The Healing Voices Magazine
Hope and Healing for Survivors of Clergy Abuse and for the Whole Catholic Church
A Magazine about Faith, Recovery and Reconciliation
Founded by Survivors of Clergy Abuse
V2 N2 – March 17, 2017
Special Edition: The New Alliance of Clergy Abuse Survivors and the Church
Michael D. Hoffman, Founder
Our fellow co-founder Teresa Pitt Green recently asked Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti, Phd, DMin to write an article for The Healing Voices Magazine. He wrote a beautiful article which has energized us, and we hope his words, tone and content will energize you as well. Please read Teresa’s Introduction and Msgr. Rossetti’s article below. I am inspired by both of their courage and vision in expressing themselves in this way. After reading both articles, we welcome your comments.
Mutual Healing in Dialogue
Teresa Pitt Green, Founder
My experience of the partnership between Church and survivors has been forged in the diocese of Arlington, Virginia, where annually there are multiple Healing Masses, survivor prayer services, discussion groups and other opportunities like spiritual guidance. Most importantly, there are priests, sisters, deacons and a bishop who have been caring to us all.
Moreover, I have been blessed – and transformed – by invitations to co-lead retreats with a wonderful priest, Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS. Similarly, I have been invited to speak to many different audiences, including at the USCCB, and to co-lead workshops with Fr. Fiorelli training priests and sisters in ways to speak with survivors of abuse by clergy and any other authority figure. Indeed, we have collaborated on a workbook drawn from our work together and often used both in spiritual counseling sessions and individually by survivors, family members, priests and sisters alike.
The potential for unexpected healing in this dialogue takes many forms. For example, when I speak to seminarians and priests, they arrive open, heart-broken, wondering how to relate. Sometimes, many often, they arrive with some kernel of doubt if they have anything to offer a survivor of clergy abuse. Yet, after we speak, they leave energized and sometimes released of the guilt they carry for sins which we all know they did not commit. Why? Because I, who carry different wounds from the same sin of others, am uniquely qualified to tell them what all priests need to hear. That is, no one knows better the power of a true priest like we who know first-hand what the opposite of a true priest is.
Further, in seeking the opposite of what which survivors have suffered, we know the antidote that a healthful relationship with a priest can be, especially one who is educated on caring for survivors.That is why one of my personal goals is to help priests gain confidence carrying on the dialogue with survivors, because this exchange helps more than just survivors heal. In this work, I have become convinced that nowhere is potential for a healing partnership more overlooked than that between the devoted priest and the wounded survivor.
Along with the other founders of The Healing Voices Magazine, I am committed to fostering such a mutually affirming dialogue in which there are opportunities to mend torn connections related to abuse in the Church. So, Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti’s article about a New Alliance speaks clearly to why we exist. It casts a bright light on something few realize about the potential of Catholic survivors of clergy abuse to be partners in healing and reconciliation.
I close now, to permit this Spirit-filled call for a New Alliance to speak clearly to all. In closing, I issue an open invitation. If you or your diocese needs help beginning or deepening its dialogue with survivors for the sake of something like the New Alliance described here, contact us. We will find a way to help you.
For a copy of this article to share individually, click here.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Forging a New Alliance Between Victims and the Church
Alliance in Action
How We Can Help You
How You Can Help Us
Virtual Prayer Service
Forging a New Alliance Between Victims and the Church
Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti, PhD DMin
I remember over twenty years ago going to a Chicago meeting of one of the earliest groups of child sexual abuse victims within the Catholic Church. As a Catholic priest, I was made to feel welcome among them. They were just beginning to organize and it was a helpful, hopeful, and mutually beneficial healing time together for them and for me. Since those early days, a great gulf between the institutional Church and the victims’ groups has emerged. Often, they are adversaries, if not at times, seeming to be enemies.
How did this happen? There are many factors. A certain amount of tension between the Church and her victims is unavoidable. These victims have been harmed at the hands of ministers of the Catholic Church, and they naturally would approach anyone dressed in a Roman collar with distrust and likely some fear. Their anger is very understandable.
