A Survivor’s Christmas Wish

Guest Blog by a Philadelphia Survivor

There is a wonderful Christmas song by Amy Grant called “Grownup Christmas List”.  It is one of my favorite and speaks to the true meaning of Christmas – compassion, happiness, peace.  When listening to it the other day, I thought of my own Christmas List – a “Survivor’s Christmas List” for this year.  My prayer is that all survivors receive at least one thing on this list:

– That people will stop making excuses regarding the cover-up of clergy abuse by saying “it was a different time back then” or “we viewed priests on a different level”.  There is no excuse.  Take ownership that there were crimes committed.  Which leads me to #2 –

– It was a CRIME!  It wasn’t a violation – an indiscretion – a lapse in judgement – a misunderstanding – an incident.  IT WAS A CRIME.  Let the media – the church – the commentators – the public – call it what it really was.

– That survivors, when they get the courage and strength to walk into a Roman Catholic Church, will not be subjected to prayers from the pulpit for the abusers of children that they may find forgiveness.  Yes, this did happen at a mass that I attended. Abusers were prayed for in the same intention as those who were abused.  NEVER put me in the same sentence as a criminal!

– That the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will bring every allegation of suspected abuse and boundary violations to its review board. That every case will be investigated, and every survivor will be notified of the outcome.  And that the Archdiocese will be transparent in their findings – not the standard press release of “Father Smith was removed for a credible finding of sexual abuse that occurred thirty years ago” but “Father Smith also was found to have six other credible findings of sexual abuse against him”.  Yes, this matters to survivors!

– For more clergy such as Father Chris Walsh, who could care less about membership in the “all boys club” of the priesthood, but cares more about nurturing the mental and spiritual well being of his parishioners

– That states that have not passed Statute of Limitations reform will recognize how important it is for survivors to have their day in court, to have the truth be told, to be able to look their abusers, and those who covered for them, in the eye and say “No more – I have the upper hand now!”

– For the Church to recognize that their party line of “mistakes were made in the past but we are doing everything right now” includes allowing survivors their day in court!

A wish for a compassionate response

Words hurt. A few suggestions on what not to say to a survivor:

  – “It’s all about the money” No amount of money could ever make me whole, could ever take away the pain inflicted

  – “You can’t possibly remember what happened 30 years ago” Do you remember your wedding day, the birth of your children, the day a close family member died?  Do you remember where you were when Kennedy was shot? When the Space Shuttle blew up? 9/11? Trust me – I remember my abuse.

  – “You are out to get the Catholic Church” – I was raised in this religion.  My uncle was a priest.  My father converted.  It would be so much easier to walk away and not care.  My abuser took a lot away from me – I am still fighting to keep my faith.

– And finally, I wish all Survivors would only hear two things from everyone they encounter – “I’m sorry” and “I believe you”.  

Thank you to Susan, Kathy and the C4C community for your constant support and prayers.

7 thoughts on “A Survivor’s Christmas Wish

  1. Listened to A Grown up Christmas List! Brought tears to my eyes! I wish that my son would had told me before he took his own life 3 years ago!

  2. God bless Kathy and Susan and all those innocent victims who were abused. I was a faithful catholic who never missed Mass for 65 years. But I haven’t been to Mass since 2011. I have strong faith in God and don’t doubt him for a minute, but have lost all faith in the catholic church including the pope, and all bishops and others who hid all this evil for decades.

  3. Thank you for your thoughtful and courageous reflection.
    May you continue to heal and may you discover a compassionate and enlightened church home.


  4. The theme of dark and light has been popping up frequently in my life this advent . For many people including myself it’s depressing when it gets dark early. To combat this I like to light candles, make fires in the fireplace and put up alot of Christmas lights because it makes me feel better. I learned from my neighbors they greatly appreciate my Christmas lights because they cheer them up too. My uncle last night almost drove passed my house without realizing it was my house because the lights made it look so different. Recently I was watching a video that showed at the moment of conception there is a flash of light that has been recorded by scientists. Then I was helping my daughter with her religion lesson and again it was about God creating light and darkness, night and day. When I went to church the Sunday before Christmas the priest turned off most of the lights so we could focus on the candles and Jesus as the light of the world. What did I learn from all these examples of light and darkness? We appreciate light more after being in the darkness, that our lights can change our appearance and radiate joy, peace and comfort to others, that each of us was created with a spark of light and science has documented this fact( I believe this points to an infusion of our soul). That God spoke and that’s how he created light. That God is consistent. That we are made for light because we come from light and that darkness therefore will not prevail.In these dark times the Truth of our survivors gives me hope because they radiate light and strength and I know in the end light (goodness)will win. May God Bless You All.

  5. Totally agree! Most people have left the church. I for one do not feel good about putting money in the collection plate knowing it goes to pay of lawsuits for priests that abused kids. I have made many changes for my religion and church, now it is time for the church to change for its people.

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