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This is a moderated blog is a project of the Ruth Institute. Have a story to share? We're listening.
Posted on: Wednesday, March 06, 2019
1. Have you ever had flashbacks?
Yes. They revolve around being trapped, running away from the house (my grandmother’s house) after some times of abuse, begging my grandmother for help as she held the door while I was being trapped and wouldn’t let me out. I also have flashbacks about bleeding at night and in the bathtub, stinging panic and crying myself to sleep.
Some, like losing track of time. I have memory blackouts for much of the the actual rape. I know an old-fashioned pointed can opener was used on me several times. I remember the sadistic nature of abuse escalated because I wouldn’t show emotion. It was the only choice I had.
2. How does the public discussion of clergy sex abuse affect you emotionally?
I feel betrayed by the clergy and especially enabler bishops. They could have stopped much abuse and they chose to shield the abuser rather than defend the innocent. I can only imagine the emotional pain of victims who weren’t believed or treated like they were the problem. That’s how my grandmother treated me. I was four or younger when it started and certainly didn’t enjoy or ask for the abuse that evolved into sadistic rape.
3. How does the cover-up of clergy sex abuse affect you emotionally?
Asking for silence and an end to gossip instead of being willing to be accountable and let investigations go forward after the Viganò testimony was a huge betrayal of Pope Francis. His actions and public statements since August have been completely inappropriate and reprehensible. I cannot defend the Pope and this troubles me greatly as a lifelong Catholic. American bishops who were implicated as enablers or worse by Viganò continue to embarrass themselves and lead me to believe the accusations against them. The silence now of even good bishops grieves me greatly. Investigations into those allegations are warranted and should be moving forward, as many bishops called for at the time. It’s no less important now. The message to victims and their families is simple- the Church simply doesn’t care that much.
There appears to be an overriding push to make sure the homosexual lifestyle doesn’t suffer any bad press... this against so much evidence of gay networks and predatory behavior. Why the obfuscation? Because it collides with the agenda of many bishops to change teaching on moral theology? Again, this is a horrible message to send to people who have suffered immensely. While all victims matter, my heart breaks for seminarians and other male victims especially, as they are statistically less likely to report crimes of this nature.
4. Do you have anything specific you would like to say to Cardinal Mahony, or the LAREC organizers?
Please, consider the vulnerable who have suffered and/or are suffering because of sexual abuse of clergy. Please accept accountability for enabling abusers through silence and hiding the problems.
How can the organizers claim to care about vulnerable immigrants and be so tone deaf to the pain of vulnerable sexual abuse victims? It’s like asking those with a wide track record of contempt for immigrants to offer presentations on addressing the suffering of sex abuse victims. It doesn’t make sense, and it’s deeply hurtful to people like me.
5. Any of this information that you are willing to share, would give people the context that would help them understand:
a. Your age when the abuse took place?
4 or earlier to 7
b. Were you abused by someone you knew and trusted? Clergy? Coach? Relative?
Step-grandfather, with the knowledge and assistance of my paternal grandmother
c. whether people believed you,
My mother did. My father didn’t want to, but the family pediatrician confirmed internal damage and scarring.
d. how long it took for you to reveal what happened
The pain was too much by the time I was seven. I was told by my father not to tell anyone or they’d hate me- so as to save my grandmother from embarrassment. I didn’t say anything to anyone until I was 15-16.
Submitted by "Lee Ann."
Posted on: Tuesday, March 05, 2019
1. I have PTSD symptoms frequently (once is enough!) and unexpectedly. I go into a zone of terror; it's a terror that paralyzes like a deer in headlights. I cannot think rationally and those around me are not truly present to me.
2. The public discussion of the clergy abuse makes me feel physically ill, and I mostly avoid reading about it. There is no way I could ever read the PA report.
3. Emotionally speaking, the cover-up feels like gas-lighting.
4. To Cardinal Mahony, I'd like to say, humble yourself, be honest about the past, and repent, both publicly and privately. Don't make things worse by speaking from a place of authority because you've lost the credibility necessary.
5. My age: starting at 11 to 15 from a friend of the family. And then at about 17 from my father.
I told my mother at about 15, and she believe me. I told my father, having somehow suppressed what he'd done, when I was in my late 20s about the friend
of the family, but he became defensive and did not validate my pain. It was his best friend's oldest son.
These two traumas have affected my life in a myriad of ways. First, I must say that I've healed from both tremendously over the last decade with the help of the Church, sacraments, and good therapy in person and books.
But there are profound effects that I still struggle with and need more therapy. I have trouble sleeping at night. I fear sexual perversion ALL the time ~ even among my own children. It's as if the internal sensor that would alert me of danger is broken, and I can't tell what is real or perceived. I'm uncomfortable around priests now and worry about my kids going to confession or alter serving. I worry that my husband of over 20 years will turn out to be a pervert and abuse our children. I was especially triggered by a friend whose husband went to jail for sexually abusing their only daughter. I'm inhibited sexually and feel ugly without clothes. Not always, but I still can't seem to relax. It's a miserable existence.
Submitted by "Laura."
