Go into any bookstore, and you are sure to find numerous books on the sexual abuse crisis that the Catholic Church has been plagued with during the last few decades. But what you won’t find is a book that looks at both sides of the unprecedented tragedy—the stories of the abused and those of the abusers.
The authors of the newly published book, Broken Trust, zero in on the sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church by examining the lives and histories of the abusive priests, the experiences of the victims, and by offering suggestions about how all involved can heal.
While media coverage often exposes the abhorrent specifics of sexual abuse cases, this book takes care to look at the lives of the priest-abusers. Broken Trust brings to light the untold life-events of five different priests whose past ordeals set them on the path to continue the cycle of abuse.
Sexual Abuse Has More Than One Victim
While never excusing their shocking behavior, the authors are able to see the priest’s wounds as the cause of their abusive actions. “We came to realize that they too had a trauma and abuse history, which was the root cause of their behavior.” The priests’ stories in this book were from abusers who have taken responsibility for their behavior and have recovered from it.
The priest’s stories are told from their point of view while discussing their struggles with childhood abuse, familial issues, homosexuality, alcohol, and the loss of loved ones.
The book also shares three stories from survivors of clerical sex abuse. Their stories of fear, pain and manipulation are truly heartbreaking, but their steps forward are nothing short of acts of tremendous strength as they move on with their lives.
Each story from the priests and the victims is followed by a commentary providing psychological and spiritual perspectives. “The commentaries elaborate on what created the horrible abusive cycle these individuals were caught up in and what helps to heal them, stop the abuse cycle, and prevent it from continuing.”
Solutions for Real Healing
In the final section, the authors present ideas for healing. One of the authors has already started to treat those who were involved in abusing through a residential program. The facility houses priests who are no longer serving in active ministry. This program helps the residents in finding a new role within the world.
These stories are told for several reasons, but first and foremost, to prevent sexual abuse from ever happening again.
“The more we know and understand these men, the more we will know how to protect children and others who are vulnerable.” The authors add that another motivation “is to promote a healing dialogue between abusers and victims.” “In the limited number of situations where the abuser has been able to personally apologize for his abuse to the victim, we have seen healing for both parties greatly facilitated.”
The authors point out this is a major way that the Church can help to heal the wounds of the victims as well as the abusers.
“The Church could sponsor and organize such healing dialogues between priest victim-abusers and victim. These dialogues could be part of a Church-sponsored program of what is called restorative justice. This approach attempts to avoid the adversarial relationships of civil suits. These suits may bring some victims significant monetary compensation, and tort lawyer’s sizable fees, but they are certainly not designed for healing victims. They, in fact, tend to keep the victim stuck in the anger stage of healing. Restorative justice, with professional mediation between the Church and the victim, could lead to a healing settlement of monetary compensation and payment for the victim’s counseling.”
While addressing the needs of the victims and the abusers, “healing is possible. There is hope.”
Broken Trust was published by The Crossroad Publishing Company in May of 2007 and is authored by Patrick Fleming, Sue Lauber-Fleming, and Mark T. Matousek.