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I am writing this from the low country of South Carolina. A break needed to assess where I am and where I am going. I am also working on a project that I will keep under wraps for the time being. The first steps are proving to be very challenging.
After the post from July where I asked the question “What is it going to take?” I did not hear crickets, but I also did not hear a lot of consensus. Most of the comments were via email to this blog and, as a rule, I don’t publish the contents of email unless I have the permission of the correspondent.
I keep coming back to the same basic conclusion. We, the community of survivors, don’t trust each other. I am sure someone with a lot more education in psychology can explain all this. In fact, I would love to hear the explanation.
What I have discovered is that there are divisions within the community that baffle me. There seems to be a concern that someone’s abuse is more important, more devastating, more valid than another.
There is no criteria to determine who is a survivor and who is not. There is no experience barometer to determine who had it “bad enough” to be in the “club”. I almost hesitate to say the word “community” anymore. I really don’t think there is one. There is no network, there is no organization because we cannot come to a definition of who can be considered a survivor. And that serves the interests of the predators and the institutions that have protected them.
It is not a competition. It is a very destructive game of “I had it worse than you”. Can’t we agree that is awful, devastating, damaging and life altering? It is completely confusing to me that the people who should have the most empathy for survivors are other survivors. And yet, that is where I find the most intensely judgmental collection of individuals who are often very vocal when anyone offers an opinion other contrary to the “norm”.
If this is the game, I don’t want to play anymore. I have better things to do than sit around comparing stories of abuse and the levels of devastation caused by that abuse. I will leave that sorting to someone else.
It is not all SNAP’s fault either. We can wax poetic about how screwed up an organization, any organization may be. We can waste our time affixing blame. Or we can get organized, concentrate on the predators and the institutions that protect them and move forward. At some point this has to stop being about individuals and it has to start being about something greater.
If we are to have that kind of community of survivors, we must not sit in judgement of each other, we must work together to change the environment that has allowed predators to target children and vulnerable adults. If we cannot do that, we have already failed.
It seems that what it is going to take is empathy for each other. Once we have that we can start to be more organized and focused on changing the conditions that allow an environment for abuse and criminal conspiracies to protect predators to exist.
I wrote a blog post in February, 2013 titled “Is there a Survivors’ Community” in which I was looking for answers from survivors about our community, our way forward and who speaks for us. In May,2013 I expressed my frustration in another post, “Crickets, Silence on the net…” that I did not hear from anyone in the survivor’s community. According to the analytics I see on this blog, plenty of people read the original but no one offered their thoughts.
Here we are again and I am wondering why we can’t move forward. I am wondering what the factors are in keeping us separated, unorganized and losing ground in efforts to change legislation and have society take the problem of sexual abuse and rape of children and vulnerable adults seriously.
A reporter contacted me a while back on a story concerning a priest accused of molesting a young boy. He had already published the story but wanted my feedback. He had used a quote from SNAP for the article, the same inane drivel that the National Director of that organization generically applies to any and all cases of abuse on which he is queried. It made me wonder.
What is it going to take? What would it take to get a coherent message from the survivor community to articulate the message that children and vulnerable adults are at risk from predators who enjoy a certain level of top cover from institutions who are more concerned with a risk management strategy than with the protection of those who need it most? Is there a way that the message can be successfully crafted and articulated? Can it be molded into a strategy that allows for the development of stronger laws to protect victims and enable the predators and their protectors to be held accountable both criminally and civilly? Can we develop a voice that is institutionally agnostic and not narrowly focused on the Catholic Church, the Boy Scouts of American, Penn State or any other notorious institution with a history of child sexual crimes?
The other side of this argument is well-organized and well-funded. Despite the fact that organizations like the Catholic League are notorious for spewing lies and portraying victims as predators or being responsible for the abuse inflicted upon them, we have no credible organization, at the national level, that can present a coherent case for the need for change in legislation, education, institutional culture, and society in dealing with predators who prey on children. We have no credible counters on Fox News to the Bill Donohues of the world.
