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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

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I don’t know if I can call myself Catholic any more, in fact I think I am embarrassed to do so. Yet, as a victim of sexual assault by a priest, I feel I can have more impact if I remain Catholic and continue to speak my truth within the Catholic community.

I get very angry about the assumption that all victims are Catholic haters and no longer part of the Church, as if being raped by a priest is an excommunicable offense. Or perhaps it’s just telling the truth about it that is unacceptable: victims must be liars. But can that be it? Since when has lying been an excommunicable offense?  Is it the fact that we are accusing priests, then? Is that the unforgivable offense? If so, then the problem is with Catholics who believe that priests cannot be predators, who assume that a priest cannot be both loving and compassionate in ministry and also calculating, predatory, and criminal in their sexual behavior. Such naive beliefs are fed by the archaic view that priests are higher human beings by virtue of their ordination, that a transformation takes place in that sacrament raising priests closer to God than ordinary mortals will ever get!

These beliefs must be challenged. They are based on a magical view of priesthood and the sacrament or ordination that needs to change, and who better to challenge it than victims – especially ones with divinity degrees. So I struggle to hang on to the Catholic community, to remain within its borders, searching for wisdom among Catholic writers and enjoying the occasional gospel mass where the priest doesn’t look like my abuser and panic attacks remain at bay.

(Edited.  Apologies for the previous version; it was a comment in process that became frozen in cyberspace and I didn’t realize it had “defrosted.” I need to visit my blogs more regularly!)

 A new report from Amnesty International has  concluded that the sexual abuse of children by priests and church run  institutions in Ireland, amounted to torture.

Read more: http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Amnestys-report-finds-Irelands-clerical-sexual-abuse-was-torture-130597558.html#ixzz1ZDUde6ds

Yesterday, two US organisations, SNAP (The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and religious) and The Center for Constitutional Rights (a New York-based nonprofit legal group) appeared at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, to request that the Pope and three Cardinals of the Catholic Church be investigated for crimes against humanity. To put this in perspective, the ICC is currently hearing cases of crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, particularly against civilians.

Should the officials of the Church be held responsible for the spiritual genocide of thousands of children perpetrated by “officers” of their organisation, who used their “uniform” and authority to elicit dread obedience from children ranging in age from kindergarten through high school for the purpose of sexual gratification?  Perhaps not, you think? After all, the criminals were each responsible for their own crimes.

But…

Should the officials of the Church be held responsible for creating and/or enforcing of directives that established protocols for a response to victims that relied on threat, intimidation, and the enforcement of oaths of secrecy?

Should the officials of the Church be held responsible for creating and/or enforcing directives that established protocols of mis-representation and re-assignment in the treatment of accused and/or admitted pedophiles and ephebophiles in the priesthood?

Should the officials of the Church be held responsible for ignoring or undermining the directives established by the USCCB and other national Catholic bodies for the protection of children from the criminal behavior of sexually predatory Catholic priests and religious?

Without a doubt!

Will bringing this case solve the problem? No.  Will it make a difference? Simply by the enormity of the public scandal, yes.

An Open Letter from One Catholic Priest to All Other Catholic Priests

Regarding the Need for the Revelation of Truth Concerning the Priest Sexual Abuse Scandal

December 6, 2010

Dear Brother Priests,

Soon after Christmas 2009 a group of priests here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee met to begin what has become an effort to provide some pastoral outreach to victim/survivors of sexual abuse of minors by priests. Quickly we expanded our group to include some victim/survivors and others who support them. Together we initiated an ongoing series of simple candle vigil services for prayer and talking. The effort is making a difference.

A question that is asked by some victim/survivors is where have all the good priests been? No doubt our presence now is warmly appreciated, but this challenging question has caused me to reflect on my own accountability. During my homily on the weekend of November 13 & 14, I explained that I had not been where I should have been. I was not standing with people in pain who needed the public presence of a priest. I had been inattentive when I should have noticed. I apologized. Of course, I cannot reverse time, I told my parishioners, but I can be different going forward, especially by standing publicly with those who seek the revelation of the complete truth regarding the priest sexual abuse scandal in the Church. The reaction of my parishioners has been powerfully supportive.

Surely, everyone wishes that this crisis would be resolved for the good of all. Unfortunately, however, I find that some people are saying that the victim/survivors should simply forgive and move on with life. Yet such an expectation overlooks what seems to me to be the necessary sequence of events for forgiveness and peace to happen: (1) knowing and understanding the whole truth; (2) doing justice based on the whole truth; (3) allowing healing to blossom over time; (4) then granting forgiveness that releases one from bondage; and (5) finally welcoming the peace that comes from healing and forgiveness.

What has caused me to be more attentive now to this scandal and crisis? Listening to and being moved by the stories that I hear. These stories can be discomforting but they are part of the truth needing to be revealed and understood. Here is some of what I hear.

1. Sexual assault is violent, at times causing bleeding. The word blood captures me. However, what is more captivating is to hear victim/survivors say that as agonizing as the assault was, the reaction of the Church has been more traumatic. They loved the Church and were involved in the Church (which probably is why they were available to be preyed upon), but the Church wasn’t there for them in their need.

2. Many people, from victim / survivors to parishioners in the pews, have left the Church because of the priest sexual abuse crisis, and that is true scandal. Moreover, some of these people who are disconnected from the Church would like to be reconnected, but the absence of truthfulness and accountability stops them.

3. Many victim/survivors “lost their voice” and can’t speak about what happened. They depend on others to speak for them and to cry out on their behalf.

4. Some victim / survivors and their families not only were not believed they were tormented by some clergy and laity such that the families decided to move to a different parish (if they remained in the Church), or even to a different city.

5. A prevailing question is why is it so difficult for the Church to reveal the truth?

I see four positive results coming from the complete truth being available to all people.

1. The truth would complete the puzzle so that the picture can be seen clearly, both validating the stories of the victim/survivors while also clearing the names of the innocent.

2. The truth would help create accountability for what happened.

3. The truth would empower the laity and the clergy alike to become the seedbed from which can come forth justice, healing, forgiveness, and peace. This effort needs the people in the pews but first they need to know the truth.

4. The truth would provide the energy to generate necessary changes in the Church.

My brother priests, obviously the revelation of the truth is not forthcoming easily, but we can be the catalyst for change. We have been sent into the Lord’s vineyard with a mission to provide voice and witness to all that Jesus Christ is about. I trust that you will do all that you can to help bring about a grace-filled resolution to this crisis and scandal. And, as I say, we need to do this in a vocal and public way.

I suggest that this Christmas season we raise our united voices in calling for the necessary sequence of truth, justice, healing, forgiveness, and peace, regarding this most difficult challenge in the Church. Indeed, doing so in this season of peace would provide a route to peace for all who suffer in any way because of sexual abuse of minors by priests.

Let us always embrace the words of the Lord: fear not; the truth will set you free.

Sincerely in Christ,

Rev. James Connell

Sheboygan, Wisconsin

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