Healing from sexual abuse

By Sam Lucero | The Compass | April 16, 2014

Church continues to respond

During a healing service for victims-survivors of sexual abuse last week in Appleton, Bishop David Ricken said it is important for the church to make reparation “to all victims in our diocese, particularly of clergy abuse.”

“To make reparations means to repair the damage, spiritually, caused to the love of God and the Sacred Heart of Jesus by this terrible event,” added Bishop Ricken. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that every offense “committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation.”

The task of making amends, seeking forgiveness and offering reparation to victims of sexual abuse is ongoing, a duty that can never be taken lightly. The shame felt by the church, including clergy who have felt guilt by association, should never overshadow the duty to reach out to victims, whose lives have suffered physically, mentally and spiritually.

Some outsiders may scoff at holding a healing service, saying it is too little, too late. Skepticism, cynicism, disbelief. This is the penance the church must pay for crimes against innocent victims at the hands of its clergy. However, the sincere, heartfelt outreach displayed by Bishop Ricken to those gathered at the prayer service will go a long way toward healing, including for those who still struggle with forgiveness.

The day before the healing service in Appleton, Pope Francis publicly apologized for clerical sexual abuse, saying he felt called to take responsibility “for all the evil some priests … have committed and to ask forgiveness for the damage they’ve done with the sexual abuse of children.”

He also committed himself to strengthening child protection programs and punishing those representing the church who abuse.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It is fitting to hear both Bishop Ricken and Pope Francis offer words of encouragement this month to those who have been sexually abused as children. It is also our duty to support them in their outreach to victims and remind them of the constant need for vigilance. Without a watchful eye and a rigorous safe environment training program for church employees, all the positive steps that have been accomplished in recent years will be forgotten.

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