From Abuse Victim to Free Spirit

Somehow, I totally spaced it, but this week marks a very important milestone for me. 25 years ago this last Monday, January 23, 1993, I stood in front of a church with 5 other survivors and outed myself as a victim of clergy abuse to the world.

I still vividly recall how the glare of the TV camera lights blinded me and how dry and tight my mouth was. I could barely speak. I was wearing my clerical collar at the time and it felt like a knife pressed against my throat. It was only because my friends were crowded around me that I dared speak at all.

My recollection of what I actually said is somewhat vague, but from the article in the paper, I managed to hit all the right points. Reporters did not know what to make of me, though; it was still early in the crisis here – Archbishop Sanchez wouldn’t be fingered by 60 Minutes for several months. And they sure couldn’t wrap their heads around a victim who was a priest, and an Independent Catholic priest at that. Still can’t, apparently; it only confuses them and complicates things.

Tonight, CBS’ 48 Hours  true crime show, is going to cover the Feit case for at least the third time. From what the reporter said on the morning show yesterday, they will actually cover Feit’s later time in “several monasteries”. Whether they will at all mention his key role in sending the Sons of Perdition out from Villa Coeli across the land, I don’t know, but I have no doubt that my efforts to alert the media about it will be as totally ignored as ever before.

So, what does it take to get their attention, especially now that the crisis is officially over and the media’s slavering over abused gymnasts? A spectacular stunt? Some sort of confession? Suicide in a church? Beats the hell out of me, but at one time or another I’ve considered all those possibilities and some even stupider options. What’s held me back is not so much wisdom as the question, what good would it accomplish?

Obviously accusations don’t matter anymore. Maybe the only thing left is the “nuclear option” — forgiveness. The Church Fathers said that the reason Christ taught that we should forgive our enemies is because they have been deceived by the Devil. That the Roman Catholic Church is a satanic fraud and a deceptive cult I totally believe, but I don’t know if I can do that. Being deluded is one thing, subjected to deliberate, conscious and wilful evil another. While there are plenty of good, honest people there who have bought the Catholic line hook, line, and sinker, but still do their best as Christians, I do not believe that can be said about the leaders. Too many lies, too many compromises, too much pride and vanity has tainted the papacy for me to ever consider them legitimate.

Forgiveness, I am told by victims who have achieved it, is very healing to the forgiver, freeing him or her from the weight of their own anger. That would be great of itself. I have learned through my slow recovery that anger is a dangerous and powerful drug, and as addictive as it is corrosive. It’s been the task of these 25 years to get through that, and an even harder effort has been required to forgive myself.

Yet perhaps the only way to beat them is at their own game. Become holier than them. But if Jesus himself couldn’t shame them, I sure can’t. But what other options are there? Only to speak my truth fearlessly but with love and compassion, even of perpetrators. Yes, they are evil men, but for a person dedicated to God to descend into the horrific sin of child rape must be a hell that I cannot and do not want to imagine.

That is why I am planning on rewriting my history of the crisis, Sons of Perdition. Now that the clergy abuse crisis is history a final summation is needed. More information is available than it was when I wrote it, and it’s time to add my own story, too. I just hope God grants me the time to do so before the end.