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Pope aplogizes to victims

The Pope was recently in London to apologize to five people who were molested by priests as children. The article “Pope Benedict meets in London with 5 victims of priest abuseby Nicole Winfield and Victor Simpson (AP) 9/19/10, says it is his latest effort to defuse the sex abuse crisis shaking his church. It says thousands were angered by the Pope’s response.  I italicized the word sex for a reason.  Our language needs transforming on the issue of sexual violence. All sexual violence is not sex.  Sex is only between two consenting adults.  We need to rename ’sex crimes’ to something like sexual violence.  The priests are guilty of sexual violence.  Period. Sex has nothing to do with it.  Let’s use truer language.  I write about this more in my book.  Andrew Vachss also address this language issue.

I want to talk about the apology.  I suppose it is nice that he is apologizing, but what good does that do without a planned course of action to transform his church?  Financial settlements might feel good for the survivors, but no amount of money can heal their hearts and brains where the damage resides.  Their hearts need shepherded to healing.  What an amazing thing it would be if the Catholic Church would start to learn how to care for these people.  There is no one perfect thing to start with, but start somewhere and let it grow and expand.  Some ideas might be to:

  • Bring in a well qualified consultant to meet with a given church and have question/answer/discussion sessions with the church staff.  The staff need not see themselves as qualified or available for more than they would in any traumatic event.  To nurture an openness to what they do not know would be a great asset to begin developing safety of the topic of Sexual Violence.  This would be wonderful.  If someone then feels led to start reading and learning that would be great.
  • Develop resources for the survivors.  There are usually community resources to refer them to for help.   An individual church can decide what it can and cannot give to survivors.  However, the topic cannot no longer be avoided as a needed ministry and resource station for the survivors.  Probably more than 50% of the congregation are survivors, not just from priests.
  • Having a support group at the church would be amazing.  This would need to be led by a qualified person.
  • Bring in teachers/speakers who are qualified to speak directly to this topic.  Education for both church leadership and the congregation can go a long way.
  • Learn to have new atitudes of compassion toward survivors instead of things like judging and ignoring.

Well, anyway these are just some ideas. I also write more about what faith community leadership can do to bring the issue of sexual violence safely into their congregations ( in my book Redeem The Silence; an Unintended Journey). There could well be many more ideas too.  The point is to just begin.  Right now the church seems to just want it to go away.  Be aware, it will not.  Apologies alone do not cut it.

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