Updated: Sep 23, 2018
I am neither a Catholic nor a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I am a citizen who understands the overwhelming human, social and economic costs caused by the ongoing abuse of power perpetrated by the Catholic Church. I know that these costs have direct impact for me and all of society in the lost lives and untold suffering that continues. Talk to people who are homeless and you will find survivors. Go to any support group in your community dealing with mental health, addictions and interpersonal violence and you will find survivors. Sexual abuse of children is not a Catholic issue; it is an issue for all humanity because it destroys lives. For its part, the Catholic Church owes a debt to humanity that is not yet being recognized or paid.
The societal loss is found in every single life that has to struggle to survive beyond the abuse. How do we begin to calculate that incredible loss of human potential? I have never met a survivor of child sexual abuse who doesn’t have a deep ache of wondering what they might have become. Instead they deal with varying and profound trauma impacts as well as the stigma of being victimized that routinely blames and shames people for being in need of support or in seeking justice.
I am part of the team that has come together to demand action from the Church. We created a website and posted an open letter to Pope Francis from John Swales. We started a petition to promote three actions proposed in the letter. These are actions that Pope Francis can take to begin an honest process of contrition and making amends. John is a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest that started when he was ten years old. He is willing to be the front person for our efforts but he is clear that we can only be successful if more and more people add their voices. We want to be part of the growing crescendo that started in October last year with #metoo and grew again in Pennsylvania and Ireland this summer. Anyone can write their own letter and also support others. There is no single voice or authority to follow now. That has been a big part of our problem. What each of us can do to contribute our unique part in making social change is a personal decision. And we can support each other in calling for different kinds of actions.
The actions proposed in John’s letter focus on the health and well-being of survivors. Meaningful actions for the church have to include listening, believing and providing material support to survivors and their families that can make a significant difference. Such actions will demonstrate commitment by the Church in beginning an honest healing process that has integrity. Join us! Add your voice.
Sign the petition and find us on Twitter @3actions4pope
Photo by Simone Savoldi @simonesavoldi
M.MacPherson is a freelance public servant with an unwavering belief that as a species, we can do a lot better.
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