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.