I’ve wanted to write to you for years now, but I haven’t had the courage. Maybe it’s because your story reminds me of my own experience of childhood sexual abuse, which was at the hands not of a priest, but a trusted relative.
Although my abuser wore a necktie, rather than a clerical collar, I think our pain may be in many ways the same. Like you, I know the shock, shame, confusion and loneliness that flood a heart wounded by sexual molestation.
I know what it’s like to loathe the God-given gift of your body, every nerve of which wails in disgust at being violated. I know well the urge to escape the very flesh in which the Lord sealed your soul – and to despise soul and flesh alike as being somehow ruined beyond redemption.
I know what it’s like to stand at a distance from your own life — to flee the all-too-painful present moment, hiding in the haze of alcohol or drugs or food, or any mindless activity that will shield you from your memories.
I know what it’s like to endanger yourself in abusive relationships, and to sabotage yourself in almost every major decision you make.
I know what it’s like to never be relaxed, even with friends and loved ones — to live on high alert, because maybe, just maybe, this time you can foil your attacker, even if he’s been dead for decades.
I know what it’s like not to be believed, to be inconvenient, to be shunned, to be called “crazy” – and to call yourself “crazy.”
I know what it’s like to hate the God who let this happen to you, to despise him, to demand an accounting from him in words far more vulgar than any Job uttered.
I had hoped that in this latest round of clerical abuse scandals, you would finally be heard — and that you in turn would hear words of validation and outrage, sorrow and contrition, hope and healing. I had prayed that terms more tender than “transparency,” “third-party accountability” and “lay collaboration” would be spoken over you.
And I know one thing more: No matter what the church does or doesn’t do as a result of this latest crisis, there is only one Word you need to hold onto with all your being, even if you curse him to his face while you grasp his hand: Jesus Christ.
The Lord who kissed the lepers is not afraid of your wounds. The Savior who was spat upon does not shirk from your rage.
He needs no legal counsel to vet his response to you. He is prepared to listen at length, and to take your part. His compensation is more than double your agony, at once just, merciful and eternally binding.
Run to him, wherever you are. If the church door is locked, if its members’ ears and hearts are closed, you can still find him. He has never lost sight of you, even in your darkest moments.
In the course of your healing, you will wrestle with him in the wilderness, just as Jacob did thousands of years ago (Genesis 32:23-33). The fight will be a long one; you may limp afterwards, but you will walk in peace.
Every soul’s scars are unique, but there is one healer of all.
I know, because he brought me back from the dead — and he will do the same for you.
Gina Christian is a senior content producer at CatholicPhilly.com. Follow her on Twitter @GinaJesseReina.
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