Church leaders, on their part, have naturally tried to protect the organization that they serve, protecting it from scandal and protecting its financial resources. Church leaders naturally recoil at anger and criticism directed at them, or their beloved Church. Nevertheless, we have seen how disastrous this attempt to protect the organization has been. As Pope Francis wrote on February 2, 2015, to all episcopal conferences regarding providing a safe environment for children: “Priority must not be given to any other kind of concern, whatever its nature, such as the desire to avoid scandal, since there is absolutely no place in ministry for those who abuse minors.”
The increasing conflict between victims’ groups and the Church has exacerbated many victims’ estrangement from the Church and likely further damaged the faith of their childhood. Some victims can get stuck in their distrust and anger, with it even rising into a rage against the Church. This can create in some a kind of psychological and spiritual limbo that unwittingly continues to give power to the perpetrators, and anyone who supports their abusive behavior. Also, their families and friends, rightly supporting the victims, can themselves become distant from the Church and their faith.
This estrangement and conflict is also devastating for the Church. The Church’s first ministry, as it was for Jesus himself, is to the poor and the marginalized. Pope Francis has captivated the world by his simplicity and love for the poor and suffering. He has a particular love for children with the Papal motorcade making frequent stops as the Pope reaches out to lovingly hold and bless parents’ children. However, in the case of the victims of sexual abuse, the Church has often appeared to be unloving, uncaring, and even cruel.
The Church herself also needs to heal. The crimes of its ministers wound first the victims and their loved ones, but also wound the wider Church. The wound of child sexual abuse in the Church continues today to fester and, at times, bleeds profusely.
Rather than being adversaries on opposing sides of media stories and bargaining tables, what is needed now is a new alliance between victims and the Catholic Church. If they could work together, allies in a common cause of eradicating the evil of the child sexual abuse, I think it could be an important healing grace for victims, and certainly for the Church.
Does this sound impossible? In fact, it has already begun in modest, but important ways. Dioceses around the U.S.A. have review boards to advise the Bishops regarding the effectiveness of diocesan policies and practices on responding to and preventing the sexual abuse of minors—some of these boards have victims of abuse as members.
Another example is found in the Catholic Church of England and Wales. A Survivor Advisory Panel, which includes some victims of abuse, advises the Catholic Bishops’ National Catholic Safeguarding Commission. They ensure that the victims’ perspective on safeguarding is heard by the leadership of the Church.
The Healing Voices itself is an example of incorporating faith into the life of recovery, and collaborating its ministry with Catholic priests. And, despite its challenges, the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors incorporates the assistance of victims. For example, Marie Collins, a publicly known victim of sexual abuse in the Church, although no longer an official member of the Commission, continues assisting the Commission on educating the Roman Curia, including offering her own insights directly to the leaders of the Catholic Church in the Vatican.
These are important beginnings and a sample of what is possible. But much, much more needs to be done.
I offer the following recommendations to assist in forging this new alliance:
- The Pontifical Commission has stressed the need for all diocesan policies on child sexual abuse to incorporate the principle: victims first. We have already experienced the disastrous results of the Church trying to protect itself when allegations surface. The Church can only sit on the same side of the table with victims if it establishes a policy of victims first in dialogue, care, and for the commitment of time and resources.
- Church leaders ought to be the ones who first reach out to victims – again and again. It is the Church’s ministers who harmed the victims, and it would be unrealistic to expect victims to cross the divide on their own initiative, although some have tried. Rather, it should be Church leaders who first reach out to victims. They ought to expect angry and distrusting responses at the outset, but perseverance and repeated humble apologies may eventually restore enough initial trust to begin a positive dialogue.
- Church leaders ought to reach out to those victims’ groups who are willing to dialogue. My attending that early 1990’s meeting of a victims’ group was an important moment for me and, I hope, for the victims present. Many more such encounters between Church leaders and victims’ groups should be sought out.
- Finally, victims and their groups might meet and discuss their own ways of reaching out to Church leaders to forge this new alliance. Opening such a dialogue entails some personal emotional risk, but I suspect they will find that the risk is worth it.