We don’t need shrill fundraisers who only seem to hang around looking for the next donation to pay the salary or travel expenses for the next hit and run media opportunity. (It must be convention time again.) We need serious people who can step up and credibly do the work. We need to actually network the survivors of child sexual abuse, their supporters, law enforcement, the criminal justice system and the legislatures in all the states to move in the direction of making the punishment so vile for crimes of this nature for both the predator and the institution that protects the predator that there is no where for the predator to find a safe haven.
As with many stories, the public eventually gets weary and loses interest. That is what institutions like the Catholic Church want. They want everything to blow over, go away, disappear. The predators want that as well so that they may return to the business of grooming their next victim. Perhaps it is time to find our national voice, our national strategy, our universal calling to actually effect a long-lasting change. The shrill voices from Chicago and St. Louis have proven that they are not up to the task. Who will step up?
Are you still out there?
This morning I read an article on-line from CatholicCulture.org on the United Nations probe into torture and the Vatican. I find it amusing that the UN, the world’s most ineffective organization, is creating theater of the absurd with the Holy See, the world’s most recalcitrant organization.
The piece I was reading, written by Phil Lawler, wanted to express the author’s opinion that a recent article in the Wall Street Journal did not go far enough in their discussion on the legal position that the Vatican is only responsible for sexual abuse by priests that occurs within the territorial limits of Vatican City. Mr. Lawler wanted to add a few more points on his own. The first of which is:
“First, while sexual abuse is reprehensible, it isn’t torture, as that term is ordinarily understood. If the UN expands the definition of torture to encompass other forms of cruelty, it could erode support for the existing pact, which is based on an international accord that this one particular form of behavior—torture—should be stopped.”
How nice of him to admit that sexual abuse is “reprehensible”. Not torture? That is another matter altogether. While I may not be a Harvard graduate (I only graduated from a Jesuit University), I can read a dictionary. Depending on which dictionary you are reading, either online or a more traditional bound volume, torture is defined as “the act of causing severe physical pain as a form of punishment or as a way to force someone to do or say something”; “anguish of body or mind, something that causes anguish or pain, the infliction of intense pain to punish, coerce or afford sadistic pleasure”
Mr. Lawler, I will say that you are completely wrong on the first point. The sexual abuse I suffered at the hand of Robert Gibson was torture. Over the nine month period when the sexual crimes were committed against me he was, in fact torturing me for his own perverted pleasure. He was causing severe pain and violating my 13-year-old body in an effort to coerce my cooperation, my silence and to punish me for rebelling when I did so. I can assure you, based on my first-hand experience, he derived a great deal of sadistic pleasure from the power he was exerting over me. He employed both physical abuse and rape (as if there is a difference to anyone but the apologists for these monsters) as well as threats and psychological tactics to keep me in line and submissive to his actions. When I fought back, he threatened me with death until death ceased to be an issue with me. He then resorted to threatening retaliation against my siblings if I did not comply. Mr. Lawler, does this not fit the definition of torture as it is “ordinarily understood”? If it does not, please enlighten me with the correct definition.
His second point:
“Critics of the Church charge that sexual abuse by priests was widespread because of Catholic teachings and Vatican policies. But the UN would be setting a bold and dangerous precedent if it claimed that religious beliefs promulgated in one place (in this case the Vatican) were the cause of criminal acts in another.”
Tell me, Mr. Lawler, if the culture of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church did not allow for a blind eye to be turned on the problem of priests raping children and vulnerable adults, what did? I am waiting for the typical “we did not know it was happening, and when we found out we took action”, “it was gay priests doing these terrible things” or the ever popular “this was all a result of the sexual excesses of the 1960’s societal attitude towards exploring sexuality.”
We know that priests were moved around frequently to avoid prosecution and to keep their activities hidden from parishioners. The lack of action, other than to conceal the predators, is widely documented. Sorry, you will lose on that one. The Catholic Church is amazing in its ability to conjure excuses, blame the innocent and claim aggrieved status because they are being picked on when other institutions are not held to the same standard. None of these excuses allow the hierarchy of the church to abdicate their accountability for protecting these predators.
Gay priests are not the problem! Let me say that again. Gay priests are not the problem! If they were how do you explain the girls that have been victimized over the years? Pedophile priests are “the problem”. They like children because they like the power of their position and they get off on the terror they inflict on the most innocent. They like torturing them. (There is that pesky word again) .