Posted on: Tuesday, March 05, 2019
I am a victim and survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I was 10 years old when my father began abusing me, and approximately 17 when the abuse stopped. The attempts to manipulate and punish me for my defiance in finally getting up the courage to say I didn’t “want to do it anymore” went on for years after that. I think for those who have never been abused, it is often hard to understand why an older child or teen doesn’t tell anyone and doesn’t simply refuse to accept abuse. You have to understand that in most cases the abuse didn’t start when we were 17 year-olds: it started when we were young children, and quite probably there were years of “grooming” before that. In one sense, we were “stuck” in that early childhood stage and never got to grow up; and in another, we were grown beyond our years. Soiled by an intimate encounter with evil from those we should have been able to trust most.
And then there is the misplaced guilt and shame. During the years of my abuse, I could not think in concrete terms about what was happening to me beyond the vaguest prayers of “please, make it stop.” Even though I was a writer, the words to describe sexual abuse were far too threatening for me to ever put to paper, both because I could not deal with them and because they were too dangerous. I believed that I was responsible for my own abuse, that I could never admit to someone that I was being abused because in the same breath I would have to admit that I was not doing anything to make it stop. That I was too scared to even say “No.” I did not have it in me to understand that telling was an attempt to end the abuse. My father involved me in the cover-up of my own abuse from an early age, with phone calls directing me to clean up his soiled under garments as one example. By a strange twist of reality, I believed that I was both the other woman and that I was holding my family together by my silence; that’s a very sordid and heavy burden for a young person to have to carry.
I was 20 years old and in college away from home when the truth of my abuse finally came out. I had been seriously suicidal for many years without any real understanding of my distorted thinking. I was seeing a counselor, talking about my abuse, writing papers on incest, even entering the long-dreamed of world of romantic relationships. I was finally “safe,” and yet it was there, in college, when the numbness of years began to wear off, that I attempted suicide. And it was in the aftermath of my suicide attempt that I was finally able to unburden myself of the secret that I had been keeping.
Flash forward 30 plus years to the summer of 2018. The Church’s “Summer of Shame.” Today I consider myself a healthy, stable person. It took me many years of struggle and healing to reach this point. I am a wife, mother, committed Catholic. And I have been obsessed with the clergy abuse crisis. It is like a very personal train wreck which I cannot bring myself to look away from. I read everything. I actually lived in PA during the years of my abuse. I read the PA Grand Jury Report in its entirety because I had to know if any of the priests I knew had committed sexual abuse against children. (Thankfully, not.)
Over the last months, I have felt the most searing sense of betrayal. I have had persistent thoughts and memories of my own abuse. I want every sexually abusive priest and every prelate who covered up clergy sexual abuse gone. Not today, not tomorrow; I want them gone YESTERDAY. Each new revelation in the clergy abuse scandal is like pulling off a bandage from a raw wound, again and again and again. I count myself lucky that I have not experienced flashbacks, nightmares, or suicidal thoughts this time around, but I am no stranger to these signs of trauma. They were the substance of the years I spent in healing from my own abuse, and I expect they are the substance experienced by many survivors of sexual abuse, and in particular clergy sexual abuse, today who are still in the trenches dealing with their abuse.
I cannot begin to recount the nightmares and horror I lived through during and long after my own abuse had finished, but I can share with you here a raw slice of the suffering I have revisited in the wake of the Church’s “Summer of Shame” and the months that have followed.
“Sunday was the most dangerous day”
For a child who is being sexually abused, it’s all about survival. Your sense of reality is skewed. You don’t think in terms of pleasure or happiness. You think in terms of danger, and danger is always relative. You think in terms of coping strategies that make the situation a little less dangerous. For instance, if you are wearing some clothes, if you are out of bed, if there are others in the home when the abuse episode begins, the situation may not get as bad. You might be able to control the level of danger. You never have the control to stop it, just a thin veneer of relative control. So you do your best not to be caught in bed or dressing or alone with him. Clothes will still come off, abuse will still happen, but it may not be quite as bad if you can control these factors.
The situation will still escalate, but the starting place for the escalation will be lower, so maybe the escalation won’t go as far.
You learn numbness, because it’s all about survival, and you could never survive and keep this huge secret if you had feelings. So you shut down. You compartmentalize. You never allow yourself to cry. How could you stay in control if you cried? How could you keep the secret you’ve been burdened with? So you close yourself off.
You learn coping strategies that may offer thin protection in the time of abuse, but which are actually dysfunctional in the time post-abuse.
For instance, when you’re struggling to get through one more day - and that’s what it’s like surviving childhood sexual abuse - thoughts of suicide might get you through. You might dream of suicide as a solution. You might fantasize about suicide “if it ever gets too bad.” You probably hold onto thoughts of suicide as a form of ultimate control in a world where you have no control. Images repeating in your head of all the ways you could kill yourself. If that’s the case, by the time you’ve made it out, you’ve probably built a rich fantasy world featuring suicide as escape, revenge, a way to shut off the pain, and the only viable way to make a statement about what’s been going on. And then you go out into the real world, post-abuse, and one day you just snap, and you attempt suicide for real. Because you’re finally feeling after years of numbness, and feeling is painful, intense, too hard to bear.
It’s not an accident that people rarely attempt suicide in terrible situations. They attempt suicide after it seems the situation is getting better, and then it takes a turn for the worse. They attempt suicide after they’ve begun to dream of something more, because they can’t bear the pain of lost hope.