In the end, a new alliance between the Catholic Church and victims and their groups will be a benefit both for many victims and for the Church. Initial developments, such as those mentioned, did not come without conflicts and misunderstandings. However, the healing process entails such hurtles and setbacks for both victims and the Church. Ultimately, this new alliance will provide an environment in the Church and in society that is safer for children. The Church’s gospel mandates this, and it is a goal of the victims’ groups as well. This is the common ground on which to build a strong future alliance.
BIO: Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti is a priest of the Diocese of Syracuse and a licensed psychologist. He holds a PhD in counseling psychology from Boston College and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the Catholic University of America (CUA). He is a research associate professor at CUA and a Visiting Professor at the Gregorian University in Rome. He is a former consultant to the USCCB Committee for the Protection of Child and Young People and assisted in developing the “Dallas Charter,” The Charter for the Protection for Children and Young People. Msgr. Rossetti is a consultant to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. He has authored many books and articles on wellness, formation, and child protection.
For an individual copy of this article to share, click here.
ALLIANCE IN ACTION
This selection of articles, previously published in The Healing Voices Magazine, reflect a shared commitment among many stakeholders in promoting mutual healing and reconciliation in the Church.
Survivors Hold the Key to Renewal in the Church – Sooz Jeson. In the article that introduced the Healing Voices discussion of participating in Church renewal, founder and survivor of clergy abuse, Sooz led the development of our July 2016 issue by challenging us to think about our response to a recent invitation published by then-Archbishop (now Cardinal) Cupich had issued to all Catholics to contribute to the renewal of the Church.
Abuse, Spirituality and Therapy: Integrating the Three — Quinn R. Conners, O.Carm., Ph.D. A Carmelite priest and experienced therapist reflects on how therapy is enriched by faith in healing from abuse.
All Shall Be Well, All Manner of Things Shall Be Well – Victoria S. Schmidt. A survivor of clergy abuse reflects on how a therapist has played a role in the healing of uniquely spiritual wounds.
Be Aimless, Find God – Frank Sauer. A survivor of clergy abuse remembers how someone laying a brochure randomly on a tabletop changed his life.
Building Better Bridges to Healing – Thomas P. Tharayil, LCSW, BCD. A victim-assistance minister reflects on issues in offering deeper and fuller connections between the Church and survivors of clergy abuse.
Call and Privilege of Ministry to and with Survivors – Rev. Larry Dowling. A priest shares a sermon for survivors of clergy abuse and all Catholics in ways to think about relating to each other.
Child Protection as Survivor Ministry – Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, O.S.F.S. An Oblate de Sales priest reflects on his own journey to help survivors and the importance of child protection.
Distorted Painting, Desecrated Life, Eucharist Presence – Sooz Jeson. Founder and survivor of clergy abuse recounts the healing role a holy priest played in her ability to survive the darkest times.
Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator’s Role in Shrinking the Monster – Norbert Krapf. A survivor of clergy abuse, recounts the role his diocesan victim assistance coordinator played in helping him use his writing talent to find healing.
Faith in Primary Colors: Hard-Won Wisdom and Faith Insights – Teresa Pitt Green. Founder and survivor of clergy abuse makes the argument for the special gifts and critical need for survivors of clergy abuse in the healing of the whole Church.
Healing Garden – Creating a Pathway toward Renewal – Michael D. Hoffman. Founder and survivor of clergy abuse describes the collaboration among clergy abuse survivors and others in the Archdiocese of Chicago create a healing space for those in need.
Manifold Wound – Rev. William Stenzel. A priest reflects on the wounds a priest carries, offering insights into the way the pain of the abuse scandal affected – and hurt – everyone. (This article is one of the most read articles in the magazine.)
Maria Goretti Network – Miguel Prats. A survivor of clergy abuse and founder of the Maria Goretti Network describes how this peer support group works and talks about its many gifts, including connections to saints.
Maria Goretti Network and Ministry to Survivors – Deborah Rodriquez, MD. A survivor of clergy abuse sees her healing reflected in Scripture and her ministry as growing.
Mediation on Who I Am — Kathleen Hope Brown. A scholar and spiritual director reflects on the woven nature of healing after clergy abuse.
Ministry of Care – Kathy O’Connell. Founder and survivor of clergy abuse describes how she has drawn on her own pain (and must accept her own pain) to bring the Eucharist to others.
