GUEST BLOG BY BETH
I am at a loss for words after I meet one of our survivors and/or attend a vigil. The most recent vigil/protest outside the cathedral was no different. I always leave these events, if you can even call them that, changed – as if in peaceful mourning or as if I had just visited a very sacred place.
I had planned on attending the special mass for our clergy abuse survivors just to hear first hand what Archbishop Chaput had to say but when I heard many of our survivors were invited but not included in the planning process I changed my mind. I thought it was best to attend but be present outside in support of all those survivors that were unable or in good conscience could not go inside.
As a practicing catholic I was a little torn about not going in to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Many times I have gone to adoration and wept before Jesus praying for our survivors by name and I believe he heard my prayers. But I knew Jesus wanted me outside on the sidewalk when Vicky, one of our survivors who has become a good friend, emailed and asked if I would come stand with her and support her as she stood outside the cathedral.
The events that unfolded on the sidewalk were very touching. I met family members of the man who was supposed to testify against Fr. Brennan. He is no longer with us but his family will forever keep his memory alive. I also met the mother of one of Fr. McCormick’s victims. One thing I have noticed is that a few of the victims families I have meet recently have members that have jobs in law enforcement. It brought home to me the fact that clergy sexual abuse can happen to anyone’s child.
Several months ago Vicky gave me crucifix that she no longer needed. I had put that in my pocket to take it to this vigil. Many times I have reflected on the symbolism behind her giving me that cross. We as a church have failed to show our survivors Jesus, but I have discovered in the past few years that the suffering Jesus is truly present in each one of our survivors. In many ways our survivors have saved my faith and given me hope. Their brutal honesty, compassion, courage and abilty to still have a sense of humor despite what they have been thru gives witness to something greater than this earthly world we live in.
When the news people asked to take pictures, a few people were concerned about the ramifications of their names being made public but they gave their names anyway so their pictures could be printed. Just one of the many ways our survivors take risks and sacrifice for others. Isn’t that what real love does – lay down their life for another?
The photographer at one point mentioned that many people don’t seem to realize that woman were also abused and then he mention he had a 12 yr old daughter. Fom his expression you could tell he wanted the best for his daughter and for her to be safe from all harm. I think that is every parent’s wish and why it is so important that laws are changed and children protected.
The security guards seemed a little curious about why we were there and if we would cause any trouble. I even had one ask if everything was going ok, etc. I introduced myself and said everything was good and that I was a practicing catholic and a member of my parishes pastors council there to support my friend Vicky, who was a survivor. I got into a very interesting discussion about why the laws need to change and how law changes were not just to collect money or attack the church but to expose present day predators and keep kids safe today. We talked about accountability and how in his church a member had to step down because he had an affair. He said that If that person had really understood why he had to do so, he would have not made a fuss upon leaving. If he had understood what he was preaching and wasn’t in it just for the prestige he would understand the need for consequences.
The crowd of survivors and advocates was diverse. There was a politician present who also was a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. Sr. Maureen was there as usual and we all joked she was more dependable than the mailman because she always showed up to vigils snow, sleet, rain or shine. Some people going into and coming out of the Mass for clergy sexual abuse survivors didn’t seem interested in stopping to speak to actual abuse survivors which seemed rather ironic. For the most part, the people coming out of the Mass were very kind.
One person who stuck out in my mind was a young man who seemed like he was in his 20s. A discussion broke out that started to get a little heated. The young man seemed a little defensive and stated that the church had made some mistakes and that it was cleaning up its act. The family of one of the survivors who is no longer with us got upset with a few of his comments. Later in the conversation it came out that he was from another Archdiocese and he was discerning whether or not to become a priest. He noted that for such a large diocese the churches where empty and I told him that more recently this was the result of the ongoing clergy abuse scandal and release of the 2 grand jury reports. I asked him if he had read them himself and that I use to think the way he did and that I thought I understood clergy sexual abuse. It was not until I read them, and Archbishop Bevilacqua’s testimony and met with our survivors that I truly began to understand. He started to lower his defenses and said after hearing what our survivors had to say, he felt a little shell shocked and was interested in learning more and would do some research online. I told him if he searched for the truth, he would find it. And although my faith has been rocked to its core, I cling to Jesus.
After the vigil Vicky, Rich and I set out for dinner and some conversation.That was quite an adventure. We had some really good conversations. Rich seemed like he was in a really good place in his life right now and we talked about the dumb Catholics, myself included, who really had no idea what clergy abuse and its affect on children was all about. When Catholics4Change first started, Rich said we ticked him off and how he felt he needed to be brutally honest to get through to us. I thanked him and Vicky for all the education and insight they provided for us. Rich also mentioned he might write a blog about how he felt unsupported by Catholics for so many years and that now that has started to change for him. Rich I don’t want to steal the wind from under your sails, and I am not as gifted a writer as you, so please write that blog. Every time you write, you educate us and encourage other survivors to find their voice. I think in the end that’s what Catholics4Change has taught me. When you are brave enough to reach out to others and keep an open heart – nothing stays the same.