Post-abuse, that sense of danger still exists in your mind. You don’t expect happiness or safety, and it’s all still relative. You wake from nightmares. The horror still lives within you. It never goes away. But this time you wake from nightmares into the reality that you’re not actually being abused as you sleep. So it’s all relative. The danger doesn’t seem as bad, because you can wake up from the nightmare.
Many sexual abuse survivors turn to drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, even prostitution in their efforts to deaden the pain. These were not my personal “drugs of choice.” I went with suicide and numbness. And luckily for me, I had some good and caring friends, counselors, and priests; I came back from my suicide attempt; I reclaimed my Catholic faith. I do not say it was easy, but in time, healing happened. Not everyone heals or survives. So many are lost to drugs, alcohol, prostitution, suicide. So many are broken and have left the Catholic Church following the clergy abuse scandals. Can you blame them? Finding out that the predator is with you in your Catholic sanctuary when you finally thought you were safe, that it was all over, is the stuff of nightmares.
For me, Sunday was the most dangerous day because my busy family split up and went to different Masses, and I was expected to go to the later one with my father. Catechism classes for my age group consisted of an interactive, once a month, two-hour rap session, following the later Mass. And on those other Sundays... it was well-known in my family that I liked to sleep in. How could I tell anyone I didn’t want to go to the later Mass? Then I’d have to tell them why. And that was something I could never talk about.
Sundays broke my rules for relative safety from danger. I was in the house alone with my father. The abuse might even happen before I’d gotten out of bed, or when I was dressing. And it would be bad.
Afterward, we stood in Mass together and exchanged the sign of peace. How laughable is that? I was dying inside because of his abuse, and we shared the sign of peace.
I have my own unresolved issues about confession. My father told me once, in the course of a conversation about our “relationship,” that he went to confession. I always wondered, did the priest tell him to say “3 Hail Marys” and his sins would be forgiven? Did the same priest hear the same confession from him again and again and do nothing to protect me? I know the seal of the confessional is sacred, but couldn’t he have refused to grant absolution? Maybe he did refuse. Maybe my father went once to a visiting priest and said something vague like he had broken his marriage vows. He was a canny, manipulative man, after all. But I’m still haunted by the thought that a priest somewhere knew what he was doing to me and did nothing. I haven’t been to confession in years.
How do you think it makes me feel to know priests were abusing children in the confessional? That those children were living the same awful lie I was living at home, but it was being done by their spiritual fathers. By our spiritual shepherds. Msgr. Charles Pope describes clergy sexual abuse as “spiritual incest.” (NCR Blog Feb 2, 2019) That’s not far off.
I read everything. Including the PA Grand Jury Report and the LA Times Investigative Report from 2013. How do you think I feel knowing that our bishops, our spiritual shepherds, knew about abuse and did nothing to stop it? That they protected abusers over the children, blamed and defamed victims of clergy sexual abuse. Moved predators from one parish to another so they could keep on abusing children. Moved them out of state or out of country to protect those abusers and their own reputations. Colluded to protect the predators from the law and to leave the innocent children at their mercy. That’s what Mahony did. And he lied. He claimed he reported clergy abuse whenever he was informed of it. Not even once did he do so. He lied.
How do you think that makes me feel? I’ll tell you: Sick to my stomach.
And now they want to honor him by having him speak at a conference attended by 40,000 Catholics? A conference most likely attended by victims still suffering from the clergy sexual abuse Mahony enabled? In a city still teeming with the fruits of his betrayal?
How do you think I feel when I read about Bishop Zanchetta of Argentina invading the privacy of seminarians as they slept at night with his flashlight and his sexual filth? I’ll tell you: Violated. Violated on their behalf. How do you think I feel when I read that Pope Francis returned his good friend Zanchetta to ministry after the first complaint and then created a prestigious position for him at the Vatican after later complaints? I’ll tell you: Betrayed.
How do you think I feel about the Church’s silence on the sin of actively homosexual clergy when it is clear that the vast majority of clergy sexual abuse is homosexual in nature?
How do you think I feel?
Submitted by Odilia.
Posted on: Tuesday, March 05, 2019
1. Have you ever had flashbacks? PTSD symptoms?
I don’t think I had any flashback or classic PTSD symptoms. Though as a teen I misunderstood sleep paralysis and thought I was being attacked by demons and wondered if it was related. I also felt very uncomfortable in later years sleeping in the same bed where the abuse had happened as a child (in current terminology, that might be called triggering). At points, I questioned my own sexuality and I know my ability to form lasting relationships has been affected (I am over 50 and still single). In many ways I have overcome the effects of what happened, and I don’t like to dwell on it or use it to excuse my shortcomings. Still, I think it helps explain/understand some of them (including continued struggles with the common vices associated with the deadly sin of lust).
2. How does the public discussion of clergy sex abuse affect you emotionally?
I have very mixed feelings. I don’t want all clergy (much less the charism of Holy Mother Church) damaged by the actions of some. But, when a culture of corruption and coverup and complicit silence develops; it is hard to know who to trust. I am currently in spiritual direction with a retired bishop, and don’t know if I can even trust him to recognize the seriousness of all of this. I don’t know if he appreciates how hard it makes it to witness to my niece, nephews and godchildren about the beauty of the church.
3. How does the cover-up of clergy sex abuse affect you emotionally?
It angers me greatly, less because of my own abuse than because of my experience working with other survivors and because of the damage it does to the Church’s credibility in other areas.
