Catholics injured by sexual abuse from nuns, brothers, or priests all carry a burden for life. What they do about it, with it, makes all the difference to their healing and peace in life--right through old age.
ANGER is a normal and righteous response when we or those we love are abused by those we thought we could trust. How do we deal with that anger? St. Augustine tells us "Anger has two daughters, hope and courage." When we take that seriously, anger gives rise to the courage to face an evil, name it, overcome it, rather than allow it to overcome good, or in this case, innocence! That courage then leaves us with hope for healthy lives rather than life-long crosses dragged through every step and stage of life, affecting victims and all who love them--us!
The best intentions of Catholic victims have been sabotaged over the years by the hierarchy and religious superiors whose primary concern has been protecting an institution or the structure of religious communities rather than responding to the broken hearts, psyches, and dreams of those innocent victims.
When victims first gained the courage to address Church authorities, the shock of the denial and evil projections onto victims, their parents and families left Catholics stunned. Where was Christ in this blatant agenda of putting the "corporate welfare" of the institutional Church before the healing of innocence molested and raped by priests and religious?
When a family came up against a room of clergy with their hierarch, in full regalia, flanked by a roomful of attorneys paid for by the deep pockets filled by the laity, it was overwhelming. Whether it was the family of a child abused, or an adult who was abused as a child, or a vulnerable adult abused, and perhaps left pregnant by her priest or bishop--the victim was overwhelmed not by the love of Christ lavished on them but by the power of Rome—much as Jesus Himself faced when speaking truth to power. Victims walked the way of the cross and many lost their faith, others lost their lives to suicide. Christ weeps. All heaven weeps. SHAME ON THIS CLERICALISM!
The initial attempts, based on love of their Faith and their Church, were for RESTORATIVE JUSTICE, that which in scriptural terms "makes all things new again." It was met with deception and cruelty and a complete lack of Christian Charity. Molesters and rapists were hidden, moved, and protected for years leaving one with the strong impression that the only administrators who would do such a thing were also predatory creatures protecting their own.
Restorative Justice was an alien concept to the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, and victims fought back with the ONLY power left to them--CIVIL LAWS AND ATTORNEYS.
Thus the Church itself declared war on victims and this has played out over the past 40 years in the courts of the United States and later around the world. Pope John Paul II blamed the media while pedophiles and lechers lived and moved freely in the Vatican and in dioceses throughout the Church. JPII was wrong. The cause was the protected criminals and frauds in clerical garb harmed innocent faithful, and destroyed the reputation of those priests and religious who honestly and humbly serve the Church. Those priests and religious were cowed into silence just as they would be in any institution depending upon abuse of its power.
Fight back they did. Here is a link to the history starting with Jeanne Miller and Marilyn Steffel whose desire was RESTORATIVE JUSTICE but who were forced, as any parent would feel, to defend their children and all other children. They were treated like garbage by the Church--both the clergy and laity who honestly could not believe this evil was real. Of course NOW THEY KNOW.
At this same time Joe Grenier and his wife Cait Finnegan were expanding GOOD TIDINGS which supported adult women harmed by priests. And those priests and women who chose the integrity of marriage--joined CORPUS, the organization of married priests united for service. Both these groups continue.
So what happens when a victim demands RESTORATIVE JUSTICE today? It is a foreign concept to American attorneys, understandably hired to do a job in civil legal terms. They can get a ball rolling, but their jobs are not to enforce a Christian mandate! Mediation can help if one is clear about what justice means in this particular context. It is NOT about punishment but about restoring true harmony (mental, physical, spiritual, and all that contributes to that harmony and well-being--i.e. HEALTH) for the welfare of the person harmed, the family harmed, and the community harmed. It demands restitution for what was lost, as far as possible. It is, in fact, not just a holy process, but a very practical one for the welfare of ALL. It is not a new concept but finds its roots in ancient Irish law, as well as other indigenous cultures that put the welfare of the clan, tribe, society as a priority and know that when injustice prevails everyone suffers. It is ironic at best, and evil at worst, that the Church needs to learn this today.
RESTORATIVE JUSTICE IS NOT WHAT ALL VICTIMS SEEK. That is understandable given how the Church has acted. It is war in the minds of most.
Christ weeps. All heaven weeps.
For those who choose to direct their legitimate anger and hate toward the evil deeds done to them or their children, but who are compelled by Christ to something beyond ONLY a civil resolution, then the process of RESTORATIVE JUSTICE is an alternative that is not "letting them win" or "giving up the fight," but a choice to broaden the playing field to include civil justice AND Christian convictions.
A Word to Sisters and Nuns
I speak as one who was a sister for a brief time, and one who has profound love for Mother Catherine McAuley and the Sisters of Mercy, and finally as one who resolved my case of abuse by a sick Sister of Mercy to a degree where I have peace. I speak for those who cannot yet speak.
It is my hope that vowed religious women who lead religious orders, communities, and congregations of nuns and sisters will have the commitment to Jesus Christ to address with profound kindness, humility, and honesty, the victims of their sick and criminal members whose minds and souls are corrupted by their own brokenness. My hope is that women religious will foster and participate in the true healing that can reflect "on earth as in heaven."
For 40 years the Church has watched clergy and hierarchy make mistake after mistake in mistreating victims of clergy sexual abuse. Sisters! Learn from their mistakes. Don't repeat them! You are not asked to defend the corporate institution that is your order before you defend Christ in the victim. You do not love Christ in the abuser by doing further harm to the victim by denials and deceptions.
RESTORATIVE JUSTICE cannot change the past. It cannot heal a very sick and broken, or unwilling predator for Grace builds on nature. It can, however, help to heal the Faith and the hearts of the victims and their families, and the Church itself by addressing the real harm done to all and the repercussions over a lifetime. Healing can happen. It's about cooperating with Grace!
Victim, Survivor, Celebrant
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