Category Archives: Protection of Youth

Reducing Faith in Jesus Christ & His Church to a business transaction


Cardinal George Pell, a member of Pope Francis’ advisory Council of Cardinals, former archbishop of Sydney, has an interesting perspective. Pell gave video testimony from the Vatican to an Australian government inquiry looking into responses to child sex abuse by the Catholic Church and other institutions.

Using a hypothetical example, Pell said the church was no more responsible for cases of child abuse carried out by church figures than a trucking company would be if it employed a driver who molested women.

“It would not be appropriate, because it’s contrary to the policy, for the ownership, leadership of that company to be held responsible,” Pell told the inquiry. “Similarly with the church and the head of any other organization.”

“It is, I think, not appropriate for legal culpability to be foisted on the authority figure.”

“He shows that he really has absolutely no conception of what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior and what are appropriate or inappropriate things to say to survivors,” said SNAP’s Nicky Davis, who attended the inquiry in Melbourne, Australia.

Victims were also outraged by the Vatican’s refusal to hand over files requested by the Australian inquiry since the pope has signaled a tougher approach to fighting clerical sexual abuse and established a Vatican committee that includes Irish abuse survivor Marie Collins.

Out-of-touch is too kind a description.

Prayer of a Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse

I just want to crawl into a hole and die….
but maybe if I just pray….
I’ll come out alive?
Its so hard to hold the child I was….
with her innocence lost.
Jesus, hold me for a while….
never let me go.
If I wasnt in so many pieces,
maybe Jesus could save me….
He could hold me and I wouldn’t crumble.


SNAP Conference 2014 – Grandson of Billy Graham


I have been involved with SNAP since 2007.  There are things in life we wish we could forget.  We wish we didn’t know.  That has been my experience with SNAP.  If anyone should, no one has, ask me how to get involved to support survivors of clerical sexual abuse, my first and only question would be, “How strong is your faith?”, never implying mine is.

And now I hear from survivors I am personal friends with that they are unwelcome, a more accurate term is “banned”, from worshiping in certain Catholic churches.  They have made no public statements in approaching these places of worship, they have merely been upfront with the pastor or diocese as to their identity, and been reticent in disclosing such to other than said pastor, and been told they are unwelcome.

Scandal within a scandal within a scandal.  WWJD?  1)  The sexual assault of children 2) The cover up and deception and endangerment of additional Catholic families 3) The un-Christian response of bishops and dioceses 4) The re-victimization of survivors by 2-3 and the above lack of Christian charity, welcome and hospitality.

I, too, have had my options limited of service to the Church in my faithfulness of support to survivors of abuse.  I am only too eager to join survivors in being banned from Catholic property.  I do, because I know that is where He will be, and I want to be with Him, no matter what.  His will be done.  His Kingdom come, on earth, as it is in Heaven.  And, it will.  I pray for the salvation of perpetrators and enablers as I do for my own.

Kelly and I are monthly contributors to SNAP.  Barbara Blaine, founder and survivor herself, and I are dear personal friends.  She blows me a kiss or gives me a hug when she sees me.

-delivered by Basyle “Boz” Tchividjian, founder & Executive Director of GRACE

(You may listen to the audio here.)

“Good morning.  I want to start off reading something that many of you may be familiar with.

‘A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.

A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.

Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side.

But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight.

He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him.

The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, ‘Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.’
Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?’

He answered, ‘The one who treated him with mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’ -Lk 10:30-37

As most of you in this room know, this morning, there’s a very dark and desolate place in this world. A place where a multitude of hurting and traumatized souls lay on the side of the road alone, a few still holding out hope that someone, anyone will stop. While most others have long since given up. See, this is a side of the road where precious children wake up each morning fearing that they will be once again sexually violated by an adult they have been taught to trust and obey, an adult that is supposed to love and protect them. This is the side of the road where children live in fear each night about what will happen when the lights go off.

This is the side of the road where the lives and souls of children are eviscerated by those in power who profess Jesus, as they betray and violate his little ones. This is a side of the road where the church ignores the painful cries of these victims while embracing their perpetrators as trusted leaders and model Christians. This is the side of the road where adult survivors are marginalized and allowed to drown in their hopelessness by the very church that is called to pursue and embrace them in love and charity. This is the side of the road where the unique and beautiful lives of those who are made in image of God are left to die.

See this dark and desolate place is inside the church and many may even say is the church. When I say church this morning I come to you as a Presbyterian. So when I say church this morning I mean Christendom, and I can tell you from somebody who’s grown up as a Protestant, child sexual abuse within the Protestant church is rampant, and largely to this day unrecognized, but that is changing, and I’m grateful for that. You see, this is a church, a place that all too often betrays and abuses children while telling the world how much it values and love God’s little ones.

It’s a church that shames survivors into deathly silence as it walks by making pious excuses for not crossing the road to welcome and care for those who’ve been left alone. It’s a place that exploits power and authority to silence the hurting.  It’s a place that claims to be the bride of Jesus, but doesn’t even know what He looks like. I’ve met some of these amazing souls and have the distinct honor of calling many of you my friends.