4. Do you have anything specific you would like to say to Cardinal Mahony, or the LAREC organizers?
Sardonically: Get a damn clue?
Seriously: How can we maintain any credibility as a moral teacher when we celebrate and advance those acting with such blatant disregard for the truth and/or morality. It is not that forgiveness isn’t possible. It is that lack of repentance and lack of accountability is galling and makes us think no one cares.
5. Any of this information that you are willing to share, would give people the context that would help them understand:
5a. Your age when the abuse took place,
I’m not exactly sure, repeated occurrences somewhere between the ages of 4 and 8?
5b. Were you abused by someone you knew and trusted? Clergy? Coach? Relative?
An older brother.
5c. whether people believed you,
5d. how long it took for you to reveal what happened
I was probably college aged before I first started talking about it (so at least ten years, probably more).
5e. whether the Church treated you appropriately (if relevant to your story)
Not relevant, my brother had no church position at the time of my abuse. Interestingly however, my brother eventually spent several years in the seminary; but, the abuse happened long before then and I don’t think it was known to them. For whatever it is worth, he did not make it through until ordination (though he got close).
Submitted by Oliver.
Posted on: Tuesday, March 05, 2019
I was 15 years old when I experienced several months of sexual abuse at the hands of a parish priest while I worked weekends in the rectory. Although it's been close to 20 years since then and despite years of hard work in psychotherapy to address PTSD, I still suffer from occasional flashbacks. Thankfully, these have improved with time. For years, I suffered from anxiety attacks. I've been blessed to have held onto my faith and am still very much a practicing Catholic but, even so, sometimes walking into a church is physically and emotionally painful. Intimacy with my husband can be extremely difficult when the flashbacks hit or when the specific dates of particular attacks come around (I become very depressed on the anniversary of my rape in particular). To this day, looking at the white collar that priests wear sometimes causes anxiety.
In regards to Cardinal Mahony speaking at the LAREC, I am feeling a lot of anxiety surrounding that because I can only begin to imagine how I would feel if someone who supported or covered for my rapist was going to be a speaker at an event. I feel for the victims who were affected by the Cardinal's actions (or lack there-of). His public presence is nothing short of degrading and triggering for survivors. Cardinal Mahony's actions were criminal and he should be treated as such.
Every time the subject of clergy sex abuse comes up, I feel as though the wound is being ripped open all over again. While it is a part of my history and a part of who I am, I don't typically dwell on it 24/7. However, since the information regarding years of sexual abuse was released from Pennsylvania last summer, the issue has been on my mind almost constantly. This has made life extremely difficult as I am a wife and homeschooling mother of three. It's been years since I've had as many difficult days as I've had over the last several months. The wound has been opened and it hurts – me and my family. I am grateful that I have been able to speak out about what happened to me on several occasions over the years, and my primary goal has always been to offer hope and support to other survivors.
Being able to come forward about the abuse within a relatively short period of time (a year later) was truly a grace. It was upon the unexpected death of my oldest brother that I was sent reeling into a tailspin. My parents, who knew nothing at the time although they knew something was "off" with me, put me into grief therapy and it was there that I was finally able to embark on the road to healing. Telling my parents was like having a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, and knowing that I was (finally) not dealing with it alone was like no feeling I can fully describe. There are fewer things in life that feel more wonderful than knowing you are loved, supported and believed! Sadly, not everyone has had the same support as I have had.
Knowing that there has been so much cover-up of clergy sex abuse is extremely infuriating and so very hurtful to survivors. In 2002, the hierarchy had the opportunity to air all the junk when news of covered-up sex abuse broke in Boston. The release of the information was highlighted in the “Spotlight” movie released several years later. I never watched it as I knew it would be too triggering for me (I was baptized by Ronald Paquin and he spent time in the same jail as my rapist). However, the hierarchy could have aired all the junk from all those years. They failed to do that. Instead, too many leaders chose to remain silent and now an entire church is reeling as a result and survivors are, once again, being shown that their suffering means little to nothing to some of our supposed leaders.
My own case turned into a bit of a media frenzy because the other cases that came to light had been in the past. Mine had been recent. Thankfully, my rapist was dealt with appropriately – he was removed immediately after a complaint from an adult woman was made. I eventually chose to face Kelvin in court upon learning that he had had other victims (although I was the only known minor). What hit me really hard was learning that the pastor at the church where Kelvin had been stationed before he was transferred to my parish, had received a complaint from a woman claiming to have been raped by Kelvin. The pastor brought Kelvin into the same room as the woman and asked him if her allegations were true. Of course, Kelvin denied it. The pastor believed him. If that pastor had taken the appropriate action and reported Kelvin to the police and to the archdiocese, I might never have had to go through what I did.
