Harber said she had a similar feeling reading the McCarrick Report and seeing how many people heard the rumors surrounding him, yet did not take action. In both cases, a fear of scandal prevented the truth coming to light, she said.
"I don't think there's the fullness of the truth in that report. If history has taught us anything, it's that they have not been forthcoming. And it's just been incredibly sad," she said.
Several survivors noted to CNA with sadness that McCarrick's denials of allegations against him appeared to go relatively untested.
Cardinal John O’Connor of New York in 1999 wrote a letter to the U.S. apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, objecting to McCarrick’s potential appointment to higher office, on the basis of existing allegations of misconduct, including incidents involving sharing a bed with seminarians at a New Jersey beach house.
In mid-2000, the report states, McCarrick wrote a letter meant to rebut O'Connor's allegations, stating that “In the seventy years of my life, I have never had sexual relations with any person, male or female, young or old, cleric or lay, nor have I ever abused another person or treated them with disrespect.”
"McCarrick’s denial was believed and the view was held that, if allegations against McCarrick were made public, McCarrick would be able to refute them easily," the report says.
Harber said she was unsurprised by McCarrick's apparent lie, saying it is common that an abuser's denial will be taken at face value, as happened with her abuser.
Ruidl agreed. "They certainly didn't extend that same belief to the victims who dared to complain,” she said.
Ruidi said that while there are certainly clerics in the Church who do care about listening to survivors, some clerics may value their reputation to the detriment of the truth — there still exists "a reflex reaction to protect the Church," she said.
"That reaction fails to take into account that the Church isn't [the hierarchy], it's all of us together. And if they aren't concerned about the people of God, then they are missing the whole point of the Church," Ruidl said.
Harber echoed Barthel and Ruidlm saying that the Church needs to pay more attention to adult abuse victims. Between any priest and any layperson, a power difference exists that can be exploited for abuse, she said.
"What McCarrick took from those victims, the seminarians, and the adults that he abused, he can never give back."
Ruidl said she believes a culture of lawsuits and bankruptcies has also made interactions between the Church and survivors more contentious.
In her opinion, meetings between bishops and survivors should be "human being to human being" and should, as much as possible, de-emphasize the power differential.
"Any time you put the power differential into play, you're putting the survivor, the person who's been harmed, in a defensive posture, and probably a posture of fear," she said.
Awake Milwaukee, a lay organization that supports survivors of abuse, sent out materials to Milwaukee parishes via email to help pastors address the news of the McCarrick Report in their parishes and from their pulpits in a manner sensitive to survivors.
“Your parishioners are likely to approach Mass this weekend with hard questions and heavy hearts, and we are reaching out to offer resources to help you respond,” an email from the group read.
Harber said it would be healing for her, and likely for many other victims, if bishops and other clergy named in the report came forward and apologized to victims for their mistakes.
"Right now, it feels like the status quo," she said.
At the same time, Harber encouraged victims not to give up hope in the Catholic Church.
"While the Church is a source of pain, it is also a great source of healing, and Christ wants to heal you through the sacraments," she said.
Barthel said it is hard for her, as a survivor, to trust an official investigation from the Vatican.
She says she hopes that the clergy, in the U.S. and at the Vatican, will take the McCarrick Report as a lesson about the importance of independent investigations into clerical misconduct, so that the clergy do not just "cover up for each other."
Barthel urged prayers for all survivors of abuse, clerical and otherwise.
"Our hope is in Jesus Christ and his Church— our hope is not in people, and in men who have made poor decisions. Change needs to happen and we need to continue to fight for change, but at the end of the day God has the final word and He's the author of both mercy and justice," she said.