You’ve shared with me the horrors of being violated by those you trusted and the deep indescribable pains of living alone on the side of the road as you are marginalized, shamed, and ignored by family, friends and the very faith community that have eviscerated your body and your soul.

See, I grew up thinking that the purpose of the church is to reflect hope, joy, self-worth, peace, love, life; that’s what I learned. I’m the grandson of Billy Graham and that’s the world from which I come, and to his credit that is the church he showed to me.

But instead what I’ve learned is that it’s a place that has brutally robbed so many of those very treasures. Instead of reflecting Jesus, the church is too often reflected nothing but a cold, dark abyss.

Some amazing survivors have shared with me things like this and many of which would be very similar to some of the amazing people in this room this morning. One told me:  “Because of my abuse on the mission field, I absolutely despise anyone who calls themselves a Christian.”

Another told me:  “At age 13, I was so disillusioned with Christianity that I preferred to be in hell, I was committed to following Satan. I saw the native people worshiping the devil, and they were getting what they needed from their religion.” Most recently, somebody wrote me and said, “So I don’t understand how he, the perpetrator, is so righteous and how everyone is standing strongly with him to defend him, to defend his ministry. They see him as under attack, just because I finally spoke.  He is righteous and I’m tainted, they see me as evil, I’m scared mostly because I’m not always sure what is true. Does God see me the way they do? Is God against me? Is he angry that I can’t forget? Is he angry that I haven’t forgiven in some ways that hasn’t allowed me to forget? I don’t want to be broken anymore.”

Any institution that is responsible for such horrors and then fails to accept its complete responsibility, grieve at the indescribable pain it has caused, and then demonstrate authentic repentance; demonstrate, not just by empty words, is rotting at the core.

I have a friend of mine who is a Christian and he writes these…I guess he calls them poems. I’m not sure if they’re really poems, but they are pretty good, and he…I took a part of his poem out the other night that says, this, and it is so true, he says, “Like let’s dress up the outside make it look nice and neat.  But it’s funny, that’s what they do – that’s what they used to do to mummies while the corpse’s rot underneath.”

See, I grieve that much of the church is asleep, and doesn’t even realize it.  I grieve that it’s so far – hard to find Jesus in the midst of all of this.  For too many people inside the church it is always Winter, but never Christmas. As a follower of Jesus, I have struggled with how to understand and respond to this appalling darkness and pain, perpetrated by individuals and institutions that profess to love and follow the same Jesus that I do? How do I respond? How do I respond to the beautiful individuals who have been so broken by those who profess Jesus? How do I respond to survivors who get up each day, struggling with trauma, shame, self-worth, abandonment, and a lifetime of processing abuse?

How do I respond when the vulnerable have been overwhelmed by the darkness and kicked to the side of the road? How do I respond when the church is often the one doing the kicking? Interestingly enough, the parable of the Good Samaritan is beginning to help me process these painful questions with a little bit of hope. See it’s a parable about the most unlikely persons who move towards the hurting in order to get down into the dirt with them and bring hope by helping to lift him up and begin healing.

It’s about authentic compassion.  A compassion, whereby we are so moved and overwhelmed by the distress of another that their distress and pain is as if it is our very own. It is about a compassion that overrides all fear and risk and is fueled by love, time and time again, the story points me to God.  Not the God of the self-righteous and the self-important, nor the God of those who use his name to exploit and destroyed vulnerable in order to seize and protect power. And not the God of those in the church who are so busy doing religious stuff that they don’t even have time for those who are lying on the side of the road.

No, that’s not the God I’m talking about. This parable and God’s kindness, this parable has pointed me to a much different God. A God whose very character helps me as I spend my days and nights swimming in Christian cesspools, confronting abuse and searching for those who are drowning.

Let me give you an example. Just a few examples of what I mean. The parable is helping me to get to know a God that is not silent, a God who is not silent when confronted by evil regardless of the un-ultimate consequence.

I cannot be silent when I am confronted by the evil of child abuse, (Ed: me either!) regardless of where it happens, who commits it or the consequences that I may face when I confront it. I’m getting to know a God that pursues hurting people. This beautiful truth encourages me to pursue those around me who are hurting and have lost all hope, as a result of the abuse they have suffered inside and outside of the church. See, as you well know too many survivors lying on the side of the road has never even been noticed, let alone pursued by the church.

I’m getting to know a God, who is safe, not only does He pursue us, but He’s approachable because He’s safe. Oh His people so often times, or at least those who profess to be his people, are not safe. But the God that I’m getting to know is – don’t we see this in the life of Jesus? Remember the story in the gospel where the little children want to come and talk to Jesus and Jesus, he’s preaching. The God of the universe is preaching and these kids wanna come up and talk and sit around and probably goof off and probably don’t really care about what He’s saying.

