I remembered back to this past spring. I'd just hung up the phone. It was late and the conversation with yet another clergy abuse survivor had zapped my strength and spirit as they'd recounted to me the horrors of their youth. I looked to the clock and knew I should be heading to bed because tomorrow was Easter. Easter. The celebratory feast day that millions of Catholics would spend rejoicing and celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.
I also knew that the survivor I'd just spoken with would not be attending Church tomorrow; instead the victim of clergy abuse would struggle to get out of bed and spend most of the day weeping ...
Just as I know; Jesus weeps.
Frustrated and deeply saddened by my inability to help a sufferer more, I'd placed a kettle of water on the stove, sat down, grabbed a pen and pad and did only what I felt capable of doing: To ask. Ask for accountability and apology needed for healing for the survivor I'd just hung up with, and for all those who are still suffering and seeking.
A Letter of Apology and Accountability Request.
I was deeply troubled when I read that Pope Benedict XVI was "weary and sad." I, too, am weary and sad. I've been answering calls, letters and e-mails from countless victims of child abuse by the clergy for over a year now -- calls, letters and e-mails that the pope and the Catholic Church's hierarchy should be answering. So I thought I would send a polite reminder: Apologies and accountability are due.
I am a survivor of clergy abuse. Abandoned to a Catholic orphanage as an infant, for nearly a decade I was exposed to unspeakable abuses by Catholic nuns and a Catholic priest. It was only in the last year that these horrific abuses were publicly exposed after I was finally able to write about the long nightmare inflicted by those who hid behind His cloak to mask their evil deeds -- deeds the Roman Catholic Church concealed while enabling decades of child abuse by predator clergy.
I wanted to forgive them and I did forgive; however, I wonder and I am often asked: How can you offer forgiveness to those who hide behind their righteousness, behind ill-conceived surety of their place in heaven and on Earth, those who have not asked for forgiveness because they do not think they need forgiveness? Those who have denied the damage to suffering souls, these children who remain as children, and who will forever be held hostage in childhood until that child is healed.
I sit in Kentucky with a voice, among tens of thousands of victims globally who speak through me, all awaiting an apology and an admission of accountability from the pope and the Church's hierarchy.
We've waited, sometimes for decades. People like the CEO, also a former orphan and victim of clergy abuse who has to lock himself in his office because he's having a "bad day." His "bad days" happen when the memories of physical and sexual abuse become too strong for him to function as a regular working adult. He writes to me hoping I can offer him strength, hoping I can make sense of crimes committed against him as a child that were the most heinous crimes committed in history.
Then there is the former priest who writes to tell me of rape by his "own." There's a nun, too. There is also the woman who suffers from crippling PTSD because of her abuses by clergy. She writes that she may not be contacting me for a while because she will probably be back in a "dark place" and she will have to seek mental health institutional care for her "latest bout" -- a bout directly caused by predator clergy. She prays she'll be strong and not be tempted again to commit suicide, as she's tried so many times before. Another voice in the darkness reaching out to one woman. Voices who should take strength and comfort from the Church for their darkness -- a darkness caused by the Church.
There's also the daughter (one of five). Her mother, now deceased, a childhood resident of a Catholic orphanage, was severely abused and raped by clergy. The daughter says her mother's former clergy abuse touched everyone in her family and continues to cause trauma and discord so intense they have all sought counseling.
And lest I forget, there's the strong advocate for victims of clergy abuse I've been privileged to know. He was not abused, but sadly, he is now "religious empty," this man from a strongly connected religious background. I worry about him and his children.
Pope Benedict XVI and the church's hierarchy have created a scatter bomb. Abuse. The abuse of one does not just stop with one, its shrapnel scatters and piercers, and affects and harms their families, friends, co-workers, and society and on and on. The Church must be willing to publicly help these deeply wounded, still-suffering victims and survivors. Remove the shrapnel, start the cleansing by reaching out to survivors, answering and also disclosing the records of predator clergy that have been protected by the Roman Catholic Church for decades.
My name is Kim Michele Richardson. I am waiting, along with all those voices around me.
This post is an excerpt from The Unbreakable Child, a story about forgiving the unforgivable, by Kim Michele Richardson, to be released Oct. 1, 2010 by Behler Publications.