Pope Francis wants seminarians to read this letter from a clerical abuse survivor
Pope Francis at the general audience of Oct. 20, 2021, at the Paul VI audience hall. VATICAN MEDIA
By Hannah Brockhaus
Catholic News Agency
October 22, 2021
VATICAN— Pope Francis has shared a letter written by a clerical sexual abuse survivor with candidates preparing for the Catholic priesthood.
“For years I was mistreated by a priest who I should have called ‘little brother,’ and I was his ‘little sister,'” the letter writer said. “If we want to live the truth, we cannot close our eyes!”
Addressing priests, the abuse survivor wrote: “Please realize that you have received a huge gift. The gift of being an ‘alter Christus,’ of being the incarnation of Christ here in the world. People, and especially children, do not see a person in you, but Christ Jesus, in whom they trust without limits.”
“It is something HUGE and STRONG, but also very FRAGILE and VULNERABLE. PLEASE BE A GOOD PRIEST!” she said.
The letter, with the survivor’s name removed, was published on the website of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCPM) on Oct. 18.
In a brief introduction to the letter, PCPM president Cardinal Seán O’Malley said that “in this time of renewal and pastoral conversion, when the Church faces the scandal and wounds of sexual abuse inflicted on so many of God’s children everywhere, our Holy Father has received a courageous witness offered to all priests by a survivor.”
By sharing this testimony from a victim of abuse, he continued, Pope Francis “wants to welcome the voice of all wounded people and show all priests who announce the Gospel the way that leads to authentic service of God for the benefit of all the vulnerable.”
The abuse victim wrote that she was sharing her story because she would like to see “loving truth” win out.
She said that she spoke in the name of victims, “of children who have been deeply hurt, who have had their childhood, purity, and respect stolen from them… who were betrayed and had their boundless trust taken advantage of… the children whose hearts beat, who breathe, live, but were killed once (twice, more times)… their souls made into little bloody pieces.”
“I am here because the Church is my Mother and it hurts me so much when she is hurt, when she is dirty,” the survivor said.
She wrote that adults who experienced this kind of hypocrisy in the Catholic Church as children can never erase it. They may try to forget and live a full life, but the scars remain.
The author of the letter described some of her experiences after being sexually abused by a priest. She said that she has dissociative identity disorder, severe complex post-traumatic disorder, depression, and anxiety. She added that she has difficulty sleeping and when she does, she has nightmares.
She also said that she has out-of-body experiences in which she loses awareness of the reality around her, that her body remembers experiencing the abuse, and that she is afraid to be near priests.
“I haven’t been able to go to Holy Mass lately. It hurts me a lot… Church, that sacred space, was my second home… and he took it away from me. I have a great desire to feel safe in church, to be able to not be afraid, but my body, emotions react in a completely different way,” she wrote.
She asked priests and seminarians “to protect the Church, the body of Christ.”
“God has called you to be his instrument among men. You have a GREAT RESPONSIBILITY! A responsibility that is not a burden, but a GIFT! Please treat it according to the example of Jesus… with HUMILITY and LOVE!” she urged.
The woman said that problems cannot be swept under the carpet and left to smell and rot. Hiding these facts makes one a cooperator, she underlined.
“Living in the truth is living according to Jesus, seeing things through his eyes,” she said. “And he did not close his eyes before sin, before sin and the sinner, but lived the TRUTH with LOVE… With the loving truth, he revealed the sin and the sinner.”
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