And who was it that pushed the children away? It was those who’ve spent their days and nights with Jesus. It was the holy guys, the guys who were with Jesus all of the time. They were the ones that push the kids away and who spoke up about this travesty, nobody except Jesus. There was a silence and Jesus when he spoke up – I have some friends who would know a lot more translation than I do. What they said He, you know, in a very crossway Jesus really was pissed off. I mean like the words in the Bible don’t really explain it, that well, but He was just pissed.

Now think about this – think about this at that time in history children were valued just a bit over a slave and Jesus is pissed at His disciples because they’re getting in the way. Because Jesus was speaking great truths and they all wanted to listen and these little precious ones made in the image of God simply wanted to be with Him. See that is an approachable God. That is a God that I’m getting to know who is safe. So many of our faith communities are not safe places for survivors.

Many survivors are forced into silence because they don’t feel safe with those who may be closest to them. You know that more than I do.  Responses such as why can’t you just forgive and move on? Are often no less traumatizing than the very abuse itself. See unsafe churches are abusive churches. I’m getting to know a God who treasures transparency and healthy vulnerability. You see, as a Christian I believe that God did his most powerful work when he was vulnerable and transparent.

He was lying naked – hanging naked on a cross. The God of the universe that doesn’t make sense to me to be honest with you, it’s so upside down. It’s so not the way we think, is it? The God of the universe would expose himself and be vulnerable to the point of death. But that’s what changed, in my belief, the course of history. See this truth frees me to be transparent and vulnerable with those who have lost all hope. It frees me to weep with those who weep. To get angry and pissed off with those who are angry and pissed off.

But I’m afraid not many churches and Christian institutions understand this fundamental truth because what all too often happens with an institution, as you all well know, instead of embracing transparency and for vulnerability, which is the character of the very God in which they claim to worship. They protect themselves; they protect themselves by sacrificing individuals. That’s exactly the opposite of what God did because God sacrificed Himself for individual souls.

But too often today our institutions are sacrificing individual’s souls themselves. It’s backward people. It’s not – it is not Christianity. It is not. I’m also getting to know a God who doesn’t let go. His love for each of us is forever. He doesn’t let go. Even when I don’t even think He’s around He’s still holding onto me. And this may be difficult for some of you to hear, but I’ll be just brave enough to say he’s still holding onto you. You may wonder where He is. I wonder that often, but He is.

See one of the great tragedies of the church is that it’s always letting go, especially those who are hurting the most. That’s not Jesus. Yes, the God I’m getting to know treasures the rejected, the marginalized and the ignored. He crosses the road and gets down into the dirt with the hurting and brutalized. The God that I’m getting to know is so overwhelmed by the distress of others that their pain becomes His own. He’s a God whose very essence is light. In the Bible there is a verse that says, “The light shines in darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” -Jn 1:5

As a Christian I hold tightly to that verse. So where is this God of light? There many days I wake up, and think, “Where are You? You say you’re a God of light, where are You?” And then He gently and sometimes not so gently lets me know that the God that I’m getting to know is reflected in the faces of so many who are sitting here today and outside of this room who are spending their lives crossing roads and getting into the dirt with those who can’t move and have given up hope. Whether you realize it or not, each time you cross the road you’re carrying light into darkness.  A darkness that is slowly being defeated.

Aren’t we witnessing this beautiful light as we hear the voices of so many amazing everyday people stepping forward, refusing to be silent any longer? Aren’t we witnessing this beautiful light through the lives of those who are speaking on behalf of survivors whose voices are simply tired? Aren’t we witnessing this beautiful light as more and more brave souls are calling Christian leaders to repentance and demanding them to turn down the volume of their own voices? So they can hear the suffering cries of others. Aren’t we witnessing this beautiful light in organizations like this who helped shine light into the very dark places?

I believe this person was Catholic, but I’m not sure Knuin? – Knowen?, no one ever heard of him – okay and I don’t know really much about him, so if – so he may be somebody that none of us will like. But I – but I don’t know, but I do like this quote, he says, “Though do not deny the darkness they choose not to live in it. They claim that the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself, and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness. They point each other to flashes of light here and there and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God”

See, I realize that we’re all on a long journey as the death of darkness is very slow. I also realize that many of us are simply tired. On those days I simply want to quit, I’m reminded that I’m not alone in this journey. In fact I walk this journey alongside some of those most amazing heroes ever to walk the face of the earth. Heroes, who cross the road and get down into the dirt and lift me up to press forward for another day. On one of those days when I simply couldn’t go any further I received a precious thought from one of these heroes. One of these flashes of light, who said thank you from all of us who have been languished by the road, bloody, beaten and robbed and watched the Levi’s and the Pharisees just walk on by.

Each of you in this room are a beautiful flash of light, who reveal the hidden but real presence of God. A God who does deeply care and He will never give up. Such a God, quite frankly, for me, gives me great hope that one day the darkness will die and our long journey will come to an end. But until that day I have the privilege, I have the great privilege of pressing forward alongside each one of you carrying light as we search for roads to cross. Thank you very much.