As for the alleged issue of the sexual excesses of the 1960’s, that argument seems to ignore the documented cases of clerical abuses for decades prior to the 1960’s.
His final point:
“Finally, does the UN want to be in the business of deciding which religious doctrines are acceptable, and which encourage anti-social behavior? (Some people consider circumcision a cruel procedure; would the UN commission entertain a claim that it is torture?) The Center for Reproductive Rights, one of the groups pressing the UN for action against the Vatican, argues that the Church engages in “psychological torture” by banning contraception.”
The classic deflection! Who does the UN think it is judging the Catholic Church? Mr. Lawler, are you reducing the rape of children and vulnerable adults to “anti-social behavior”? Really?! It is criminal, immoral and inhuman. Anti-social is the least of the descriptors for the kinds of harm done to children by predator priests. But Catholic apologists have to minimize the most heinous and point at the shortcomings of others to dismiss the torturous behavior of those priests (over 6,000 credibly accused and listed on Bishop Accountability.org). On top of it all, let’s throw circumcision or the abortion issue on top of this to totally deflect the discussion away from the elephant in the room. What a lame non-point to be made! That elephant in the room is the church’s inability to deal with the problem of predator priests raping, almost at will, with the knowledge that the church will do anything to avoid scandal, even if it means that children will be victimized, repeatedly, and the predators will enjoy the protection of the bishops.
I don’t want the UN to go after the Vatican. It is a fool’s errand. I want to go after every bishop who turned a blind eye to the torture, rape and beating of children and vulnerable adults. Those “men” are responsible for the culture of protection that these predators operated within. The individual dioceses throughout the world who condoned and concealed these predators while vilifying the victims need to be held accountable.
It is not a matter of religious doctrine being acceptable or not. It is a matter of an institution conspiring to conceal “Roman Collar Crime” in order to keep the funding stream coming in. And it does not matter if the institution is a Catholic Diocese, a Baptist Church, a Jewish Synagogue, Penn State University, the Boy Scouts of America or any other entity. We should, as a society, be standing up and saying the rape of children is wrong. (I know that may be a wild idea to some.) We should be saying the institutional protection of pedophiles is wrong. We should be holding predators and their protectors responsible, criminally and civilly.
We should be in The International Court of Justice in the Hague prosecuting these people for crimes against humanity. Bernard Law and others like him should be in a cell. The United Nations is uniquely positioned to make noise and do absolutely nothing. The Vatican may be embarrassed (although I do not think they understand the concepts of shame or accountability) but all they have to do is wait for the noise to stop. The UN is only good at making noise.
Mr. Lawler, I would have responded to your article on your site but you have to be a donor to voice an opinion and that pretty much guarantees that you will hear nothing but rave reviews of your “cogent” argument. Personally, I can’t imagine you getting it any more wrong.
Dear readers, you do not have to make a donation to make a comment to this site, unlike the rules at CatholicCulture.org. I don’t take donations, there is no place on my blog that will enable you to send me money. I will be honest and say if you are off topic or are spouting vitriol on either side of the argument I will edit or delete. But I will not charge you a nickel to offer your thoughts.
 Merriam Webster http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/torture?show=0&t=1399470363
 Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition principal copyright 1993
“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”
An article on the Vatican Radio’s Website reported on a request from Pope Francis for forgiveness for the priests who committed sexual crimes against children. During his prepared remarks to members of BICE [International Catholic Child Bureau] whom he received on 11 April 2014 in an audience at the Vatican, he deviated from the prepared text. That deviation for his text was captured in the English translation of the Pontiff’s prepared statement provided by Vatican Radio:
…. I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children…
Before I start this conversation I am being mindful of my fellow survivors and their families, some are no longer here because of the damage caused by predator priests. We have been subjected to endless promises of reform and lies about accountability. This is important to me as survivor of rape by a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. At the risk of appearing to be hopeful enough that these questions will somehow come to the attention of Pope Francis, I will address my questions to him directly.
Your Holiness, I have some questions I must ask so that I can understand the meaning and intent in your words. Holy Father, from who are you asking forgiveness? An honest question, I promise you. I am convinced of your sincerity when you say you “feel the compelled to personally take on all the evil”. If you do so, why do you qualify your statement by saying that the number of predator priests are “quite a few” in number but not when compared to the total number of priests? YourHoliness, you start off by marginalizing the depth of the crisis. Why should I trust what you go on to say next?
