by Jennifer Wortham, Dr.PH. Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
This is a book about healing after sexual abuse! It is a moving account of clergy child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It is the story about what happened to the family of Jennifer, who were all victims of the Church’s betrayal. It explains why Jennifer left the Church after learning about my brothers having been abused by a priest. But it is also a story about the power of forgiveness and renewed faith, and my hope for the future of the Church.
The story unfolds in the fall of 1993, when the family sadly discovered that the parish priest sexually abused both of my brothers when they were young boys. Learning about the abuse and the events that followed the reporting of these crimes destroyed the family. The two brothers were deeply traumatized by their experiences, and they have suffered from the effects of their abuse throughout their lives. When the family learned the betrayal of the priest, the mother and the author left the Church. The grandparents, who were deeply devout Catholics never forgave themselves for bringing the priest into the home. Unfortunately, child abuse does not end with one generation. The two brother’s children have also suffered as they have watched their fathers struggle, leaving a legacy of emotional baggage that will likely haunt the family for generations to come.
According to the World Health Organization, sexual abuse is a serious global health problem, that impacts children around the world. Although the Catholic Church is currently under intense scrutiny for how it has handled reports of clergy sexual abuse in the past, this is not just a Catholic issue. The sexual abuse of children occurs in schools, day care centers, and other locations where predators have access to children. Tragically over a third of all child sexual abuse happens in the child’s home. After speaking to the administration in the United States and Abroad. They have a legion of dedicated volunteers, staff and consultants representing all aspects of the problem who are working diligently to ensure the safety of all children and vulnerable adults in their care. There is still more work that must be done. Many victims and their families, are still suffering, to heal we need greater recognition of the deep spiritual wounds we have experienced and ongoing support from the leadership of the Church, local clergy and the community of the faithful to assist us with spiritual healing and reconciliation. For those of us who are seeking help for our family members who have been so profoundly traumatized we need access to comprehensive long-term treatment programs and services to help them heal.
The author wrote a lengthy letter to the Pope. She shared the fact that she wants to help others discover the grace of Mercy and the blessings of forgiveness that is the legacy of our Lord Jesus Christ. She believes it is committing her heart and soul to His service. She asked the Pope to dedicate a Mass and declare April 8th each year as a day if reconciliation to raise awareness and funding to help those who are suffering. On this day, the author asked people of all faiths, from all nations, to pray for the children who have been victimized by those entrusted to care for them. She would begin a petition to governments the world over to take action to end child marriages, prevent the trafficking of children, and to help end violence against them. Finally, the author would asked all the priests in our Church to pray that the Holy Spirit touches the hearts of these victims, so that they may forgive those who have transgressed against them and finally find peace.
Forgiveness is the intentional and willful process by which one lets go of negative emotions such as anger or resentment against someone who caused them harm. The process of forgiveness may also involve restoring goodwill between the affected parties, and viewing the wrong does with understanding and compassion. Ultimate forgiveness is the gift of releasing the need for vengeance. The acts of both giving and receiving forgiveness are powerful forces that enable one to deepen their relationship with Christ.
The author has served as a healthcare executive and consultant for over 30 years. She has worked with several world-class hospitals and health care delivery systems including the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2018, Jennifer founded the Solace Institute to promote peace and reconciliation for survivors of abuse.