Not many in the Protestant world, and this is not a very accurate statement, but – but you know, I think we’re like 20 years behind the Catholic world in dealing with this issue.”


Jul 7, 2014 – Pope Francis Begs Forgiveness for Church, Calls Abuse “Satanic”



ROME – Pope Francis begged forgiveness for the Church on Monday and cited the need for “reparation” as he met with victims who had suffered at the hands of Roman Catholic priests.

The pontiff invited six victims of abuse from Ireland, Germany and Britain to attend an early-morning private Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the residence next to St. Peter’s Basilica where he lives.

Francis called the abuse a “grave sin” decrying how it was hidden for “so much time” and “camouflaged with a complicity that cannot be explained.”

“I ask for the grace to weep, the grace for the Church to weep and make reparation for her sons and daughters who betrayed their mission, who abused innocent persons,” the pope said in his homily. “I beg your forgiveness, too, for the sins of omission on the part of Church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse.”

“Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God”

He said abusive priests’ actions “profane the very image of God” and are “more than despicable.”

“It is like a sacrilegious cult, because these boys and girls had been entrusted to the priestly charism in order to be brought to God,” the pontiff added.

Francis strongly praised the victims’ courage in speaking up and shedding “light on a terrible darkness,” telling the mass he is deeply aware of their deep and unrelenting pain.

“Sins of clerical sexual abuse against minors have a toxic effect on faith and hope in God,” he said, adding that the victims’ willingness to come to the Vatican “speaks of the miracle of hope, which prevails against the deepest darkness.”

The pope gave his strongest response yet, saying “sexual abuse is such an ugly crime … it is like a satanic mass”, and calling for “zero tolerance” for anyone in the Church who abused children, including bishops.

The pope then met privately with the victims, spending at least half an hour with each. While Francis’ predecessor met with abuse victims several times during his pontificate, this was the first time a pope had received victims inside the Vatican.

The meeting was first announced by the pope on his flight back from a visit to the Holy Land, when Francis noted called child sex abuse “very serious” and “like celebrating a satanic mass.”

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi defended the pope, saying critics don’t understand the pontiff’s “positive intentions.”

“If you look at the time the pope dedicated to them, and their emotional reaction, it’s clear this was not a public relations event. It was a profound encounter between a pastor and a person he loves and tries to understand deeply,” Lombardi said. “I witnessed the profound gratitude they expressed to the Holy Father for the chance he gave them to speak about their experience.”

Since his election last year, the pope has pledged that the Vatican – accused of not doing enough to bring abusers to justice and to protect victims – will introduce a “zero tolerance” policy against crimes against children of a sexual nature.

At the end of 2013, he overhauled Vatican law and broadened the definition on child abuse to include sexual acts with children, child prostitution and child pornography, making them punishable by up to 12 years in prison.

Shortly after, he set up a panel of experts to advise him on ways to better tackle the widespread problem. Among them, the Irish abuse victim Marie Collins, and U.S. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, who has a lengthy track record of cleaning up dioceses shattered by child sex abuse.

He reiterated his pledge to stamp out the scourge on Monday, saying that all bishops must carry out their ministry with “the utmost care” to protect minors.

“They will be held accountable,” he added.

Letter from a Survivor of Clergy Sexual Abuse

March 30, 2009

Dear Matt,

Thank you so much for your words of encouragement, and for the beautiful crucifix. The crucifix is just the right size to fit in the palm of my hand and that’s how I fall asleep at night, holding on tight to it.

And, congratulations on your (new) daughter. I didn’t even know you were expecting a baby. It warms my heart to know that your new baby girl has parents who will not only love and provide for her, but will also teach her the things she needs to know to keep herself safe from sexual predators.

You truly are a leader and a warrior in God’s army. I saw that in the first VOTF meeting I attended. Keeping kids safe from sexual predators is a fight, but it’s a GOOD fight! As in 1 Tim 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith!”

When I am well again (Ed: this person suffers from debilitating, chronic, clinical depression, and this often causes absences for periods time) I will be rejoining in that fight. My depression is just part of the collateral damage of what was done to me as a kid. But, I’ll come out of it. I always do.

Finally, I want to thank you for keeping keeping me in your prayers. That means MORE to me than you know. In my state of mind, it is REALLY hard to pray, so to know that you have me “covered” in prayer really helps.

All the best to your wife and your precious baby girl. And know that when I CAN pray, I’ll be keeping you in the MY prayers.

In His Love,
(A Survivor of Clergy Sexual Abuse)

Jan 22 – Bl Laura Vicuna, (1891-1904), Martyr, Patronness Against Incest & Sexual Abuse


Laura was the first child born on April 5, 1891 to Senora Mercedes Pino and Jose Domingo Vicuna, a soldier who belonged to a noble Chilean family. A civil war broke out and Senor Vicuna had to flee his country. A few days after the birth of the second child Julia Amanda, Senor Vicuna, worn out physically and mentally, died, leaving his wife and children alone.

