The church must build ‘spiritual ramps to sex abuse survivors / America magazine

“Unless their trauma is addressed, survivors might never be able to walk through the doors of the church.”

In recent years, the church has made great progress opening its doors to people with disabilities. Most churches now have physical ramps that give people with limited mobility access to the spiritual nourishment of the church.

“But what about the Catholic faithful who are inhibited from entering the church, not by a physical disability but a sacramental one? When survivors of sexual abuse by members of the clergy encounter the symbols of Christianity through which they were abused, they may experience feelings ranging from severe discomfort to panic attacks. I consider these “sacramental disabilities.” One young girl, for example, was told by the priest who sexually abused her that if she ever told anyone about what he did to her, Jesus would come down from the cross and kill her. One young boy was sexually molested by a priest at the altar. Unless their trauma is addressed, survivors like this young boy and girl might never be able to walk through the doors of the church or participate fully in the sacramental life of the church.

“What might be a charitable response to those suffering from a sacramental disability? Wheelchair ramps help disabled persons enter into a church building. There is a need for spiritual ramps to enable Mother Church to go in the other direction: to come down and seek out those who have been sacramentally disabled, knowing that it is extraordinarily difficult for survivors to speak of their abuse to anyone, let alone ask for sacramental modifications.”

By Lea Karen Kivi, America: The Jesuit Review (Ms. Kivi is a member of Voice of the Faithful’s Broken Vessel™ Healing Circles program leadership tem) — Read more …

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  1. #1 by Bill Casey on May 23, 2017 - 3:48 PM

    Lea offers a truly pastoral approach to victims/survivors that sadly has been missing in the corporate defense mode of hierarchical officials during the last 15 years. What a turnaround might occur for all those harmed by the clergy sexual abuse scandal if pastoring took precedence over defending. Readily available to bishops, heads of religions congregations, parish pastors and clergy, and all faithful is a proven model for moving toward healing in the midst of this horrific wound in the life of the people of God. It is called a Healing Circle and based on Gospel and Restorative Justice values. VOTF leaders have facilitated 10 circles, serving around 100 participants, in the past few years. They have proven remarkably successful, but to date no one in a hierarchical role (save one courageous pastor) has even considered it. It is time for a change.

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