Ministry of Prayer – Patricia Mudd, M.S.W., A.C.S.W. A victim-assistance minister (ret.) reflects on her ministry as one of prayer more than anything else.
My Open Letter to Victim Assistance Coordinators – Michael D. Hoffman. Founder and survivor of clergy abuse reflects on the impact that victim-assistance ministers, capable review board members and a loving diocesan response can have on healing.
Observations, Reflections and Gratitude for Victim Assistance Coordinators – Sooz Jeson. Founder and survivor of clergy abuse describes how a distressing first encounter with a former diocese was transformed by an affirming victim-assistance minister creating a working partnership.
Soar Like Eagles – Teresa Pitt Green. Founder and survivor of clergy abuse describes the range of support services in a single diocese—but how the real work of caring for survivors falls into little-known and uncelebrated kindnesses and moments of support.
Steadfast Search: One Step at a Time Timothy S. Ruffner. Founder and survivor of clergy abuse describes how, within a network of support, the kinds of steps closer to healing he can take.
Trauma Recovery Program – Rev. Kenneth W. Schmidt, MA, LPC, NCC. A priest and psychologist describes a renowned trauma recovery program available to dioceses and other groups that works with survivors to bring faith into healing and people back home to the sacraments in safety.
The Healing Voices also publishes a Round Table in which survivors of clergy abuse respond to a single topic or event. Two Round Tables are featured here. In our next issue, we will discuss our varied reactions to the resignation of Marie Collins from the Pontifical Commission.
How or Why I Chose to Remain Catholic
What I Thought of the Movie “Spotlight”
To see our full archive and to sign up for free e-zine delivery, visit our full magazine site.
While we are delighted various types of outreach are increasing around us, The Healing Voices Magazine has highlighted a few of interest:
Prayer Service in Bridgeport, Rhode Island
Vespers for Survivors in Helena, Oregon
Prayer labyrinth at the Sorrowful Mother Shrine in Bellevue, Ohio
Review Board (A Life Changed), by Timothy S. Ruffner
Mass for Hope and Healing, by Michael D. Hoffman
Prayer Garden in Chicago, Illinois
Veronica’s Veil: Spiritual Companionship for Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse – A Christ-Centered Approach to Integrating Faith with Recovery, by Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS and Teresa Pitt Green.
In our April issue, we will be celebrating a watershed award for Child Protection. Stay tuned.
HOW WE CAN HELP YOU
All survivors in our circle, and their family members, are ministering in their own worlds, as friends and family members, as people planted in their life situations bringing light and love to those burdened by the darkness. In addition, some of us have stepped out further in developing ministries, such as training, workshops, retreats, support groups, peer counseling, writing programs, and mediated dialogue.
We are offering a virtual Prayer Service for Survivors and Those Whom They Love on the Feast of the Archangels, September 29, 2017 (more info below). This is for survivors and loved ones, priests, sisters, deacons, lay and consecrated Catholics, therapists, members of review boards and, of course, victim-assistance and child-protection professionals. Contact Us
HOW YOU CAN HELP US
Refer survivors or family members or other loved ones seeking connection along the lines of our simple mission. We speak with them. We publish their voices. We have other gatherings.
Tell priests, sisters, lay ministers, therapists or others (such as Review Board members) about us so they can find insights into serving all survivors of abuse and trauma in what we have to share.
Let your diocesan newspaper or radio know about us, so they can send people to the magazine and to the prayer service. Ask them to feature what we are doing to spread hope in healing.
Tell everyone about our Prayer Service on the Feast of the Archangels 2017 – and be sure to sign up yourself!
Introduce us to other survivors who are ministering within the Church!
Don’t Miss Our April Issue
Child Abuse Prevention
Round Table: My Reaction to the Resignation of Marie Collins
Healing Voices February 2017 Issue
For Catholic Victim Assistance Coordinators and Survivor Ministers
Join Our Virtual Prayer Service
For Survivors of Abuse by Clergy and Others in Authority
And For Those Whom They Love
Feast of the Archangels
September 29, 2017
8:30 pm Eastern, 5:30 pm Pacific
The Evening’s Agenda
and Sign Up
All Are Invited!