I am having a really difficult time understanding why the LAREC organizers asked Cardinal Mahony to speak in the first place. I certainly hope that his years of covering sexual abuse is not a reflection of the LAREC and what they stand for. His behavior was criminal! As for Cardinal Mahony, he should be doing what he should have been doing all along – he should be putting survivors first. He can't change the past, but he can alleviate some of the pain that survivors like me feel when someone like him is being put into the limelight as if he is someone to be admired. Lives were ruined because of his lack of action. I can forgive but that does not alleviate the need for justice! Whether it's his own pride that's causing him to not back down from this speaking engagement or some other reason, I don't know. I do know that he is, once again, failing in his role as a shepherd. How many souls have been led down the path to hell because of his lack of leadership and his lack of action? How many more people must suffer? He is not the kind of person who should be speaking at a religious education conference. Religious education strives to put children and family first, something Cardinal Mahony clearly understands nothing about. If that meant anything to him, he would have protected those victims. He would have taken appropriate action and reported those priests. He would have put a stop to the abuse, not allowed it to continue. If Cardinal Mahony is the best the LAREC can come up with for a speaker, then they need to do some serious soul-searching and one has to wonder at the kind of religious education programs they are providing. As a parent, I would not entrust my children's religious education to the hands of an organization that invites a speaker who has covered for the sex abuse of children. If the LAREC wants to be seen as a trust-worthy organization, an organization that truly cares for the physical and spiritual safety of children, they need to disinvite Cardinal Mahony.
Submitted by "Eugenia".
Posted on: Thursday, February 21, 2019
Brother Christopher Sale shares his powerful testimony with ChurchMilitant.com.
ChurchMilitant.com interviewed Br. Christopher Sale, a man who spent decades in the homosexual lifestyle and was rescued from that way of life through the grace of the sacraments and a devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe, and healed of all disordered attractions. He spoke with ChurchMilitant.com about the harm caused by current Church-run LGBT ministries that give the message that same-sex attracted men have no choice but to suffer from disordered desires the rest of their lives.
CM: How long were you involved in the gay lifestyle?
Br. Christopher Sale: I was in the gay lifestyle for 43 years. I came out as gay when I was 22 years old. I began a relationship that lasted 25 years. After 25 years I decided to become single and venture out to see what I had missed out on in my younger years. By 2008, I ended up with AIDS and a drug addiction. Throughout my years in the gay lifestyle I knew how badly I was offending God, yet I felt I had no control over my behavior. I was totally wrong.
CM: How did you get out of the lifestyle?
Br. Christopher Sale: I truly believe that it was contracting Aids and having a drug addiction (that rock-bottom moment) when I knew that without God I would have never been able to leave this sinful lifestyle. Many would find this extremely sadistic, but contracting AIDS turned out to be a gift from God. Had it not been for AIDS I would most likely still be in that deplorable lifestyle. I have said many times that AIDS has been my stigmata. It was God telling me: "It is finished; now you will come back to Me and begin saving souls." I believe God has given me the courage to use my story to save others. I believe that although persecuted for speaking the truth, God has called me to be a victim for souls.
Posted on: Thursday, February 21, 2019
This was posted on Facebook at Faith Restored. It is reprinted here with the author's permission.
Fair warning: this post is going to be a lot longer than usual. I would like to share with you the letter I wrote to Pope Francis and the bishops and I couldn't figure out a different way to do it other than good 'ol copy & paste. I tried to make a video but it's taking forever to upload so in the meantime... if it decides to cooperate, I will try to post it later.
This was a difficult decision for me as it is very personal and I do understand that not everyone is going to agree with my opinions and points of view. That's ok - I answer to Our Lord and I simply wrote what was in my heart and on my mind when writing this last month. There are so many things I wish I had included but it's long enough as it is and I'm not sure enough words can ever fully express what I've gone through nor can words ever fully express my anger and confusion over the corruption within the church. Whether this actually gets read before all the bishops or not, I believe that all survivors deserve to have a voice.
Please pray for church leaders and anyone affected by abuse as the summit begins today. God bless you all!
Out of love for my beloved Church and for my fellow survivors of clerical abuse, I humbly ask to speak frankly to you and your brethren.
I was fifteen years old when I was raped by the Rev. Kelvin Iguabita, a recently ordained priest who was stationed at our parish in Massachusetts. Working a few hours every week in the parish rectory, for months I endured sexual abuse by this man. I was raped. I was so innocent and naive and in such shock that I could hardly wrap my brain around what was going on. I vividly recall looking at a small statue of the Blessed Mother and repeating over and over, “Make it stop. Make it stop.” After that particular incident, Kelvin began calling me by the sick nickname he had chosen for me. “You little thing.” He would even call me this in front of my family who, of course, knew nothing. It was repulsive.
Words cannot describe the harsh reality of what my life became during those many months. Inside, I suffered in a deep pit of fear, shame, and confusion. The priesthood, a position I had always held so dear, became to me a repulsive institution. I came to fear the white collar. I doubted God's presence and felt abandoned. At my lowest point, I contemplated taking God's most precious gift – my life.
The unexpected death of my oldest brother, Matthew (age 22), a year later from an undetected heart condition sent me into a downward spiral causing my concerned parents to put me into grief therapy. It was there that I was finally able to begin my release from the chains that had held me captive and, by the grace of God, to slowly begin healing.
After learning that my rapist had other female victims, I made the difficult decision to face him in court - one of the most difficult things I have ever done. Just weeks after my high school graduation, I spent three grueling hours testifying and being cross-examined on the stand. My family and I were subjected to harsh judgments and ridicule. Recounting the events of those months of sexual abuse in the rectory and in the church in front of my rapist was the worst form of public humiliation I have ever endured. The news articles that followed added to my pain and humiliation. After a two-week trial, Kelvin was found guilty and sentenced to 8-10 years in prison. He was defrocked and upon release was deported to his native Colombia.
