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Kim Michele Richardson

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The Church's One Simple Phrase for Healing

Posted: 04/ 6/11 11:59 AM ET

It is now 2011, and the Vatican has been flooded with new information, new warnings and more horrific stories of sexual abuse from around the globe. Still, I have yet to read the one simple phrase, "I'm sorry," from the Pope or his entourage directed to any of the hundreds of thousands of victims. Instead, the Vatican and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have submitted vapid pamphlets preaching 'no tolerance' to their agents and parishioners, promoting a band-aid fix while the deep wounds of hundreds of thousands of victims and survivors continue to bleed.

In fact, it seems Pope Benedict XVI and the Roman Catholic Church have learned little if anything about the concept of apology -- an unconditional apology that is desperately needed for clergy abuse victims and survivors all over the world. Instead, the Church continues to arrogantly cover up, ignore, and shift the blame.

William F. McMurry, legal advocate and expert on Vatican procedure and clergy abuse, says, "When a child begins to accept the notion of God, he or she begins the process of spiritual development, which comforts the child with a feeling of harmony or oneness with God. Spiritual development of the young remains the foundational mission of the Church. How ironic, then, that a Church destroys its mission by fostering a culture of child sexual abuse, yet clings to its mission without remorse. When the fathers of the Church become monsters in the eyes of a child, many are never again able to experience harmony or any connection with God. God (the Church) becomes a nightmare-induced monster who will forever sit at the foot of the child's bed, poised to devour him or her."

As a survivor of clergy abuse, I remain painfully aware that there have been no apologies from Pope Benedict XVI and his hierarchy ... unless you count the letter from J. Nathan Bland of the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See, who wrote to me: ... "We express sympathy for your pain." Certainly not the 'one simple phrase' of open apology: "I'm sorry," or better yet, I'm deeply sorry for shattering your childhood, inflicting upon you lifelong monsters, and making you live a walking, waking nightmare in your adulthood" from the Pope and Vatican.

I spoke with Louisville, Kentucky lawyer and advocate for those abused by clergy, Mikell Grafton and asked her if she had she seen any changes in the Church's policies designed to ensure the safety of vulnerable persons and children in the past year. Grafton referred to her current clergy abuse case, Weiter vs. Roman Catholic Bishop of Louisville, and said, "Look at the Weiter case, where in 2011 you have a convicted child rapist priest, who while on probation continued to maintain a post on the Catholic Church Parish Council. And an accused pedophile priest who was hidden in the rectory in the same room where another pedophile priest had brutally strangled and fondled the children from a generation before. In other words, same circus, different clowns."

While I've never been fond of clowns, I am a fan of simple phrases like "I'm sorry." An apology would show victims of clergy abuse that the Church does not sanction what it has done. An apology is a powerful way to heal, move forward and restore trust for all. One simple phrase - I'm sorry -- would show the world that the Roman Catholic Church indeed cares about victims and survivors and the immense pain and harm we have suffered. In light of the magnitude of the pain inflicted, the harm done and the lives shattered, one simple phrase is not too much to ask.

We are still waiting. Many of us though wounded, have survived, but I have seen a heart-wrenching destruction of lives caused by clergy abuse inflicted on innocents. Destruction akin to an infinite, cruel storm cutting off life paths. Some, their life's blood finally drained from their wounds have committed suicide, while countless others suffer in hopeless silence.

So ... here we are, back to Easter, the season during which millions of Catholics and clergy will be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

But what of the victims? The unheard voices? Voices, who deserve the Church's unqualified apology for their darkness, from which they could take strength. I'm still answering just as many calls, e-mails and letters from them as I did in the past year. And again I know many victims and survivors will not be celebrating Easter, instead they will spend the day religious-empty, weeping as they battle life-long monsters. Just as I know Jesus weeps.

And they wait. Always waiting, for one simple phrase that could begin the process of healing.

 
 
 

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