Helping victims of clergy sexual abuse: Suggestions for Pope Benedict XVI:
May 31, 2010
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):
- 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.
- 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.
- The Church will then provide survivors and their families the services that will begin the “restorative justice” process.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.