Are you asking survivors/victims for forgiveness? Are you asking your Church? Are you asking us to forgive those who committed such heinous acts of depravity that destroyed our trust, our faith and injured our beings? Or are you asking us to forgive those that hid and protected these monsters? Are you asking us to forgive those, both religious and laity who have expended the treasure of the church to support evil and attack us, as if we were the cause of the crimes committed against us? They painted us as monsters or opportunists looking for an easy pay out. Are you asking for forgiveness for the marginalization of our suffering, the suffering of our families, the lost potential of our shattered lives? Are you asking for forgiveness for the irreparable damage and damnation of those who chose not to right a wrong but to isolate and vilify the survivors? Are you asking forgiveness for those who put the comfort of the church ahead of the safety of children?
Holy Father, it does not matter if there are a relatively small number of predator priest relative to the total number priests in the church. It does matter that many of your Bishops chose to mitigate risk and protect predators instead of maximizing justice and protecting children. You say the church is aware of the damage and that you cannot take one step back. Until you take one step forward your Church will remain aware but ineffective and uncaring. Until you take action to cut the cancer of protection for predators from the ranks of your bishops your Church will not be stronger.
You speak of sanctions. You want to take action to deal with the problem. Your Holiness, with great respect I ask you, what are you willing to do? My Catholic education instructs me that forgiveness is earned through acts of contrition. The words are hollow if they do not come with action, with change and with the will to live a life that is true to the values and faith that you profess.
Words are important. Words have meaning. Holy Father, please show me that your words are sincere and that you will finally take the action necessary to protect children and vulnerable adults. Unless there is an accounting, unless the truth is more important than the comfort of those that have protected predator priests, your words will be lost on the wind.
Show me your committment, your actions, the meaning in your words.
This post was picked up and reposted on: Catholic4Change. Thanks Susan!
An article in the Scranton Times-Tribune online follows up on the story of Carlos Urrutigoiry and his elevation to a position of authority over priests accused of misconduct in a Catholic Diocese in Paraguay.
The National Director of SNAP, David Chlohessy, is demanding the Diocese release the files on the Urrutigoiry and the events that occurred at St. Gregory’s Academy in Elmhurst, a residential school sponsored by the Society of St. John, a religious order. Urrutigoiry was credibly accused of sleeping with teenage boys as part of his “ministry”.
It will come as no surprise that the Diocese of Scranton will take no action and that the National Director of SNAP will move on to another press release/photo opportunity. The dance continues and yet no progress is made.
According to an article in the Pocono Record on 14 March 2014, a priest who was credibly accused of molesting boys in Shohola (Pike County) and Moscow (Lackawanna County), Pennsylvania has been elevated to the post of Vicar General of Ciudad del Este Diocese in Paraguay. Now a Monsignor, Carlos Urrutigoity will be in charge of investigations into claims of abuse or misconduct by priests in the diocese. (Anyone else see this as the church taking a stand against the sexual misconduct by priests?)
Back in 2002 a lawsuit claimed that Urrutigoity and one of his henchmen, Father Eric Ensey had been “sleeping” with boys as part of their ministry. Protected by the Diocese of Scranton Bishop James Timlin, the priests escaped prosecution by sending them for “psychological evaluation” in Canada. The Diocese has a long-standing process where they send predator priests outside of the jurisdiction that could prosecute them. Timlin and his diocesan risk managers settled the lawsuit but did nothing else.
Now Monsignor Urrutigoity is operating in Paraguay and is in charge of protecting the people of his diocese from predator priests. Despite Bishop Martino’s letter to the diocese in Paraguay, there really has not been anything done. Had Bishops Timlin and Martino had the ability to discern right from wrong or even if one of them had a spine, they would have taken action in accordance with canon law and sought to have these and other predator priests that operated in the Diocese of Scranton defrocked and exposed. But we all know that is not part of the risk calculus for the Catholic Hierarchy.
