Sooz Jeson, Founder
We, victim-survivors, can be mistaken for the face of an evil which was perpetrated not by us but by some whose responsibility was to teach us about God and what it means to live a holy life. We can also be mistaken for the face of a second evil-sin, the sin of others who closed their eyes and ears to the truth when they had a chance to stop the evil.
This evil did not have a mind of its own, in my view; we cannot in justice ignorantly blame the devil. That makes it too easy to ignore how this evil was thought about, whispered about. Was it prayed about?
What if those who knew and ignored the evil had turned to God in prayer? God’s reply surely would not have agreed with rationalizations they used to ignore us. Did they pray before the crucifix? His eyes saw what was in their hearts. Jesus and his Father were not blind to what we suffered.
We know Jesus died and suffered on the Cross for all our sins, even for the sins committed by His own Chosen People. That must have been very difficult for Him to do. It must be hard for Him now, too. He suffers with us still the pain from abusers and those who knew the truth and protected the abusers. Their betrayal of us is like the kiss from Judas to Jesus. Their denial seems like the denial of Peter, over and over.
So why would anyone look away from us as if we are the face of abusers or their enablers, when we reflect the wounds of Jesus. Do you look away from our scars? Do you deny them? After Jesus’ crucifixion, one of his followers could not see His scars. He questioned if they even existed. Do you?
Survivors of abuse feel our wounds in the wounds of Jesus every day. We don’t get to deny what we feel. There are lay people and ordained faithfully serving the Church who do not look away. They truly see, know and understand. In a recent Healing Voices article, Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti declared, “The wound of child abuse in the church continues today to fester and at times bleeds profusely.” I find that wording very powerful, because so few see how this wound still needs care.
This wound for some survivors, like myself, feels like it has devoured our existence on this earth, not just our sense of worthiness in our Church. Many of us have struggled with how abuse and its coverup conveyed to us that we, not the abusers, were the sinners. It created the public confusion making us seem like the face of the scandal, when we are not.
What is important for me is Jesus did not abandon His betrayers even during His crucifixion. This is a real challenge for victims or survivors of clergy abuse. This is a challenge for me. This is the courage we struggle to have in faith. It is a kind of wound that can heal.
As my healing has continued, I have come to see that survivors are not the face of the scandal and did not deserve what happened to us. I have come to believe that we can be Wounded Healers as Jesus showed us from the Cross.
Many of survivors remained practicing and involved Catholics. Some found a path to healing, while others still are searching for a road to spiritual healing as they sit in the pews next to you. Others are praying for the courage to be drawn back. We who have walked that path are waiting to help them, but we hope other Catholics can come to see there is a place for all survivors of abuse in the Church, despite its abuse of them. We hope others help us welcome other survivors home. And, we remain ready to offer our wounds to help others heal and draw ever closer to God.
It’s hard to do. When I feel like I am bleeding profusely with the wound that I share with Jesus and that also bleeds in His Church, it helps me to recall John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me you can do anything.” I remember Jesus is nourishing me and helping even my suffering bear much fruit. I remember Jesus is helping the Church, too.
From the sin of others who crushed some of us, faith has been spouting and blooming for us as well. As a Wounded Healer, I am along with other survivors drawn to bring others to this life-giving vine, with God nourishing us and giving us new life. Other victims still feel buried. I believe survivors who serve can be the kenosis (emptying of self-will to surrender to God’s will) that transforms the sin of our Church into a sacrifice to offer freedom to other survivors and to our Church.
This article was first published in the May 17 issue, which can be seen in full here.