Seeing that she could not survive, Mercedes decided to leave the country.  She finally found work at a large “hacienda” owned by Senor Manuel Mora.  He was a typical Argentine “gaucho”, a dreamy Latin lover and a shady character.  Senora Mercedes let herself be won over by his promises of help, and accepted his protection.  His financial support would allow her to enroll her two girls as pupils in the Salesian Sisters’ school in Junin, but at what price!Laura was very happy living under the serene guidance of the young missionary Sisters.  She discovered God, His love, and allowed herself to be surrounded by it.  God’s love stimulated her to love in return.  Thus Laura made herself all to all, helping them in any way she could.  She was a leader and everyone’s friend.Laura accepted God’s love.  Laura was fascinated by the ideal of the Sisters and secretly hoped to consecrate herself to God in the service of her brothers and sisters. “I wish Mamma would know you better and be happy”, she often prayed before the tabernacle.Laura was distressed about her mother’s situation with Senor Mora; her mother was indeed far away from God and Senor Mora was the cause.The struggle for living and providing for her daughters had wearied her. In a moment of stress and discouragement, she had given in to his sexual demands.Twice, while home from school, Mora had beaten Laura.  She had fend off his sexual advances toward her, too. Once Mora caught her and beat her unconscious.  She was finally forced to flee the house to avoid him.  She was only just over ten.  He stopped paying for her school, but the Salesian sisters stepped in and gave her a scholarship.  Laura would do her best to give her mamma God’s friendship once again.Love is stronger than death, love creates and maintains life.  Deeply believing this, Laura said to the Lord: “I offer you my life for that of my mother”.

The winter of 1903 at Junin was extremely severe, with persistent rain and dampness. Laura became weaker with each passing day; she was wasting away with pulmonary tuberculosis. Although her mother took her home to Quilquihue where the climate was more pleasant and helpful, there was no improvement in her health.Laura knew she would not recover.  God had accepted her offering-her self-immolation.  Senora Mercedes remained day and night at her bedside, surrounding her with every care and attention.  Laura kept looking at her tenderly.  Now it was time to reveal her secret. “Mamma, I’m dying, but I’m happy to offer my life for you. I asked Our Lord for this”. Senora Mercedes was appalled.  She fell on her knees sobbing.  She understood everything in a flash. “Laura, my daughter, please forgive me…O dear God, please forgive my life of sin… Yes, I will start again.”

Blessed Laura Vicuna 1
“Suffer silently, and smile always!” –Bl Laura Vicuna

Blessed Laura Vicuna, pray for us.
Pray for those most abandoned and alone.
Pray especially for those children who are victims of sexual abuse, violence, and neglect.
Pray for those survivors who continue to suffer and mourn.  Amen.


St Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!

Cuzco School St Joseph

-Cuzco School, Peru, “Saint Joseph and the Christ Child”, late 17th-18th century. Oil on canvas, 43 x 32 1/8in. (109.2 x 81.6cm), Brooklyn Museum

In the Litany of St Joseph, one the titles of honor given to him is Terror of Demons.  Due to his unshakeable faith, his assiduous perseverance, his admirable purity and his exceptional humility, and given the nobility and grandeur of his vocation – the protection, sustenance and care of the Blessed Mother and Our Lord Jesus Christ, as head of the Holy Family – we can expect that God also endowed him with an equally proportional grace to carry out such a lofty mission in life. And certainly we can picture him as a sublime icon of manliness and a pillar of strength that would sow terrible fear among the powers of darkness given his noble task.  Would God allow/accept anything less for the earthly foster-father of His Son?

In Catholic iconography, St Joseph is pictured holding a staff from which a white lily grows.  This is due to Catholic hagiography which states from reliable, albeit non-scriptural, sources near to the period, when the holy priest Simeon gathered all the young men of Jerusalem from the house of David at the temple to choose who would be the rightful spouse of Our Lady, he was inspired by God to give each man a dry rod. After a period of prayer asking for the manifestation of the Divine Will, pure white lilies – the symbol of purity – blossomed from St. Joseph’s staff and a white dove, most pure and brilliant, hovered over his head giving Simeon the sign that he was the chosen one.

Hence, St. Joseph is the epitome of a pure man: pure in thought, pure in heart; pure in body and soul – destined to be the most chaste spouse of Mary Most Holy conceived without sin. In face of such sublime purity and holiness, it would not be farfetched to believe that the ugly, filthy infernal spirits would cower in petrified fear in his presence.

I have a special intention I am entrusting to St Joseph, in addition to so much I have already entrusted to him.  Pray for me!  St Joseph, Terror of Demons, pray for us!


Catholic denial – 9/18/09


-The Denial of Saint Peter, by Caravaggio, circa 1610, oil on canvas
H: 94 cm (37 in) x W: 125.4 cm (49.4 in), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

When I joined Voice of the Faithful two years ago, I did so with trepidation, for a number of reasons.  What followed was an in depth, profound, overwhelming and disturbing education in the subject of pedophilia and pederasty.

