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Helping victims of clergy sexual abuse: Suggestions for Pope Benedict XVI:

May 31, 2010

from Robert M. Hoatson's post on Road to Recovery:

Based on Road to Recovery’s on-the-ground experience helping the abused cope with the effects of their abuse, we offer to Pope Benedict and his colleagues in the hierarchy the following suggested action steps that will help restore clergy abuse victims to fullness of life (these steps do not preclude the necessary and/or statutory reporting of all crimes to local and/or national law enforcement):

  1. We respectfully suggest that Pope Benedict hold a press event at which he promises all victims of clergy sexual abuse that the Church will supply whatever they need to heal through the dioceses and/or religious orders where or within which the abuse took place.
  2. When the victims are identified and found credible by independent panels of lay Catholics and non-Catholics, thorough analyses of the victims’ state should take place, including assessments of their social, psychological, financial, spiritual, and medical conditions. The victims’ immediate families (wives/husbands and children, ordinarily), will be evaluated for similar conditions.
  3. The Church will then provide survivors and their families the services that will begin the “restorative justice” process.
  4. Pope Benedict will then direct the establishment of “Centers of Restorative Healing” in every diocese and/or region of every country of the world where reports of clergy sexual abuse have been reported.
  5. The “Centers of Restorative Healing” will be comprehensive facilities providing whatever survivors need to heal. For example, the facilities must provide medical and psychological services, housing, food, and recreation/social components. Presently, the Catholic Church in the United States provides facilities for priests who are in crisis; justice demands that the same be done for survivors and their families.
  6. From the “Centers of Restorative Healing,” victims must have the opportunity to complete the educations that oftentimes were interrupted and never completed. We propose that attendance at local elementary, secondary, university, vocational, and occupational schools be provided by the Church to victims and their families.
  7. The “Centers for Restorative Healing” will provide job and career counseling as well as job placement guidance. Once a victim and his/her family have been “restored” to health and can function on their own, the victim and his/her family will be counseled about housing opportunities that are independent of the “Centers of Restorative Healing.” Should the survivor and his family not function well on the “outside,” they would be welcome to resume residence at a “Center of Restorative Healing.”
  8. All facilities/services will be paid for and provided by the Roman Catholic Dioceses and/or religious orders that are responsible for the abuse that took place. The Vatican will stand ready to supplement whatever dioceses or religious orders cannot provide.
  9. All victims will be eligible to return to the dioceses/religious orders should their life states dictate the need for further services. Since childhood sexual abuse has been defined by numerous mental health care professionals as murder of the soul, it may take a lifetime for some victims to heal well enough to live independently of the Church’s services. However, those who need ongoing and life-long services will be provided them free of charge on an indefinite basis.
  10. Road to Recovery and its affiliates would be honored and happy to be the “lead” agency in establishing these restorative justice services. Our vast experience helping survivors would assist Pope Benedict in getting these plans off the ground and realized. 

Read the whole post.

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Lisa Rea
Lisa Rea says:
Jun 02, 2010 11:51 PM

Thank you for posting this. I think there are useful steps here in this list of recommendations that could contribute to the healing of victims of clergy abuse. <br /> <br />What seems to be missing, however, are actions that hold offenders accountable--directly. There seems to be no mention of restorative justice dialogue (between victim and ofender). <br /> <br />If victims of abuse want the option of meeting with their offenders should not that option be provided? I think so. Can more healing, and greater victim satisfaction, occur through direct restorative justice processes such as victim offender dialogue? Yes. Evidence based research backs this up. It is not always possible for those meetings to occur, however, especially in cases where the offender is deceased but in those cases there are other powerful models using surrogates that can be utilized. <br /> <br />I do think your recommendations are &quot;more restorative&quot; than ignoring the needs of victims. And because of that your recommendations for use by the Catholic Church are indeed helpful. <br /> <br /> <br />Lisa Rea <br />Victims-Driven Restorative Justice <br />Rea Consulting <br />California <br />

JohnBS1
JohnBS1 says:
Jun 04, 2010 11:28 PM

Thanks Robert for bringing this aspect to the fore. It is long overdue. I commend the work you have done here. <br /> <br />There appears in many victim support systems to be an almost zealous rush to bring victims/survivors together. Heal and restore victims/survivors to their best capacity so that they can make an informed decision in regards addressing their abusers. The perpetrators of the original sexual abuse being only one of many who aided abetted, blocked and repressed those who did attempt to speak out - it has been those abuses which have been responsible for the majority of suicides and the destruction of lives amongst those of us who managed to survive these far more insidious, harmful and life damaging processes. When those aspects have been successfully resolved for a survivor they will be more able to address their abusers if they choose to do so. <br /> <br />The independence of operations is essential for the many for whom the abuse of trust has been so deep that for them that means independent of the church's teachings and operations in all aspects of their healing journey. <br /> <br />I personally believe that if all references to civil matters are struck from the church canons so that it can concentrate of matters of religion rather than matters of state should be added to these steps for the Pope.

Lisa Rea
Lisa Rea says:
Jun 08, 2010 02:10 AM

Hello, John. I was surprised by your comment above: &quot;There appears in many victim support systems to be an almost zealous rush to bring victims/survivors together&quot;. Where are you seeing that in the cases of clergy abuse around the world? What is your experience with these cases? Are you a victim of such abuse--may I ask? <br /> <br />I actually think the opposite is true. Healing does come from many places, as you say. I agree that many have aided and abetted in the thousands of documented cases of clergy abuse now around the world. But I do not think that healing comes in any order whatsoever. The fault thus far in these cases has been the slowness in the response to the horrendous need. Until these cases came forward, especially in the U.S. in 2001, no investigation of these atrocities was evident. <br /> <br />Restorative justice processes can be experienced by victims in many ways. But healing can and does occur in a significant way when victims and offenders meet face to face. <br />The best research from around the globe supports this statement along with the testimony of a growing body of crime victims. <br /> <br />Let us move forward and assist in the healing process. <br /> <br />Lisa Rea <br /> <br />

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