Roman Catholics Must Reconcile With Victims of Abuse

September 16, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More

I am a lifelong practicing Roman Catholic. I am now a member of parish in Kirkwood, Missouri. I have not been a victim of abuse.

I have seen the efforts of my Church to deal with victims of abuse by priests and I don’t see the matter being handled in the way in which I was brought up in my faith. The examples of selflessness, compassion and dedication to the Gospels which I have experienced throughout my life in the Church are inconsistent with what continues to be a serious threat to the continued existence of the Roman Catholic Church as a faithful expression of the Gospels of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Roman Catholic Church efforts to reconcile with its victims of sexual abuse are failing. The failure has been because of a lack of willingness upon the part of Church leaders to simply ask, humbly and contritely, for forgiveness from those which they have harmed. It is incomprehensible to any adherent to a faith which professes to be a true expression of the Gospels of Jesus Christ that someone who has harmed another would not seek to reconcile themselves to that fellow Church member and God by asking forgiveness. The leadership in the Roman Catholic Church needs a refresher course on the Sacrament of Reconciliation (formerly Penance).

Roman Catholic Sacraments are outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace. The Sacraments are rooted in the Gospels, and in the case of Reconciliation, in the role of a priest as an intermediary. Christ told the Apostles what they bind and unbind on earth shall be bound and unbound in heaven; it is in this teaching that the Church has its roots for the role of the priest as intermediary for our seeking temporal repair for sins against God. The process is one whereby a sinner may reconcile themselves with God and restore themselves to God’s grace.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation has three essential parts; the penitent forms the proper mindset acknowledging they have done wrong against God, “confessing” sins before a priest and, requesting and obtaining absolution from the priest. The Roman Catholic Church has an obligation to set itself right by its victims in order to remain a true expression of the Gospels of Jesus Christ. In the matter of abuse victims, the roles are reversed. It is the Church through its leaders, and if necessary its members, which must form the proper mindset and acknowledge its wrongdoing. It is the Church through its leaders, and if necessary its members, which must confess its sins to those which it has harmed. It is the Church through its leaders, and if necessary its members, which must request and obtain absolution from those which it has harmed.

No one can know how forgiveness for the sins of the Church would look but, the first step is to ask. If Church leaders will not do so, then it falls to members to do so if the Roman Catholic Church is to remain a true expression of the Gospels of our Lord Jesus Christ.


Category: Religion

About the Author ()

imothy E. Hogan is a trial attorney, a husband, a father of two awesome children and a practicing Roman Catholic in St. Louis, Missouri. Mr. Hogan has done legal and political work in Jefferson City, Missouri for partisan and non-partisan social change, environmental and consumer protection groups. Mr. Hogan has also worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader in Washington, DC and the members of the trial bar in the State of New York. Mr. Hogan’s current interests involve remaining a full time solo practitioner pioneer on the frontiers of justice in America, a good husband and a good father to his awesome children.

Comments (6)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Tim: You are a brave man to proudly display your Catholic faith here full well knowing that this site is so heavily populated with skeptics. I'll speak only for myself.

    I can't believe that there are any thinking Catholics left in the church after the revelations of the past few years. I was raised as a Catholic (you and I attended the same Catholic high school), but I stopped going to Church as a teenager because I refused to keep saying things I didn't believe (e.g., I don't believe that anyone who was killed on a crucifix could ever be alive again).

    Therefore, my concerns with the Catholic Church go WAY beyond the priest sex scandals. I've thus watched the scandals unfold as an outsider. I would assume that it must be extremely painful for you to try to maintain your ties with your church community in light of these scandals. It must be all the worse that the scandal reaches way up in the church hierarchy.

    I know that the church is more than a set of beliefs. It is a belief structure around which a real world community exists. But it would seem to me that even those folks who are not troubled with supernatural claims, many of which are oxymoronic (three persons in one God) would find the sex scandals to be far to much to tolerate.

    I'll end with a few questions: How bad is the morale at local Catholic parishes? How much more new of priest misconducgt will parishoners tolerate before they stop supporting their churches? What proportion of your fellow parishioners have expressed intense disgust to you about the priest sex scandals? To what extent do most parishoners think that they church has yet been candid about the scandal? How many parishoners do you think would entertain the idea that they no longer need any organized church, and would be willing to simply worship on their own or cease believing in God altogether?

  2. Ebonmuse says:

    Um, just FYI – this post says it was written by Erich, though it clearly wasn't. Needless to say, I was extremely confused the first time I read through it. 🙂

  3. JohnBS1 says:

    I read and understand what you wrote and are saying. From my perspective as a survivor there is an essential part lacking in that there is no call for a global policy in regards child safety, there is no call for the establishment of independent healing centers or services for the victims, there is no call for appropriate compensation for the victims and their families, there is no call for the Vatican to release to civil authorities information they hold in regards crimes committed by some clergy.