I drank information from the fire hose in emails, new articles, and more recently, published works and media.  I have met and talked intimately with countless survivors, befriended many, attended conferences, listened to expert speakers on the topic, participated in protests and “actions” drawing attention to the matter, and watched trials, heard heart ripping victim impact statements, and the sentencing of dissociated, unrepentant perpetrators.  I have written to one priest in jail offering the kindness of correspondence, a breviary, or rosary.  I never heard back.

This work is not for everyone.  If someone asked me today about joining VOTF, I would respond to them, “How strong is your faith?  No, REALLY, how STRONG is your FAITH!?”

It has been and continues to be an education I never wanted and still do not wish I had or wish to continue receiving.  But, I have grown in my awareness and knowledge of how this crime is perpetrated, what the danger signs are, what the effect on the victim is and what it takes to survive this horrific betrayal and violation of trust, and how long that can take to come to terms with so much, and never fully.  I want Mara, our future children, God willing, and every other child to grow up in a safer world and Church.  That is why I do it.  Jesus will ask me, in my particular judgment, I am absolutely convinced, what I did about this, and I am intent on having the best answer I can.

Witnessing the psychology of my fellow lay Catholics during this period of my education in this sin has been equally troubling and profound.  “Isn’t that over?  Isn’t that somebody else’s problem?  What does that have to do with me?  I didn’t do anything?  You’re a troublemaker!  You hate the Church!  We don’t want your kind in ministry!  How can you call yourself a Catholic?  Those people just want money!  Don’t ruin my Sunday happy time/place!” and so on.

Everyone I know in Voice of the Faithful were/are some of the most dedicated, passionate Catholics you could hope to find.  Every VOTF member held every title in the Church you can think of, yes, even bishop.  But, as well, now every member of VOTF bears another title even before their prior ministerial one, “former”, and rarely by their own choice.  It is an odd and ironic feeling I have during the Prayers of the Faithful when as a Christian community we pray for the downtrodden, the maligned, those in misery, those treated unjustly, the unfortunate, and I think to myself, “Hey, I just left them an hour ago!”, and it usually was the official church, laity or ordained, who did the mistreatment?  What Twilight Zone have I wandered into now?  And, Fr. Rod Serling just gave the homily.

Every one of the victims was sure the Church would “do the right thing” when they shared their pain.  They were, instead, victimized all over again.  A friend of mine, Rick, a survivor, showed me the window of the room in rectory where it happened when he was a child, one day when we were driving by.  He wasn’t even Catholic to begin with.  He was a Lutheran boy, but got so excited about the beauty of the Mass, he believed it all had to be true.  Rick is an old man now and not in good health.  He drives a cab.  Rick will die in his cab, I am sure.  He is a hero and a friend of mine.  I am so blessed.  This is not a Catholic problem.  It is a human sin.

I have heard so many rationalizations in hopes of not having to deal with the truth of it all from my fellow Catholics, I could not number them for you.  I have heard the equivalent of the below many times before.  Recently, another hero of mine, Deacon T, put what he heard in an email.  I get THE BEST emails!:

“A meeting of the deacons of the Archdiocese of Chicago was held Sept 9th.  Mostly a non-event as most of the meetings are with a set agenda. It was devoted mainly to the new evangelization effort in the Archdiocese called Catholics Come Home.

At the end of Bishop Rs’ remarks he opened to questions. Benign questions from the deacons. As the last question to him I asked, “Since we deacons received, in our email boxes, copies of talking points regarding the Bishop G’s deposition, and the recent law suit alleging racial discrimination against black abuse victims, should we expect more letters from Rev. C on sex abuse matters?”

The question seemed to catch him flat footed and he paused for quite some time. He said the letters were to counter the media coverage of these events  and to clarify the truth on the issues. He didn’t elaborate beyond that. I  didn’t think it appropriate to debate fallacies in the letters with him in  that forum.

However, as the meeting concluded, Deacon J, the vicariate king deacon, commented on the Catholics Come Home program. He said we must not be afraid of tough questions from lapsed Catholics who come forward. He specifically expounded on  divorce/annulment issues. Then he spoke about clerical sex abuse. He teared up  when he said he himself was abused when he was 7 by a coach. He then expounded  on how to deal with angry Catholics’ questions about abuse:

  • He said the incidence of abuse by Protestants is a higher % than by priests (projection).
  • He said how horribly painful it was for priests who are wrongly accused (reverse effect).
  • He said the reason people level allegations against the Church is because the Church has so much money (plausible ulterior motive).
  • He said many people come forward are not abused and implied they do it for the money (people are dishonest).

This could not go unchallenged.  As the meeting closed I went to him privately and expressed sympathy for the abuse he suffered. I asked if his statements to the group are the answers we should give to questioning Catholics. I said we look like fools if we say the Protestants are worse than we are. I said that dog doesn’t hunt.

