Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What Fr. Lombardi Should have said in his Letter to Survivors' Voice

I am not clear on the details of what happened.  I've read different versions in different places.  So the Survivors' Voice survivors were not allowed into St. Peter's Square, but a Vatican official, Fr. Lombardi apparently did speak to two to several of the survivors privately, and he wrote a letter that was published online on John Allen's blog at The National Catholic Reporter.

I despair, as a Catholic.  I am sure that Fr. Lombardi is a nice, well meaning man, but it seems that his efforts at outreach went over like a ...well they don't seem to be well received.  I suspect it is very hard for a priest who is used to being in a position of authority to find himself in a position of humility and to know what to do.  And yet this kind of humility is central to the teachings of Jesus.  There are so many stories of Jesus showing compassion to those rejected by everyone else in society.  I'd advise Fr. Lombardi to try to reach out as Jesus might -- with absolute compassion. without preconditions.  I have some specific advice on what he could say and do instead of what he did say and do.

My first bit of advice is don't try to control the setting to where you are comfortable.  Try to make sure that the survivors are in a comfortable setting.  Ask the survivors where they want to meet with you and how many want to meet with you.  Try to accommodate as much as you can.  It is hard to be confronted with shouts and criticism.  You can do it.  See it as a challenge to grow in spirituality, rather than as a problem to be managed or controlled.

Below is Fr. Lombardi's letter in white.  My advice in red and my rewritten letter in blue.

The windows of my office at Vatican Radio are just a few metres away, and therefore it seems fitting to me to listen, and to make a tangible sign of our attention, to your meeting.
(My advice, Fr. Lombardi is just be humble.  Just come to learn and listen.)
I am coming here to listen, to try to understand how you feel and why you feel that way, to better know your experiences.  
This intervention of mine is not an official one, but because of my deep insertion and identification with the Catholic Church and the Holy See, I believe I can express the feelings shared by many regarding the object of your manifestation.
(My advice, Fr. Lombardi is to not try to explain the Church’s position to survivors.  You can’t try to solve problems until you’ve made a connection with the people with whom you are at odds.  Just listen.  Don’t try to do anything else.)
These actions of mine are not official.  I am acting on my own behalf.
In this, I feel encouraged by the attitude of the Pope, made manifest many times, that is, to listen to the victims, and show the will to do everything necessary, so that the horrible crimes of sexual abuse may never happen again.
 (In this part, once again, don’t try to defend the Vatican, just emphasize the importance of listening).
We in the Church need to listen to survivors with open hearts and minds.  We have started to do this, but we need to do much more.  We have done much to end the abuse of children in the Church and in society, but children and vulnerable adults continue to be abused in Church and in society.  We listen with open hearts and minds to your ideas about what we can all do together to end abuse everywhere forever.
I must say that, even though I do not share all of your declarations and positions, I find in many of these the elements on which one can develop a pledge, that will bring solidarity and consensus between us.
(Fr. Lombardi, keep it humble, in the mode of trying to learn and connect.)

It is true that I am struggling to understand some of your positions.  I have different experiences and perceptions from you, but I am trying to learn more about your perspectives, to see where we can come together.
It is true that the Church must be very attentive so that the children and the young, who are entrusted to her educational activities, may grow in a completely secure environment.
(My gut feeling is these are just not the right words.)
The tragedy is that in spite of all we have done, recent cases of abuse within the setting of the Catholic Church still turn up.  Clearly we need to do even more so that all children and vulnerable adults may be safe.
Yesterday morning, a hundred thousand young people were present in these places for a great celebration of their faith and of their youthfulness, and they are but a small part of the youths who take part with trust and enthusiasm in the life of the Church community. We must absolutely ensure that their growth be healthy and serene, finding all the protection which is rightfully theirs. We all have a great responsibility with regards to the future of the youth of the world.
(I’d delete the part about the hundred thousand young people who came to the Vatican on October 30.  It feels too much as a defense of the Church.  I’d keep that latter part of the paragraph but alter it slightly.)

We must absolutely ensure that the growth of all children be healthy and serene, finding all the protection which is rightfully theirs. We all have a great responsibility with regards to the future of the youth of the world.