Close to twenty years later, I am finally able to look back and recognize that God never abandoned me. Rather, he was closest to me in the midst of my suffering. Being able to find the beauty and deeper meaning in suffering is truly a gift and I am glad to say I can finally pray for Kelvin. I forgave him long ago but the scars that he left will always remain. Several other women have privately contacted me over the years to share their stories of sexual abuse and rape by him.
Along with four other abuse survivors, I was given the opportunity to meet with Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 during his visit to Washington, DC in the United States. When my moment to speak with him came, I could think of nothing profound to say. However, I was overcome by a deluge of tears. Those tears spoke volumes. The Holy Spirit used the most innocent form of expression to speak of my pain and the pain of all survivors. I left that meeting feeling more hope than I had in a very long time and since then I have felt a burning desire in my heart to reach out to others who have also been hurt. I wish to offer them the same hope I received and to show others that with faith there is always hope. Praise be to God I found a wonderful and holy man to spend my life with. We have been married for ten years and we have been blessed with three beautiful children. Our Catholic faith is at the core of our family life which is part of the reason we have chosen to homeschool.
Sadly, my trust in priests and in the church hierarchy was yet again shaken (if not more so) with the release of information from Pennsylvania last summer. Since then, the wound has been opened again and again and I have heard report after report of sexual misconduct by clergymen and also of the men who have covered for their sins. In 2002, you were given an opportunity to clean house when news of the sexual abuse scandal broke in Boston, Massachusetts. You failed. It would have been better if all the information you had was released and dealt with all at once – every complaint and every file released to law enforcement and dealt with swiftly. While there have been new measures made to buckle down on this issue, sexual abuse within the church is not a dead issue. It is not just something that happened long ago. I am proof of that. And many of the issues leading to this crisis remain, including the culture of silence and secrecy.
Decades of silence have passed. Lives have been hurt, lives have been ruined and many souls have been lost. I thank Almighty God that I have found strength and hope through my faith. However, my story is just one of many, and sadly, not everyone has had the same support. All survivors deserve to be heard. The silence from some of you has been deafening. The cries of the innocent rise up and grow louder and harder to ignore. The time for silence is over.
While it is impossible to blame any one factor for the sex abuse crisis, this much is clear: evil was allowed to infiltrate the church. Too many clergymen have chosen the devil's path by choosing to protect the wolves instead of the sheep. Too many among you have put your relationship with your brothers before your relationship with God. Too many of you have been won over by the world and fallen away from the true teachings of Jesus. Not one of you is above the law – the laws of the land nor the laws of God. Sin is sin and yet it would seem so often that good is seen as bad and bad is seen as good.
We are all sinners. Mercy and forgiveness are precious gifts! However, the Almighty is also a just judge and demands repentance. I wonder how many souls have been led down the path to hell because of your bad example and corruption. Bishops, take heed! You are the shepherds! The devil attacks you knowing that, if you stray, many of those entrusted to your care will follow. Each and every one of you will have to stand before God someday and face judgment. You know well the verse from Matthew chapter 16, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!”
The current situation in the church is not a rabbit hole. It is a crisis and it needs to be swiftly dealt with. There can be mercy, yes, but there must also be transparency and justice!
When will you admit that homosexuality is a very big factor in this crisis? For how much longer will you deny the existence of a lavender mafia? Our Lord wants his House cleaned! Yet, you turn away from his urging over and over again. This is a time for acknowledgment of wrong-doing and a time for action. This is a time for all of us, faithful clergy and laity alike, to put on the full armor of God and fight to rebuild our church.
I am deeply grateful for those among you who have publicly denounced the actions of the corrupt and striven to take action. Thank you to those of you who are tirelessly fighting alongside the faithful. Thank you to those of you who have sought to shepherd us and to guide us by your own good example.
I do not envy the grave responsibility that lies before you. You have the responsibility to root out the evil corrupting the church. You have the responsibility to rebuild the Catholic Church. There can be no excuses, especially now. The scab on this painful wound will only continue to be ripped off again and again if you do not fight for real change. More and more souls will be lost if your poor leadership continues.
Transparency about reporting is vital if any change is to take place. All priests and bishops must report sexual offenses against children and adults immediately to local law enforcement. Abusers must be tried and, if found guilty by a jury of their peers, punished to the fullest extent of the law. Anyone who has willfully covered for his brother deserves to be removed from the clerical state and given jail time. Any member of the clergy who is practicing homosexuality or advocating for it needs to be removed. Even in the midst of this crisis which has been linked to homosexuality time and time again, I hear of clergymen publicly advocating for the homosexual lifestyle and aligning themselves with the LGBTQ community. Why is this allowed to continue? Yes, we are all to be accepted into the church as sinners but we also need to resolve to not sin again (to the best of our ability). It is ludicrous and diabolical to think that Jesus would invite people to receive Holy Communion knowingly in the state of mortal sin! We are called to love our brothers and sisters. We are not called to love their sin. Most LGBTQ groups don't want a bridge to become true followers of Christ. Rather, they want full acceptance of their sin and to be allowed to continue living their disordered lifestyles. I cannot judge the soul of another, but as a confirmed Catholic I do have the duty to show someone who may be ignorant of their sin the truth and encourage them to closer unity with God and his church. Why are priests who publicly support and advocate for the LGBTQ lifestyle allowed to remain in the priesthood?