He pointed out (like reading from the talking points) about how much more we know now than we did in the 60’s,  70’s… I mentioned all that went out the window with the McCormack matter. At  this point he was visibly shaken, though honestly this wasn’t my intent. I  mentioned to him my personal and diaconal experiences in sex abuse matters in  Tulsa, Ft. Worth and here in Chicago and said things  haven’t changed that much.

He said there were “mistakes  made”. I reminded him (though I’m not sure he knew) that man over there, pointing to Bishop R, who was still in the room, withheld information from the Cardinal that would have prevented further abuse, according the Cardinal’s own testimony, “I was not aware.” The people are angry with the hierarchy.  At that point he turned to others who were waiting to talk with him, and I don’t know if they heard what we were saying.

Net-net, deacons are in denial or unwilling to confront what they know is wrong. They are uninformed to any depth on this subject and are not challenged to learn the complete truth.  Bishop R doesn’t want to talk about it.

As I walked out I went to Bishop R and introduced myself and reminded him I’ll be seeing him again on 9/20 at the St. Thomas Becket 40th anniversary Mass, where I’ll be his deacon of the Mass.”

May God have mercy on us all!  Our Lady of Sorrows, come to our aid!


Forgiveness & reconciliation…

I remember, as a child, when my mother proposed to me the concept that “there is no sin that God cannot forgive”, following her around the house the rest of the day trying to think up the most horrific sins as a child I could imagine.  My mother’s constant, identical answer, a credit to the her own faith and constancy, was always, “Nope.  He can forgive that one, too.”  I could not find a crack.
  • Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is interior, taking place in the heart of the one who forgives. Reconciliation, the ultimate goal toward which forgiveness tends, is a two-way street. Entrusted with the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18), we are called to reconcile with those willing to be reconciled with us. However, if the offender is unrepentant, God requires only that we forgive him or her interiorly. I believe that is why Jesus, who bestowed forgiveness directly upon repentant sinners (such as the “woman of the city” in Luke 7:48), forgave his murderers only indirectly. Instead of saying, “Your sins are forgiven,” he said, “Father, forgive them” (Lk 23:34). When the one who abused us continues to behave abusively, this intercessory prayer of Jesus—an outward expression of his interior forgiveness—becomes our model for fulfilling his commandment to forgive. 
  • Forgiveness means letting go of resentment. We have seen that God permits evil only so that he may bring about a greater good (CCC 412). The greatest good possible is that we grow in grace. When we hold onto resentment toward the person who hurt us, we impede grace. Instead of being like Jesus’ disciples, who gave up everything to follow him heavenward, we become like the rich young man of Matthew 19. He could have been another St. John, “the disciple Jesus loved,” for Jesus looked upon him and “loved him.” Instead, the young man “went away sorrowing” because he was unable to let go of the things that tied him to the earth. 
  • Forgiveness does not mean forgoing the demands of justice. It means wanting God’s best for that person. Where there is a crime, God’s best can mean, in the words of Mark Shea, “releasing the evildoer into the hands of God’s mercy even as you finger him to the cops.” St. Maria Goretti, as she lay dying, both forgave her attacker and answered the police’s questions so he could be prosecuted. Both actions sprang from the same desire for her attacker’s good and the good of others. God’s best also means not letting the offender continue to offend. If another is abusive, we fulfill God’s commandments by only having such contact with him or her as is safe. 
  • Forgiveness means praying for the offender. This falls under the commandment to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:44). When the mere thought of an abuser stirs up painful memories, it can be a particularly difficult commandment to follow. A Sister of Life gave me some helpful advice: Ask Mary to place the offender within her Immaculate Heart; then, pray often for Mary’s intentions. Prayer is vital to forgiveness because it connects you with the “circulatory system” of the Mystical Body of Christ—the graces that flow from its Head to its members. The more you pray for your abuser, the more healing you will receive. This leads to the most important point: 
  • Forgiveness is not within our own power. It is in God’s power. Alexander Pope had it right: to err is human; to forgive, divine. In the Mass, when the bread and wine become, through transubstantiation, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, it is not by the priest’s own power, but by the power of Christ acting through him. So too, when we pray for those who have offended us, we transform the detritus of evil into a seedbed of goodness—not by our own power, but by the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us. The Catechism says that the effect of praying for our offender is so spiritually potent that it purifies our memory: “It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession” (CCC 2842, 2843). 
All this is not to say that forgiveness is without pain. Union with Christ demands interior martyrdom (2 Cor 4:11). But we’re in good company. The Catechism says our acts of forgiveness connect us with all the saints who gave their lives for the faith: “Forgiveness . . . bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus” (CCC 2844).”
-Eden, Dawn (2012-05-12). My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints (p. 92-94). Ingram Distribution. Kindle Edition.

UPDATED: “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds With the Help of the Saints” by Dawn Eden (Goldstein), Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame, IN, © 2012


I am reading the above book – surprise.  Powerful.  Profound.  Truthful. Wrenching.  Joyful.  Hopeful.  Haunting.