I know, you think that the Church should do more, and in a quicker way. From my point of view – even though one may and should always do more – I am convinced that the Church has done, and is doing a lot. Not only the Pope, with his words and example, but many Church communities in various parts of the world have done and are doing a lot, by way of listening to the victims as well as in the matter of prevention and formation.
(These two paragraphs simply struck me the wrong way. Fr. Lombardi, you are still stuck in defending the Church.  I’d open up and include survivors in the process.)
And despite our efforts to prevent abuse, abuse is still taking place, perhaps we need to ask you for your ideas about what we can all do together to prevent abuse and care for the victims.  We have formed listening groups in many diocese.  We want to hear from you what works and what has not worked and what more you want and need so we can improve our programs.  How can we encourage more survivors to come forward to seek healing?  How can we get more survivors to participate in our programs for healing?  How can we make our programs better? 

Personally, I am in contact with many persons who work in this field in many countries, and I am convinced that they are doing a lot. Of course, we must continue to do more. And your cry today is an encouragement to do more. But a large part of the Church is already on the good path. The major part of the crimes belongs to times bygone. Today’s reality and that of tomorrow are more beckoning. Let us help one another to journey together in the right direction.
OK more defense of the Church.  You simply can’t reach out to the heart’s of victims of Religious Authority Sexual Abuse by defending the Church.  You have to reach out from your heart out of concern for preventing abuse and caring for the victims I’d delete the whole paragraph except for the last line.
 Let us help one another to journey together in the right direction.
But the more important thing that I wanted to say to you is the following, and I feel encouraged to say it, because it seems to me that you also are aware of it.
The scourge of sexual abuses, especially against minors, but also in a general way, is one of the great scourges of today’s world. It involves and touches the Catholic Church, but we know very well that what has happened in the Church is but a small part of what has happened, and continues to happen in the world at large. The Church must first free herself of this evil, and give a good example in the fight against the abuses within her midst, but afterwards, we must all fight against this scourge, knowing that it is an immense one in today’s world, a scourge which increases the more easily when it remains hidden; and many are indeed very happy that all the attention is focused on the Church, and not on them, for this allows them to carry on undisturbed.
This fight must be fought by us together, uniting our forces against the spread of this scourge, which uses new means and ways to reach out today, helped in this by Internet and the new forms of communication, by the crisis hitting families, by sexual tourism and traffic which exploit the poverty of the people in various continents.
What the Church has learnt in these years – prompted also by you and by other groups – and the initiatives that she can take to purify herself and be a model of security for the young, must be of use to all. For this, I invite you to look at the Church ever more as a possible ally, or – according to me – as an ally already active today in the pursuit of the most noble goals of your endeavours.
(My reaction to these paragraphs is too many words.  I got lost in what you are trying to say, Fr, Lombardi.  Keep it simple and brief.  The last words from the previous paragraph are fine.  I’d just add two more lines.)
What can we all do together, Church personnel, survivors, parishioners and other members of the community to forever end this scourge of child abuse whether by clergy or others and to support survivors on the journey to healing.  I look forward to hearing your ideas.
My one final comment of my own is to echo what Kay Ebeling said in her blog.  She wants the church to provide financial resources for healing but she wants the programs for healing to be run by independent groups.  My experience is that most survivors feel the same way.
If you want to express your opinions about what more needs to be done to prevent child abuse in the Church, what more needs to be done for healing and how what experiences you have had up until now.  Check out the surveys on my website at: http://compassionategathering.org/?pages/21 .
These surveys are anonymous.  I will never know who you are unless you tell me.  After I have sufficient results to release them, I will.  The data will be analyzed with the help of Mandy Davis, an adjunct researcher and instructor of Social Work at Portland State University.  The surveys will be available for a long time.  Currently, respondents are saying 4 to 1 that they want resources available from outside the Church rather than from the Church.  Survivors are split between wanting more apologies from the Church and not believing it is possible for the Church to apologize adequately.  However, one respondent has had a rather positive experience with Church personnel and programs.

In addition, Compassionate Gathering offers listening groups for survivors with other Catholics and member of the community independent of Church leadership.  If you want to meet other Catholics and tell them like it is and be completely free to say whatever you want, check us out at  Compsassionate_Gathering.com .

No comments:

Post a Comment