This crisis is not just about removing sexual predators and corrupt individuals from the priesthood. This crisis is, first and foremost, a result of our shepherds turning away from God. Somewhere along the way in the United States, a liberal, socialist mindset was allowed to seep in. The words of Bella Dodd, a prominent leader of the Communist party in America, come to mind. “In the 1930's, we put eleven hundred men into the priesthood in order to destroy the priesthood from within. Right now they are in the highest places in the church. They are working to bring about change in order that the Catholic Church would not be effective against communism. You will not recognize the Catholic Church.” These are indeed sobering words to ponder and one has to wonder if part of our suffering is being caused by those eleven hundred men who spread the error of their ways.
We have lost our focus as a church. We can no longer answer the question, “Who are we as a church?” Even within local churches in my own city, I hear varying beliefs among the laity and even among priests! The traditional family, the core of Catholic life and of society, is in shatters. I know many Catholics who are in favor of abortion, the homosexual lifestyle and gay “marriage.” Why is there such disunity among Catholics? Why are even some priests publicly endorsing political candidates who are not pro-life? Why were there priests publicly denouncing the group of boys from Covington Catholic at the recent Washington, DC March for Life before all the information was even released proving their innocence, and yet many of these same priests were silent on the recent murderous RHA legislation signed into law in New York by Governor Cuomo who claims to be Catholic? Why do so many of you allow yourselves to be bullied by the mainstream media into saying and doing what the modern-day world considers right? Why are priests silent about politicians who support abortion and yet quick to crucify individuals who are opposed to illegal immigration which is an ongoing debate in the United States? Why are priests so silent on family issues and artificial birth control? My own parents who taught Natural Family Planning at a Pre-Cana class years ago were escorted out of a church by a priest and a nun and asked to never return. These are not the leaders we need to help rebuild the church!
Why are the voices of some good, holy clergymen forced into silence? Brave men who choose to go against the grain and publicly speak out against the filth within the church are often silenced. They are persecuted for telling the truth while others flaunt their liberal, socialist propaganda and build their flock around twisted church teaching. There is no room for “cafeteria Catholicism.”
Our church needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. Dear bishops, get back to the business of working to save souls. You have within your hands the power to create real change! You have the power to offer hope! You have within your hands the ability to turn this church back over to Our Lord! Who among you will be the first to step up? Who among you is not afraid to be mocked as Jesus was? Who among you is willing to go against your fellow brethren who have failed? Who among you has the courage to listen to the Holy Spirit?
In spite of the deep flaws that continue to come to light, I choose to hold onto hope. I forgive those who have failed and please know of my continual prayers and sufferings offered for you. My faith is what gives me hope and it is my faith that shines forth a glimmering light through the darkness that I have endured. The church needs to be purged so that it can experience renewal and God's light and grace once again.
Perhaps my words and the pleadings of so many others will fall on deaf ears. I pray they do not! Please. I beg of you, do not fail in the task that has been set before you.
With Love for Christ and the Church,
(I included this photo with the letter)
Posted on: Monday, February 18, 2019
After decades of yearning for happiness and joy, I came to see that I had been wrong, mistaken and even victimized. I take full responsibility for my choices. Through the media and some of those in academia, I didn’t believe that I had choices. I wanted happiness, enlightenment. I wanted to rise above what my Catholic parents wanted for me: family, children, a loving husband. I rejected all of that as bondage, as slavery to a man, to an old outdated ideal. I wanted nothing to do with having children and was outspoken about pro-choice/abortion issues. My choices included serial lesbian monogamy and the gay bar/nightlife scene. At the same time, I was succeeding in college with many lesbian professors. I honestly believed that my guaranteed happiness and fulfillment would come from academic degrees, occupational power, and the ‘pride’ and enlightenment that the homosexual agenda promised.
I had many monogamous relationships with women. One after the other, sometimes not a month in between. I moved in, tried to make a home, a life, with many, ending shortly thereafter in heartbreak and sadness. I fell into the depth of sadness and despair, contemplating suicide many times. My emotional wounds were almost insurmountable. The cycle of bliss with a new sexual partner that promised love and a future only ended in devastation.
After decades of persisting that this would make me happy, a woman and I bought a home together and adopted children (at her urging).
That’s when GOD took a hold of me. As I looked into the loving eyes of my young children--these beautiful gifts from God--I could not, I would not, bring them to the door of a GODLESS existence of the homosexual agenda.
On the floor of my living room, I screamed, crying to God. I was so lost and confused. Shortly thereafter, I reverted back to my Catholic faith. I repented of my sins and went to confession. I dedicated my life to Christ and to my children. I am nurturing my own soul and theirs as a proud Christian. I am happier than I ever dreamed! I am content as never before. I am not lonely, I am loved deeply. I am happy.
Submitted by AV.
Posted on: Monday, August 20, 2018
Did the "sexual revolution" adversely affect me? You bet it did. My parents emigrated from Ireland to NYC in 1958. They were "old school" when it came to matters regarding sex, which was basically never discussed, and was otherwise "dirty".
I came of age as the sexual revolution was ramping up. Even though I went to a Catholic grade school, and was surrounded by people who were mostly Catholic, the old faith was falling away fast. My parents’ generation was blind-sided by this, and rendered mostly impotent to do anything about it. I never stood a chance.