This crisis continues for three reasons. First, bishops are still protecting the predators at the expense of the vulnerable. Second, coward politicians who are under the cassocks of the bishops refuse to pass any meaningful legislation to hold the institutions that protect child rapists. Third, Catholic parishioners are not holding their hierarchy accountable. I put the most blame on the last group. For all the lip service from lay Catholics about the ongoing crisis, there is no real action to fix the problem and hold people accountable.
Catholics are not doing what they need to do to protect the innocent. I am sure if their Saviour came back today, he would not want anything to do with these frauds.
“When one goes looking for something, one rarely finds it, but when you least expect it, the object of your search tends to fly up in front of you.”
This is a hard topic to write about. What happened all those years ago, the coverup by the church, the discord in the survivor community. I find myself both drawn to writing and wanting to put all this down and walking away to something else, anything else. I have had people recommend both courses of action, some more profane that others.
I wrote a piece not too long ago looking for the “Survivor Community”. There was no response from the “community”. I know someone is reading “Off My Knees”. I see readership numbers that mystify me everyday. I am even more perplexed when I have not had a post for a little while and the numbers start to climb into the hundreds per day. Usually that is the indicator that something has stirred in the universe and another person in authority (priest, coach, teacher, cop, relative…) has been identified as a molester/rapist of children or that a major piece of legislation has come to a head or that someone has died. When I see random peaks in readership, I go to the analytics that I track for my blog looking for an explanation.
I do get emails from survivors or people close to a survivor looking for answers, advice or a conversation with someone who understands all too well what happened all those years ago. I am very wary of requests for phone conversations and even more concerned about requests for face to face meetings. I am also hesitant to offer advice, mostly because I still have more questions than answers.
The other night I was tracking activity in this blog that turn out to be someone who was reposting a blog post I had written. That is when the thought came to me. As Survivors, we don’t trust each other. Is it possible that what we have in common also alienates us from each other? Our vulgar initiation into this universe of survivors makes us ever vigilant and doubtful of the motives of our correspondents. We will read each other’s posts on blogs and message boards, but there is a hesitance to respond, to act, to come together. For many, we have not really given up the great terrible secret that we have carried for so long. We may be silently watching from the comfort of our own world. Many are not engaged. Many are not ready to be engaged. Many are too tired of all of it to be engaged.
While we may have a great deal in common, we, as a group, do not really talk very much. I kept quiet for well over 33 years. All that silence keeps things from happening. It keeps the well-organized people who protected the criminals who preyed on us strong. It keeps them on the street, it keeps them from being called to account for their complicity.
Our silence also fails to shape the message of our community. Silence is seen by consent by groups that are putting forward an agenda. Those agendas are not always in our collective interest. Within our community there are bitter divisions. Some of the worst vitriol I have seen spewed at survivors has come from other survivors. Discourse between us is not only discouraged, it is often attacked when the message does not support the “national position” .
We still need to find our collective voices, we still need to learn to network. Most importantly, we must understand that, while there is a common thread, we all have very unique experiences that don’t always fit nicely into the general picture being painted of the community. Just as I am amazed at the inability of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to tell the truth, I am amazed at the sometimes vicious tactics used between survivors.
Differences in points of view should be expected. But the infighting and the polarization in the survivor community are doing nothing but helping the people/organizations/institutions who desperately want us to remain silent and subservient.
The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI came as a shock to the Catholic Church and the world. In the last month pundits have examined and speculated on the reasons for his sudden retirement and the tremor that went through the trouble Catholic Church that resulted from his announcement.
In what is being touted as his farewell speech, the Pontiff sited failing health and energy as the reason for his unconventional departure from the throne of Saint Peter. Canon Law (Canon 332, No. 2) states “If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.” In other words, he can leave and no one has the right to say “No you can’t go!” It seems that the only restriction is that he can’t take his red shoes with him into retirement.
Catholics have an expectation the their Pope will die in office. The departure of Benedict, without benefit of death, opens many wounds that should be addressed by the Conclave. It should be noted that the last Pope to “retire” St. Celestine V, was imprisoned by his successor and died in a papal prison. Scholars believe that the line “who made from cowardice the great refusal” in Dante’s The Divine Comedy was a reference to Celestine V.
