News reports of the clergy sexual abuse scandal unfolding in Europe and responses in the media continue to swirl around the Church. More attention has focused on who did what and when, or who made this or that comment, than on the victims of these heinous acts.
Young people or adults who experienced sexual assault years ago are finding their feelings of pain, anxiety and anger intensified with every revelation and commentary in the media. That information is necessary to be brought into the light of day, but it is emotionally hurtful to victims nonetheless.
Victim assistance coordinators of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia report a surge of calls from victims or their loved ones at present. Any victim experiencing renewed intensity of pain and depression must know that he or she need not carry that heavy burden alone. Archdiocesan victim assistance coordinators (call 1-888-800-8780) are ready to provide confidential support or simply listen to one’s strong emotions and concerns.
Or the coordinators will readily refer a person uncomfortable speaking with a representative of the Church to non-religious organizations throughout the region such as the Network of Victim Assistance in Bucks County (call 1-800-675-6900). Counselors walk with the victim or loved one to help him or her deal with their feelings on an ongoing basis with empathy and compassionate care.
The current revelations of sexual abuse should elicit from all the Catholic faithful a stronger sense of compassion for victims. They are members of the body of Christ who need their fellow Catholics’ compassion and understanding. As Cardinal Justin Rigali cited St. Paul on Holy Thursday, “if one part of Christ’s Body, the Church, suffers, all of us suffer.”
Extending genuine compassion * literally, to “suffer with” * to victims of sexual abuse and those who care for them testifies that we are truly an Easter people, a people of hope and the strength to love. Even amidst experiences of immense suffering, Easter “is all about new life,” the Cardinal said on Easter Sunday morning. “We are called,” he said, “to walk in newness of life and to set our hearts on God, with love for one another.”
This is no easy task. But the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us every day “the power to respond to God’s love, to show mercy * to others, and to serve one another,” the Cardinal said. “All of this is what, through the power of Christ’s resurrection, we are called to do with renewed fervor and commitment on this Easter Day.”
This article appeared in the April 1, 2010, edition of the Catholic Standard & Times in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.