‘Kevin’s’ posting on sexual abuse needs answer from Irish Church
On 23rd June 2012 the website of the ACP published a reflection by Kevin, a survivor of clerical sexual abuse. Entitled “Abuse by priests causes spiritual wounds” it begins with the following question: “Is it possible to get some kind of dispensation from the need for priests in the spiritual life of a Roman Catholic?”
Kevin then explained that as there seems to be a Catholic canonical requirement that the observant Catholic must regularly interface with clergy for the reception of the Catholic sacraments, this poses serious problems for survivors of clerical abuse – because such meetings can be unpredictable ‘triggers’ that recall traumatically abusive past events.
To date this question has received no response that could be said to fully answer it, from someone qualified and authorised to speak on behalf of the Irish Catholic church.
This raises for me the following questions:
- Does the Irish Catholic church have any agency that has the specific and qualified responsibility of reaching out pastorally to people in Kevin’s situation? (The website of ‘Towards Healing’ strongly suggests that Kevin’s specific concerns lie well outside that agency’s remit.) What arm, if any, of the Irish Episcopal Conference, or of CORI, can be said to have this specific remit?
- What efforts have been made by the IEC or CORI to understand and cater for the unique spiritual needs of those survivors of clerical sexual abuse who desire some kind of spiritual connection with their native church?
- Has the IEC or CORI sponsored or commissioned any systematic study of, or research into, the spiritual trauma caused by clerical sexual abuse, with a view to assisting the eventual reconciliation somehow of survivors of that abuse with a faith they have been taught as children to believe is necessary for their eternal salvation?
- Is there a bibliography held by the IEC or CORI, referencing literature written by those who have in any way addressed this problem?
- Has any thinking been done by the IEC or CORI on the implications of the triggering effects of clerical sexual abuse trauma for the development of a Catholic ministry to survivors, especially in light of the likelihood that lay people, female as well as male, will be indispensable to such a ministry?
- Has it occurred to the IEC and/or CORI that probably the most vital resources available to them in the development of such a ministry are survivors of abuse who might offer to be helpful in this respect, if they were merely asked?
With our bishops set to attend a synod on the ‘New Evangelisation’ in a few months time it would offer some hope to know that they were first of all attending fully to the deepest spiritual needs of those most seriously hurt by a clericalist culture that hasn’t yet been abandoned. Not until our church system has ceased to harm and alienate people, and has made reparation to the limit of its power to those already harmed, could any true Christian recommend anyone else to join it.
Seán OConaill http://www.seanoconaill.com