Three Survivors of Clergy Abuse share their thoughts below.
Please respect their perspective and their point of view, it may be unique from your own. Appreciate their courage and willingness to share their voice so others, and our Church as a whole, may learn and grow from the abuse imposed upon them.
by Mike Hoffman
Healing from clergy sexual abuse has been a difficult road. Its been a journey filled with much fear, anxiety, tears, and uncertainties. The journey which began a few years ago for me was when I openly shared my story. I was afraid, nervous, unsure of the outcome, and definitely unable to feel I could truly trust anyone with this deep, dark secret. The relief after sharing my story was a reward, however, I then needed to continue to move forward on this journey they call, Healing. It wasn't and isn't an easy process, and still can be a struggle, a whirlwind of feelings that can go from fear to trust, from tears to joy and surely filled with much depression. Yet, again, with the
wonderful support I have found from the victim assistance coordinator at the archdiocese, sensitive, empathetic clergy, as well as friends I've met on this Healing journey and my therapist, I seldom, feel the loneliness that has overpowered me for many years.
The healing process helps me move forward from being a victim for so long, now moving into the state of being a survivor. The truth is, it still can be overwhelming on many days. The transition from one to the other is work, dedication, teaching yourself strategies to cope with triggers, nightmares, and relationships. The struggle is real. The struggle is difficult. And though I was abused by the clergy, my faith remains strong. My faith, knowing that God is and was always at my side is comforting. I questioned his presence often while the abuse was happening, I, now firmly trust that He too was sad over the evil that he was witnessing. And God, as well as the support that he's
put on my path, the good people, I've gained along this painful journey will continue to guide me into true, deep healing. A healing to share my pain, my fear, my sadness, into the joy of helping others on their journey. And when that time happens, I pray that my empathy, love, and my experience of my pain can be inspiration of hope to them as others have been for me.
An often-quoted text from Matthew’s gospel is “for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.” This quote speaks to the intimate relationship with God, our father. We praise God because Jesus revealed himself and in doing that includes us in the mystery of love. As a survivor of child sexual abuse by a roman cleric, life is difficult. The healing comes from God, but cannot always be revealed.
The years pass and we pray for wisdom. We hear our suffering is more dangerous to our faith community than a pandemic. We pray for healing and reconciliation within a structure that accountability seems paralyzing or impossible.
Being surrounded by the “wise and the learned”, in committees truly seeking the joy and healing of God’s love, I am not asking for healing, but pray with God’s grace revealing it
What is the sound of one hand clapping? This question reminds me of the experience of clergy abuse. A silent scream, echoing in sacristies and confessionals, conference rooms where review boards meet, in and out of the pillars of outstretched the arms of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Healing from clergy abuse for me looks like a deep spring cleaning, where we turn on the lights and open the windows and recover those testimonies and images of children and vulnerable adults, torn and raped and weeping…we release their voices and wailings and pleas for help.
Healing for me will happen when you see me when I count when I matter and when I am included in a movement of reform. Then my child within will regain her form. She will exist in your world and in the eyes of God. Until then, she is like the sound of one hand clapping.
Eileen Mathy is a lifelong member of St. Patrick Church in Urbana, Illinois. She is a licensed clinical social worker, abuse survivor, and fervent advocate for church reform.