Posts Tagged Restorative Justice
A lecture about Voice of the Faithful Restorative Justice Healing Circles, “Broken Vessels,” and how they can be a step toward healing for those who have been harmed by the Catholic clergy sexual abuse scandal —
The power of deep listening and safe storytelling ensures a safe place for those telling his or her story. William Casey, former Voice of the Faithful board chair and Northern Virginia Mediation Service Restorative Justice Program director, explains the “Restorative Justice Healing Circle” approach as that safe place in this lecture.”
Posted to YouTube by Boston College Church in the 21st Century Center where this lecture took place on Dec. 3, 2015 — Click here to watch the lecture.
The U.S. Catholic Church’s primary responses to its clergy sexual abuse scandal have been protection protocols and litigation, that is, promulgating the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and leaving litigation as the primary option for abuse survivors seeking justice.
Conspicuously absent from the Church’s responses have been programs and activities focused on healing wounds from the scandal.
Voice of the Faithful has an approach that the reform movement believes has great potential as a step on the path toward healing for anyone who feels harmed by the scandal. William Casey, a former VOTF board chair and Northern Virginia Mediation Service Restorative Justice Program director, featured this “Restorative Justice Healing Circle” approach in a lecture he presented Dec. 3 at Boston College in Newton, Mass. The college’s Church in the 21st Century Center co-sponsored the event.
Called “Storytelling for Healing,” the lecture explained the power of deep listening and safe storytelling to an attentive audience of BC theology students, VOTF members, abuse survivors and community members. Casey, who also facilitates Healing Circles, described how they ensure a safe place for each participant to tell his or her story. He then quoted testimonials from people who said the Healing Circle had started them on a path toward healing or nurtured healing they were beginning to experience.
Casey also pointed out that the injury caused by clergy abuse spills over into families and friends of survivors and onto all people of faith whose trust is shaken be such betrayal. All affected by this breach in trust are welcomed into a Healing Circle.
Audience questions made it clear the concept of Restorative Justice on which Healing Circles are based is not an easy concept for those living in a 21st century, First-World country, where people are most familiar with retributive and punitive means of redress. Several people expressed their gratitude that VOTF was taking this lead in responding to survivor needs.
More information on Healing Circles is available on VOTF’s Programs webpage.
There was the man who had been sexually abused as a boy by his priest. The priest who felt shunned within the Catholic Church after he spoke out against such abuse. The husband who had never told his wife about his assault decades earlier. The couple in their 80s who raised seven children in the church but finally, tearfully, decided to leave the pews.
“They’ve all been participants in a healing circle, a pilot program launched in Boston a year ago by the Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), an organization of progressive Catholics formed in 2002 in response to the priest sex abuse scandal. Based on a restorative justice model, the circles allow those who have suffered harm to meet in a small group and tell their stories.
“This month, the organizers seized the occasion of Pope Francis’s US visit to try to win awareness of their project at the highest levels of the church. In a full-page ad in the National Catholic Reporter, VOTF issued an open invitation to the pope to attend a healing circle in New York during his Sept. 24-25 visit. ‘Welcome to the U.S. We invite you to join us in a Healing Circle. Time does not heal all wounds. Some wounds fester, like those the survivors of clergy sexual abuse suffer, and the wounds their families and communities experience. They are broken people, as is their Church,’ the ad read.”
By Bella English, The Boston Globe — Click here to read the rest of this story.
When Pope Francis visits the United States next month, U.S.-based Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful hopes this reform-minded pontiff will hear a wide spectrum of lay voices, particularly about healing wounds from clergy sexual abuse and holding dioceses financially accountable.
We applaud the steps Pope Francis has taken towards needed structural reform: addressing Vatican bank problems, overhauling the Vatican bureaucracy and appointing a council of cardinals outside the Curia as advisors. More importantly, we take hope in steps aimed at bringing justice to survivors and holding bishops accountable: approving a child abuse trial against an archbishop, accepting resignations from four bishops involved in the clergy sexual abuse scandal, accepting two more bishops’ resignations for financial malfeasance, establishing the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and setting up a tribunal to judge bishops involved in the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
But VOTF sees discontinuities within this reform environment, principally two areas where lay voices can focus needed attention: healing wounds from clergy sexual abuse and shedding light on diocesan finances.
Despite decades of sex-abuse revelations, the Church’s response thus far has conspicuously lacked meaningful healing. So, VOTF is using the Healing Circle model of Restorative Justice to help all those harmed by clergy sexual abuse: the victims/survivors, their family members, faith communities, clergy and the Church itself. We are inviting Pope Francis to participate in a Healing Circle to experience its potential directly.
We also call on Pope Francis and all the faithful to see how the harms from clergy sex abuse will continue until past harm is addressed, all current abuses are exposed and future child protection is ensured. It’s not “over” until all three are accomplished. Directing bishops to take a pastoral approach to the settlement of abuse cases, rather than using legal weapons, would be one significant advance, as would the release of all relevant documents previously shielded and the immediate funding of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
Regarding diocesan finances, we note that Pope Francis has preached loud and long on the injustice of economic inequality, for example, in his climate encyclical and during his trip to Argentina. With that attitude, perhaps the Pope could endorse a system providing Catholics with a clear idea of where their donations go. As a step in this direction, VOTF has developed a public Internet database to help Catholics do just that, so they can help thwart malfeasance like theft, fraud, donations being spent for purposes other than intended by contributors and paying for sex abuse victims’ silence.
Pope Francis will be welcomed by millions during his U.S. visit, and VOTF would be pleased to see a papal nod toward these issues.
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.