So here we are on the first night of the Conclave. Ballot 1 resulted in black smoke. Tomorrow we will see up to four more polls of the assembled Cardinals. These men are as far removed from the teachings of their Lord as can be. Take a look at the media coverage during the last month. Think of the image that is being presented by the princes of the church in their blood-red, silk cassocks and hand tied fine lace. Each in what seemed to be different patterns of finery. Is this what the successor of Peter should look like? Or are we seeing the excesses of royalty in a church wracked with scandal? These men are addressed by grand titles such as “Your Eminence”. Have they become the modern-day Pharisees, enamored of their titles?
These men are sweeping away the numerous scandals and crises in the church as they prepare to crown a new monarch. They talk of looking to the future (why look at the carnage in their wake?). They ignore the sex abuse crisis that has seen children and vulnerable adults preyed upon by sexual predators. The church continues to protect these monsters. As much as Cardinals would like the “scandal” to be over, new stories come forward every day detailing the loss of innocence, faith and trust.
The Vatican Bank has been a scandal for decades. Can you believe that the bank run by the Vatican is considered to be one of the most corrupt in the world? It has consistently failed to be in compliance with international standards. The Pope’s bank has been involved in laundering money for years! Can someone tell me why the Vatican needs to be running a bank? Are there no Italian Banks that can serve the needs of the Curia, while adhering to Italian law and international banking practices?
The fact that the Vatican is a sovereign nation unto itself also makes me wonder what these men in red silk are up to. Although, most of these men are citizens of other countries, they are voting for the head of state of another nation. Should Cardinal Dolan’s American citizenship be revoked because he is an official of a foreign government?
It seems that the men in red silk are a little taken with themselves. They parade around in their finery, vote under the watchful eye of Renaissance masters and try to look like humble servants of the church. I wonder if Jesus was alive today if he would be throwing these pretenders to the throne of Peter out of the temple, exposing them as the frauds that they really are.
Benedict spoke of his concern that the “Lord seemed to sleep”. I would theorize that it is Catholics who are sleeping. They allow crisis after crisis, scandal after to scandal to go unabated. There are no consequences for the princes of the church. Perhaps the forces at work in the Vatican are not those of light and salvation.
Benedict XVI should be wary in his retirement. He did not have the good sense to die. Celestine V was imprisoned by his successor, Pope Boniface VIII. He was seen as a threat that could be used to destabilize the Holy See. He would die in his prison cell, some scholars think he was murdered by order of Boniface.
In the meantime, the world is glued to their smart phones, computers, iPads, tablets and televisions waiting for white smoke to rise from the makeshift chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. I guess we will know who will be wearing red shoes soon enough.
The past year has seen some spectacular events that have given some hope to survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands pedophile predators in our society. Indeed this crisis knows no borders and is not limited to those of a certain faith. We have seen the conviction of a Catholic Bishop for covering up sexual crimes committed against children, the conviction and imprisonment of Jerry Sandusky for committing those crimes and a monsignor in Philadelphia for carrying out a program of protecting pedophiles at the expense of innocent children and parishioner’s money. Large institutions still are willing to sacrifice the innocent in order to protect the privilege of the few at the top and to prevent scandal from coming to light.
For me personally, I have had to come to grips with the death of the predator who counted me as one of his many victims. He was prolific throughout his life in targeting boys in dysfunctional family situations from alcoholism to catastrophic illness. He hid behind his Roman Collar and he found the protection of a Diocese that was willing to move him around to different parishes and ultimately out of the diocese and the state to keep him safe from prosecution.
With the announcement that the Pope has offered his resignation, something not done in over 600 years, just as the documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa” has aired on HBO (see the promo here), I wonder what the future of the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church will be. I can safely say that the entire College of Cardinals who will be voting in the next few weeks were elevated to helm of their respective curiae by either John Paul II or Benedict XVI. In a word, they are very conservative in the mold of the men who hoped to shape their church by selecting Cardinals who shared similar conservative outlooks on the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
The one piece of the puzzle that continues to vex me is the Survivor Community. The community that speaks for the victims. There isn’t really a strong confederation of groups in the United States that networks survivors and promotes an agenda in the State Capitols. There is no larger, worldwide organization that stands up for the survivors, that is a solid united front for the people who have been neglected all these years.
