Restoring Sanctuary

by T. Pitt Green

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.



The author of this book, T. Pitt Green, has a difficult entrance into adult life. He was abused as an altar boy for over 1o years. In the matter of predator priests, the bishops defined evil and its impact in human terms. That made evil subject to their control. It is difficult to grasp the power of evil. Even harder is to surrender to dependence on God in confronting it. Leaders and those who kept following them lost sight of following Christ. Now many stumble in disbelief, like the person who could not believe Green forgave his mother. He left the Catholic Church many times. Returning regularly, he grappled ever more deeply with the bald fact that predator priests destroyed his childhood. Their cruelty and lies left lifelong wounds, which were gouged deeper and reopened often by words uttered by people who confused holy orders with holiness. To heal, Green was compelled to define a line between perverted sanctity and holiness, which had looked the same in his childhood. Catholics all around him were still confused. There was only one place to start: with priests. A therapist once told him that healing is excavation. His idea of digging did not include his return to the sanctuary to shake sacred gems from rubble and rust. He returned to the church because he longed for the Eucharist. He longed for the Eucharist because there was nowhere else to go. His return was surrender to identity. The final outcome was all in the numbers.


What Green remembered from Catholic school was learning that priests were crucified by the era in which they lived. The wound inflicted on this priest and every priest was the other side of his pain, the other side of the same coin, at the nexus at which evil struck, where the holiness of priests touches the innocence of Children. Green points out that sanctuary has been harmed. Here among the rust and rubble, and here and only here is where healing must begin. Year later Green found something particularly fascinating. The mental health profession denounced social stigma against the mentally ill and yet they contributed to the problem. They were the experts. It was they who, early on, stood by as the authority of their science was used as a filter to blur the bright-line distinction between the demented and the devil. The problem worsened when people listened and believed them. That is when even more children began to suffer the crime from which any effort they made to escape had been undermined by the doubt about their witness the authorities had created scientifically.


Green was praying for his abusers to carry the paint they created in him. It was a long time before he admitted that even after they might repent and convert and arise brokenhearted in love with God, his lost childhood would never be regained. Repentance cannot undo the sin. Reparations cannot buy restoration. The past would not be regained by him, ever. It would be longer still before he was courageous enough to accept the difficult terms of God’s healing power. Hearing the undeserved cross off my shoulder would not be the staff of life or freedom or joy. The way to stop talking nonsense is to know the truth about the problem. Sexual abuse of children is violence by sexual means by predators who seek to dominate another person by destroying their spirit. We have seen the power of this appetite. Pedophiles do not stop, they move. Children remain at risk no matter how successful we are at driving predators out of the priesthood. As Catholics, we are committed to social justice. Our witness of this evil cannot end in another bout of complacency or be distracted by tangential ideas about fixing priests. What have we been told? We have been told to be vigilant. There’s your call to action. Witness truth guided against its opposite.