Q. I have read countless stories of those abused sexually by priests. I was abused by a priest who also drugged me. I took my faith seriously then, and I still do. I think there should be a way to connect with victims who love the church despite what happened. But most victims’ groups I have read about seem to heal by hating the church. Do you have any advice? (City of origin withheld)
A. As you indicate, many victims do bear deep anger toward the aggressor, extend that resentment to the church as a whole and carry it for the rest of their lives. I understand that. I can’t even begin to imagine how it must feel to have trusted someone you considered a visible representative of God in your life — and to have had that trust so violated. It doesn’t surprise me that, in the wake of this, a person could lose faith in the church (or even in God) and find that faith difficult to regain.
But there are other victims such as yourself who are able to make distinctions, to separate in their minds the offender from the church. They realize how far that offending priest strayed from what he was ordained to do: to image the compassion of Jesus, especially to the vulnerable.
These victims still love the church; they want simply to be heard, to be healed and to be made whole — and they desire deeply to continue to be nourished by the church’s services and its sacraments.
Fortunately, there are some dioceses where retreats are offered specifically for those who were sexually abused by representatives of the church. There you would find, I’m sure, others who feel the way you do and are able to support you by sharing both their stories and their faith.
Perhaps you might inquire from your diocese (specifically, from the victims assistance coordinator) whether such opportunities might be available nearby.
Q. Recently, at a parish discussion group, several people suggested that a good time to pray the rosary is while you are driving your car. I, though, have two questions: a) Is that a good prayer practice? And, b) Is it prudent and safe? (Albany, New York)
A. Different people will give you different answers — and logically, because of the spiritual value of the practice and the safety of the driver. It depends a lot on the particular individual: How much am I able to concentrate on prayer, while staying attentive to safety?
The ideal, of course, is to pray when you are free to focus fully on the Lord, but I don’t believe God is offended if you break the boredom of an isolated highway by speaking with him. Here’s the way I’ve worked it out in practice. If I’m driving in the city — surrounded by traffic and watching for turns — I don’t complicate that by adding a rosary to the mix.
But on a country road — or even a superhighway that is virtually empty — I sometimes do put a “ring rosary” on my index finger and pray it as I drive. (But even with that simple 10-beaded help, I tend to lose count and wind up saying a couple of extra Hail Marys just to be safe. Perhaps when I reach heaven, I’ll get credit for the “overage”!)
Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 40 Hopewell St., Albany, N.Y. 12208.