    No matter which part of the world when you speak to victims of clergy abuse these points are repeatedly made as they are repeatedly omitted. I personally feel that the church will continue to slide until it adjusts and takes genuine steps and actions in these areas as the world no longer accepts the argument of look at all the good work the church undertakes as quite simply the world is saying that the harm done far outweighs the good work done.

    The following gives a present day view and understanding of the general experience of hundreds of survivors across the globe of clergy abuse and the continuing cover up; while this focuses on several instances reports of survivors across the globe say this fits the same general description across the world regardless of the country.

    You will be shocked by the global estimates of the numbers of those sexually abused by Catholic clergy.

  4. Tim Hogan says:

    John, how penance is done and absolution given in order for the Roman Catholic Church to merit forgiveness from its victims of abuse are not for me to decide. It is for you, and the others which have suffered at the hands of frail, sinful human members of the Roman Catholic Church to decide.

    For myself, as a member of a Church which has done you grievous wrong I ask, humbly and contritely, for forgiveness. I ask for forgiveness not as an actual perpetrator of abuse but, as a fellow member of our Catholic faith who is committed to reconciliation, regardless of the current failings of our Church leadership.

    As for your concerns regarding my post and its failures; its intent is to start a dialogue among Church members to form a community committed to the reconciliation of the Church with its victims of abuse. The leadership of the Church is invited to participate.

    I am only aware of the policy for child safety in my area, and what I must do to be eligible for contact with the children of the parish. We must attend an awareness of abuse class (“Protecting God’s Children”), have a criminal background check and review and agree to abide by written policies designed to promote the goals of our Catholic faith in action, the safety of the children and the activity involved. Coaches have an additional class about the promotion of competition in a fashion consistent with Catholic values. I saw the development of the child safety policy in the Archdiocese of St. Louis as not just for here but, the US and the world. I may be mistaken. The site also includes how the Church addresses the issues of priestly formation, child safety, and the specifics of how an allegation of abuse is addressed both for victims and the abuser. The site does include numbers to call to report allegations of abuse to civil authorities as well as the Church.

    To the degree there may not already be a Roman Catholic Church global policy for child safety, there certainly must be to make safe the children and per your request I make a call for such to be done immediately.

    I was made aware by my review of the local Church policies regarding abuse issues that the Church does provide resources for independent healing and victims’ services. There are no separate centers for such but; an abuse victim who contacts the Archdiocese may have an Assistance Coordinator assigned to them to facilitate and manage their case insofar as providing referrals to outside sexual trauma counselors (no such services are provided by the Church), or financial support for payments of expenses, and/or overall case management, if requested. Healing is another issue as it involves mind, body and spiritual aspects. Physical or psychological healing is independently facilitated by the process but, what I seek to facilitate is a possibility for spiritual healing of the Church and her victims such that there may be reconciliation.

    I cannot imagine what “appropriate compensation for victims and their families” would be; if it means the Catholic faithful meet in fields, on the sides of mountains, by the seashore or in private residences as did the Early Church rather than august and magnificent buildings, let it be so. There was no call for compensation in my post, again, because that is not the point.

    If the Vatican releases all it has about abuse crimes committed to civil authorities by Church personnel, it would not allow victims to choose what information would be disclosed and when. There may be those for which it would be more traumatic to reveal information held by the Church. It might be better to have a call for the Vatican to release to civil authorities any information in its possession where a victim or, if the victim is unable, a family has come forward. If the Vatican were to commit itself to reconciliation in the truest sacramental sense with all abuse victims and to commit to do whatever it takes to make that so, would that be enough? I am not a victim of abuse by someone in the Catholic Church so I don’t know what works for victims. That was my point in not addressing Vatican secrecy.

    I do believe that the current issues surrounding how the Roman Catholic Church addresses the possibility of reconciliation with its victims of abuse are the most serious threat to any claim of the Roman Catholic faith to being a true expression of the Gospels of Our Lord Jesus Christ. I believe it is only through true reconciliation between the Catholic Church and its abuse victims that we may faithfully make such a claim. Let’s us make it so.

  5. Tim Hogan says:

    Erich, I have seen much local anger and confusion over the Church's apparent shoving of abuse victims under the rug. Instead we heard about problems with St. Stan's (a "rogue" Polish heritage parish asserting the right to control all the assets of the parish in opposition to the archdiocese-many were excommunicated!) or the red herring of opposing the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) which wasn't even introduced and was much ballyhooed as an intrinsic evil in the Church press and pews (part of the conservative 24/7 Obama hate-athon!).

    How that anger has shown up here in St. Louis had been in declining numbers of contributions to the general Archdiocesan Appeal (overall numbers were up)and, for a while, increases in contributions to Catholic Charities which is the largest provider of social services in Missouri. The local Church leadership response was to lump the fundraising activities of Catholic Charities into the Archdiocesan Appeal, resulting in the resignation of many of the members of the board of Directors of Catholic Charities. The beat goes on.

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