbers continue to grow.  

It is very, very hard to live through the horror of being a victim when day after day the papers reveal more evil in the Church’s systemic support for pedophiles and suppression of victims. And night after night we re-live the horrors of our own abuse in our nightmares. We, the victims, no longer have the support of our parishes or the sacraments to give us peace. Only the pedophile priests still have that. And they also get free counseling. For over a decade I have been attempting to get help with my ongoing mental health costs. The limited help I received was long ago  exhausted and now other victims in my family are finally coming forward and are in need of help. We are just trying to survive.