A Daughter of Saint Paul who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse writes a letter to the victims and survivors of clergy abuse:
To My Brothers and Sisters Who Have Been Grievously Injured
by the Tragedy of Childhood Sexual Abuse by a Member of the Clergy
The news that has surfaced over the past few months is finally bringing to general awareness the horrific and devastating suffering that you and your families have undergone and continue to undergo. The wounds caused by any sexual assault or misconduct are deep and serious, but those suffered by a child are unfathomable. The dreadful plague of childhood sexual abuse, so prevalent but tragically ignored in our society, is only made more complex and shattering when it is compounded by a perpetrator trusted to represent God. I am so sorry for the great injustice you have undergone, especially for the spiritual wound caused by this betrayal of a sacred trust perpetrated under the guise of faith. I am so sorry for all you have suffered and continue to suffer.
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse (although not from a member of the clergy), I know firsthand some of this agonizing pain. Healing from such grievous wounds is a long, arduous journey that cannot erase the past, nor its traumatic consequences. Every aspect of the survivor’s person needs healing: spiritual, emotional, physical, sexual, psychological, relational…. For those who experience the relief of a public acknowledgment of the crimes committed against them, they begin a new and important stage of healing.
No matter what you have gone through, you are not alone in your pain, and you are not alone on your journey.
This journey that we make from victims to survivors can be a journey of hope: leading us not just to survival but to serenity, renewal, thriving, and holiness. Although we cannot usually see or sense God’s presence when we are surrounded by darkness, God stands with each and every survivor: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit” (Ps. 34:18). In the Gospels, Jesus specifically tells his disciples that he can be found in the midst of those who suffer most. One of the few times that Jesus becomes indignant is when his disciples try to chase away children from receiving his blessing. How heartbroken our healing Savior must feel for you at the abuse and betrayal you suffered, and how outraged that this abuse was perpetrated by someone who should have been ministering to you.
Today, Jesus wants to take the worst of that suffering on himself. We know this is true because, in his Passion and Death, Jesus definitively identified with the suffering caused by every injustice, by every sin, taking all of them on himself and thus opening up for us a way of salvation, despite the suffering and evil in our world.
“By his wounds we are healed,” the prophet Isaiah tells us. In solidarity with you, I pledge to continue to take the difficult steps forward on my journey towards healing, and to offer my daily efforts and prayers so that you, too, may continue to heal—a healing that allows you to thrive, to recover a sense of your own dignity, and that brings you to an ever-greater freedom from all the devastating consequences of abuse. This is my greatest desire for you: that you may experience the healing, renewal, and fullness of life that our mighty and gentle God wants for you, and even now, prepares for you.
Love and prayers,
Your sister in Christ