The first woman I had a relationship with had already have five (five!) previous sexual partners. Her parents went to church every week, too. This did not sit well with me, and I did not even understand why, at the time, it bothered me so. It took me years to get over it. But we stayed together and got married. Mistakes, on so many levels. But I was young and stupid and immature. And the sexual component was powerful. There was a lot of pre-martial sex and contraception. That these things were not aligned with Church teaching was not even entering my mind, I am so sorry to report.
This kind of thing was pervasive in the culture to the point where it seemed all too normal. You were, in fact, considered not normal if you were not "getting it on" in as little as three dates. In my own workplace, full of modern and hip twenty-somethings at that time, it was a regular practice to go out, on weeknights, to dance clubs, and such. I invited my then wife to come along, she wanted nothing to do with it. I went anyway. She caught a whiff of my impropriety and ended the marriage in shockingly rapid fashion. Her agenda to procreate was in jeopardy, and she was having none of it.
The woman I ended up with after getting that divorce herself, of course, had prior sexual partners. But worse, had an abortion when she was 17. This really sent me in a tailspin. It caused much friction in that relationship. Of course, I was continuing to be happy by engaging in extra-marital sex with this person. This tortured relationship would go on for 8 years before it mercifully ended (with her infidelity).
I was set on a lost path at that point, one I never wanted to be on. I would enter every relationship I took on with the "long haul" in mind, even if my partners in each case were not necessarily of the same mind. In the worst case, one young lady who was reaching the age of no longer being able to get pregnant safely, did get pregnant. Despite her professing that she would never have an abortion, she did. There is not much help for the men of post-abortion trauma. That relationship ended and she wanted no part of reconciling this tragedy. I carry the weight to this day, and will to my grave.
Some years after that, I got involved with a woman who was not happy with her marriage, even as she was trying to get pregnant via IVF (you can't make this stuff up)! She came after me in a big way, and eventually I relented. This was as close as I would come to a family of my own. I ended up loving that child, but when her mother’s hormones settled down, she was done with me, even as she lived under my roof and had an engagement ring on her finger. I was crushed.
All I can say is that my life went off the rails in a big way because of the "sexual revolution". The old ways were the right ways. Young people, please, don't ruin your life. God Bless you.
Submitted by JN.
Posted on: Friday, July 27, 2018
I have been healing from the effects of the sexual revolution for about 30 years now. If you had told me as a 24-year-old that my life would be marked by emotional and spiritual wholeness, that I’d one day celebrate 28 years of marriage and three beautiful daughters, I would have thought you cruel for holding out that kind of promise.
My life up to that point had been overwhelmed by the choices my parents made, which wounded me (divorce, father’s addictions and abandonment, mother’s horrible live-in boyfriend), as well as the destructive choices I started making for myself as a teenager (sexual promiscuity and regular drug/alcohol use). The more I engaged in these behaviors, the worse I felt, and the guilt drove me into evermore destructive choices. My broken family had no religious, moral, or parental guidelines to put limits on my behavior. My mom was completely wrecked by a horrible relationship with a man who I would later find out was a predator. At the tender age of 18 he proposed to me one day during a lunch, complete with a ring and his plan that I would have his babies, but my mom would raise them. This was the man who I had lived in the same house with since 5th grade, and tried to see as a father figure, even though he was never interested in being a father to either my brother or me. It was just one more big crack in my already terribly damaged self-image as a young woman.
I would go on to have lots more hook-ups and drunken, drug filled nights as I moved into my 20’s. But I was getting desperate to understand why I was even on the earth. What purpose could my crappy life even have, and how could I ever hope to be different? I read self-help books thinking that was my answer. It didn’t take long to understand that reading about what was wrong was much easier than fixing it. Those books became a trap for me because I could understand the problems, but knew I was powerless, no matter how many times I determined to start fresh, to get out of the pit I was in.
I was only sure of a few things at that point. I wanted more than anything just to have a family of my own, but I was also committed to never doing to my children what was done to me. It felt like a no-win trap, because I knew in my morally bankrupt lifestyle I would never be a good wife or mother, nor would I ever find a spouse the way I was living. By my early twenties I had become convinced nothing about my life would ever be different, and I would be stuck and alone.
But a kind Christian man would come along in my mother’s life and fall in love with her, though she wasn’t a believer. My brother and I thought she was so desperate for a man that she was willing to settle for a “Bible thumper”! It soon became obvious that he wasn’t like anyone we’d met before. He shared his faith with me, and told me for the very first time in my life that I had a Father in heaven who knew me, loved me, and had a plan for my life. As I listened I was undone. Was it true that the God of the universe really knew me, and not just knew me, but loved me, even the way I was? The offer of salvation, the need to repent of my sins, being washed clean from the stain of sin, and knowing Jesus would be with me always was an offer I could not refuse. (My mom accepted Jesus as well.)
Healing came slowly but steadily as I pressed into living life with Jesus, taking in His Word, surrounding myself with healthy Christian community in a church committed to making mature disciples of Christ. Learning to practice healing prayer where I brought the pain of the past to the cross and Jesus exchanged it for truth and wholeness was, and still is, how I live free in Christ Jesus. The Lord has given me so much more than I could have ever hoped or imagined in this life, the most precious being a deep knowing that I belong to Him.
Submitted by S.