Feel my pain

Feel my pain

Archbishop Michael Sheehan has announced that he will meet one-on-one with all the victims of abuse in the Diocese of Phoenix: “They were abused one-to-one and they should receive an apology one-to-one.” I think that’s a good thing. A representative of a victims’ group was also pleased:

“Wow. That’s great,” he said, adding that many abuse victims have never heard a positive word from the church regarding their cases. “They need to have their pain acknowledged and to be told the abuse was not their fault,” Pfaffengerger said.

Maybe I’m different but I thought that sounded odd. Is that part of the new victim culture? My pain is my pain, what does someone acknowledging do to make it go away? Why should someone need a bishop to tell them that the abuse wasn’t their fault? It seems kind of obvious, and if you really need someone to tell you that maybe it should be a therapist.

I’m not being critical, I just don’t understand the point.

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13 comments
  • Jen, I should have been clear that I was sexually abused once as a child by a neighborhood kid. I have stood in those shoes. Maybe I’m different, but I didn’t need someone else to tell me it wasn’t my fault.

    But even so, why do they—all of them adults now—need the archbishop to tell them that? Shouldn’t they be hearing it from a therapist or some other person they trust?

  • I think we’re in agreement, Jen. It was the terms used: “acknowledge my pain” and “tell me it’s not my fault”. It sounds so “Oprah.” It sounds so Clinton. I guess that’s the way people talk nowadays. It sounds like someone wanting to be “affirmed in their okayness.”

    I would just expect people to ask for an apology and that should be enough.

  • Thank you for your soothing words and for feeling my pain, Father. You’re doing exactly what you criticize me of doing and that’s dismissing someone else’s experience.

    The details of the abuse I suffered are none of your business or anyone else’s for that matter. What makes you think what I went through was any less horrifying than for anybody you just don’t know and so you assume the worst about me.

    What I say or do should mean nothing to these victims because my opinion means nothing to them. I’m not their priest or bishop or someone in power. I’m just a guy with a blog asking questions.

  • Fr. Keyes writes:

    “BTW, abuse by a neighborhood kid (how old were you, how old was the kid?) is VERY, VERY different from being abused by someone in authority, a parent, an adult, or a priest. The disconnect that happens there cannot be repaired. “

    Hope you’re wrong about that, Padre. I was abused in a rather big-time way by a teacher. An adult teacher. (A lay guy—so to speak—at a Catholic school.)

    If “the disconnect that happens there cannot be repaired,” then I’m living on Fantasy Island.

    The thing is, I’m not. I’m living in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and I’m fine.

    GOR said it: forgiveness is essential. One is incapable of surviving without it.

    And just for the record…I do NOT consider myself a “victim,” nor a “victim-survivor,” the latter being, in my pretty much on the money opinion, an oxymoron. (When people call me that, I try very hard not to feel insulted and usually end up laughing.)

    As a young girl, I once was a victim. I survived and have happily relinquished my “victim” status in exchange for my “ordinary person” status, and trust me on this one, Padre…it was a really good trade-off.

    And lest there be any misunderstanding…Jen, I DID go through the whole “you’re okay/the other guy was a baddie” thing, and you know what? It just made it worse. Talk about “manipulation?” The therapists tried to manipulate me into NOT forgiving my rapist! I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now.

    Sorry, but from my experience and from what I’ve heard and read, I tend to look at “Victims’ Survivor Groups” with a more than slightly jaundiced eye.

    Notice the distinction…I didn’t write “victims.” I wrote “Victims’ Survivor Groups.”

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. This blog is a blog, a place for me to think out loud and be opinionated. It is not a piece of journalism. When I do journalism it is in news articles on CWNews.com and in Catholic World Report or another media outlet.

    Anything said on this blog should not be construed as objective or unbiased unless I say so. This is all my opinions.

  • By striving so hard to keep things quiet, the bishops and Church effectively mimilized the effect of all this on the victims. To the victims it was like the Church didn’t see what happened to them as something serious that was devastating emotionally and spiritually. For the most part, from the sounds of things, most were given money through lawyers and asked to keep things quiet. Meanwhile the priests who abused them moved onto a new parish and new life as if nothing ever happened. Imagine how worse it was for those who were victims of offenders who has multiple victims.

    I suspect few Bishops bothered to care enough about the victims to check up on them to see how they were doing. I think Bishop Sheehan is doing the right thing.  A personal “we were wrong in how we handled this and how we made you go through this ordeal alone berefit of the help you most needed – the unconditional support of your spiritual community” apology is long overdue. 

  • I agree, Thomas. Just to be clear with everybody, I never said that the bishop apologizing to them was wrong. I just thought that the language used by the guy from the victims’ group was odd.

  • I didn’t read Fr. Keyes remarks as minimalizing what happened to Dom but rather making the point that some very different and incapcitating psychological damage “CAN” occur when the abuse involves people who are an essential part of a person’s support structure (for exmaple parents or in this case the perceived representative of God).  Psychological health is a complex mix of environment, physiology, and coping abilities. Some people are much more fragile especially when there main support structure crumbles.

    I do agree however with the folks who were complaining about lawyers, psychologists and self help groups that have agendas or methods that do not seek to liberate people from their pain but rather replace it with a hate that only intensifies it and assures that whatever happened becomes the defining moment of the person’s life.  From what I have seen of SNAP their methods seem to ensure that whatever happened will remain forever the defining moment in their members lives. Their entire source of identity becomes this one event in their lives. Healthy therapy would lead people to healing.  Personally, I think forgiveness is the only healing worth talking about.  One of the most memorable talks I ever heard on this subject was by Chuch Lynch who was a guest on the Family Life Christian radio program. The series was about what forgiveness is and is not (it is not for instance dismissing or making excuses for what happened), the barriers to true forgiveness, and how Christ is the only path to reaching it.  His book on the subject is I Should Forgive But.  I highly recommend it.

  • Robin..I think there is some tongue in cheek joking (at Rod’s expense) going on here. Dom accuses himself as well as Fr. Keyes. grin

  • Click on link and you’ll see the comments. I turned off commenting on that article because I didn’t like the tone of the debate. You got the last word there, but I won’t have this blog turned into a tit for tat attack place. If people want to discuss things, fine. But no ad hominem attacks. And if the arguments go nowhere and just go in circles, then I’ll shut down the comment for that entry.

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