Dawn Eden, raised Jewish, describes how in her own journey the lives of the saints have given her hope and aided her spiritual healing after childhood sexual abuse. According to the CDC, one in four American women and one in six American men report having been sexually abused during childhood.  “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints” is a wonderful resource.  Dawn is studying for her doctorate in theology at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC.  The world is a small place.  This book provides a much-needed resource for spiritual healing from the isolating effects of these wounds. Dawn gives an excellent account of the understanding of Christian suffering.

In my too rare and too few privileged moments with survivors of clergy sexual abuse, I have struggled to come to terms with their personal tragedy and the continuing communal tragedy within the Church.  I realize I will never understand their suffering in the way they do.  They lived and live it.

Pope Benedict XVI in his “Letter to the Catholics of Ireland”, 3/19/10, stated “…(we) have obscured the light of Gospel to a degree not even centuries of persecution have succeeded in doing.”  How true.  We continue to do so.  Kyrie Eleison.

“This failure to protect a child’s innocence reverberates throughout a victim’s entire life. In my knowledge, a victim of sexual abuse often struggles, even as an adult, to conquer the relentless temptations of self-condemnation.”
-Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, S.V., Sisters of Life, Psychololgist & Author of the Forward for the book. Christe Eleison.

Dawn writes, truly, “I share the anger and grief (ed: and outrage and shame and humiliation and disorientation and profound, painful doubts & fresh disillusionment, cynicism budding anew, the deceptive whispers of the Enemy) of my fellow Catholics over those who have betrayed their sacred office.”  Just like Judas, with a “kiss”, betraying the Body of Christ.

I found Dawn’s reflections on St Ignatius of Loyola particularly poignant. Anyone familiar with Jesuit spirituality will have encountered the Suscipe.

“Suscipe, Domine, universam meam libertatem. Accipe memoriam, intellectum, atque voluntatem omnem. Quidquid habeo vel possideo mihi largitus es; id tibi totum restituo, ac tuae prorsus voluntati trado gubernandum. Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis, nec aliud Quidquam ultra posco.  Amen.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will. All I have and call my own, You have given to me; to you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only Your love and your grace. That is enough for me.”

In her book, Dawn poses the “taking of one’s memory” not as a surrender of something good and valuable as a sacrifice or oblation, but, rather, the taking of memory by God as a balm, a salve, a healing compassion for those who have suffered trauma.

And of St Sebastian, Dawn writes, “Artists typically depict him shot through with arrows. The image is deceptive, for the assault on him by the Emperor Diocletian’s archers is not the most interesting part of his story. The most interesting part is that he survived.”

Dawn does an excellent job of comparing the stigmata, even “invisible stigmata”, experienced by some of the saints to the ongoing trauma suffered by survivors of childhood sexual abuse at their most vulnerable and innocent stage of life.  Heart of Jesus, be the comfort of those afflicted and suffering.  Kyrie Eleison.

I highly recommend this book.  Please pray for those who have suffered, do suffer, and will suffer.  Be there for them.  Believe them.

As “eloquent icons of innocence”, as so described by the Fathers of the Early Church, and recall Heaven can see all our actions through eyes of an icon, “maxima debetur puero reverentia”. (Mt 19:14/Mk 10:14)

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
-Frederick Douglas

“God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with.”
-Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 39, quoting the ancient maxim.

Awardee, John Paul the Great Scholarship, (not normally given to 1st yr graduate students!) Ave Maria University.

UPDATE: 5/8/17

Very Rev. Douglas L. Mosey, C.S.B., Ph.D., President and Rector of Holy Apostles College & Seminary, and the entire Holy Apostles community are pleased to welcome Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein to the On Campus faculty in the Fall of 2017 as an Assistant Professor of Dogmatic Theology. She joins Holy Apostles from St. Mary’s College, Oscott, the seminary of the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, where she currently serves as a resident lecturer in Dogmatic Theology. Dr. Goldstein’s teaching credentials include having taught at Allen Hall in London, which is the seminary of the Archdiocese of Westminster, and at Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England. Last year, she served as a featured lecturer for the John Paul II Forum Summer Workshop.

Dr. Goldstein received her Doctorate in Sacred Theology, Summa Cum Laude, from the University of St. Mary of the Lake. She holds the distinction of being the first woman ever to be awarded that degree from St. Mary’s. She holds her STL, Magna Cum Laude, from the Pontifical Institute of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies.

Additionally, Dr. Goldstein is a noted author under the name Dawn Eden. Her works include Remembering God’s Mercy: Redeem the Past and Free Yourself from Painful Memories, My Peace I Give You, and The Thrill of the Chaste. She has also written articles for the New York Times, L’Osservatore Romano, and many other publications.

The Holy Apostles College & Seminary community is proud to have Dr. Goldstein join our Mission to Cultivate Catholic Leaders for Evangelization.