At this point I will say, again, that I don’t think SNAP is effective because its national leadership seems disconnected from the rest of us. The organization is not a network, despite its name. There is a vocal element out there that feels that the organization is an arm of the Catholic Church because of the way it is formed. They base this claim on the letter that follows:
Personally, I am not convinced this is a smoking gun. I think this was more of the birth of an organization that did not know how to chart its own course at its genesis. But I will let you come to your own conclusions.
During the last week I have been having a heated electronic correspondence with another survivor who has accused me of rolling over on the survivor community and stunting a dialogue between us. I have been accused of many things in the past few years from all sides of this issue. But, as much as I hate to admit it, my correspondent has got me thinking. We talk about a survivor community as if it really exists. We talk about networks but we are not networked as a community.
I need to know what the expectations of survivors are (I hate the word victim). I need to hear the thoughts of others with similar experiences on what needs to be done. I need to know what expectations are out there. If we are going to be a community, a network there is needs to be a common philosophical and pragmatic basis to gather the various groups into a confederation, an alliance or a coalition.
There are a lot of egos in this community. Mine to be counted among them. There has to be a way to come to some kind of accord in order to optimize the talents, energy and, if need be, the anger that resides within the universe of survivors and their supporters.
If no accord can be reached, is there another way to harness the energy of survivors to achieve tangible goals for our society so that we can remove the veil of protection that pedophiles in large institutions have enjoyed in the name of saving the reputation of those institutions? I have said it before and I will continue to say that I had to keep my great terrible secret alone for all those years, my perp had help keeping his.
My questions are not rhetorical, I need to know. I need you to tell me. I think we all need to have the discussion in a civil manner. But the discussion needs to be had, by the entire community, if there is really a community out there.
I am waiting to hear from all of you.
I put a blog post on January 16 entitled 99,601. I thought it was pretty innocuous, more of a “I’m still out here” piece than anything else. It drew a vitriolic response from one reader who decided that it was more of an exercise in narcissism and that I should be taking a more vocal stand against the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). To be honest, this is my blog and I am going to write as often as I am moved to on topics of my choosing. If you don’t like it I would like to direct you the freshly pressed section of WordPress. There is some really neat stuff there.
If you have read this blog for any length of time you will know that I do not have a lot of love for the National Director of SNAP. I have voiced my opinion on SNAP and the way the national board conducts business. I wrote a blog post entitle Parting Company with SNAP that spun up a lot of comments and heated discussion, some of it too nasty to approve on both sides of the discussion. Do I really want to rehash that? Not so much! I don’t think, as a blogger, I need to announce annually that I am not a fan of the national leadership of SNAP. I still hold out hope that at some point the Survivor community finds a network where we all get an opportunity to work together collectively to advance a legislative agenda that will lengthen statutes of limitation
Instead of pointing out, again, that I think SNAP is a self licking ice cream cone, I choose to spend my time and some of my money supporting organizations like the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse and Justice4PAKids and their efforts to change laws and do real and tangible good. They are making a difference. SNAP is more focused on having 2 conferences this year, one here in the States and the other in Ireland. I guess the National director is working on improving his standing in the airline rewards program of his choice.
At this point I would add that I am very impressed by some of the state SNAP coordinators. Becky Ianni in Virginia is the real deal. I have only met her twice, but she is a force for good in the northern Virginia and Washington DC region. I would gladly support any effort she led. Karen Polesir has helped me on occasion and is active in a coalition of groups working to get SOL and window legislation through the State Assembly in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
I support people like Kay Ebeling who has been reporting (not blogging, reporting) on the sexual abuse crisis for years and has gotten little support from the survivor community. She has been inspiring and I consider her a friend. Funny, the vocal ones have the church, its apologist and many survivors attacking them. I guess that is the point I am circling here. Even in the survivor community there is a chasm between elements. Being a good, compliant survivor or victim makes you a darling to some of the national groups. Dare to criticize them and see how quickly you are on the outs. Lessons learned from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church I guess.
For now I look at the future. I think that change will come but it will not be led by a national organization. We don’t have an effective one. It will be led by regional groups, some affiliated with larger organizations, some will be independent. Fools will rush in and out. We all need to stay the course. We really will not get anywhere if we are sniping at each other.