By T. Pitt Green
Acts of Recovery was written by a survivor of sexual abuse by clergy. He is also a founder of this magazine. In 92 small pages, Michael Hoffman’s book chronicles steps, or acts, he took while coming to terms with his childhood trauma. Considering this topic is daunting for many intended readers, the book’s brevity makes it very good for newcomers who are trying to imagine a way forward.
Starting with first steps like telling his wife and interacting with a review board, Mike explores ways to make peace with the past. Each description is first-hand. He participates in a retreat and a Healing Mass. He struggles to overcome his own resistance to breaking the silence and sharing the secret. It’s all here, how Mike did it and how he moved forward to thrive.
Like other survivors, Mike also finds uniquely personal steps beyond diocesan programs. These are concrete actions. He visits places important in his childhood. He participates in a group to found a healing garden for other survivors to visit if they wish. Mike’s acts include attending therapy, but this story casts a bright light on the spiritual quest that underlies recovery from wounds unique in clergy abuse.
This book is also a powerful testimony about the impact of positive support. Mike is anxious about his interactions with the diocese, naturally, but its professional and compassionate response permit him to feel more at ease. He even recounts how the review-board process helped his own progress, thanks to respectful and compassionate members. Among family and friends, too, Mike finds compassion and support, particularly from his wife. While not all survivors recount similar support or, sadly, similar receptions by dioceses, any survivor reading this book will find inspiration to create his or her own patchwork of support and to take his or her own unique steps and actions to keep the recovery process – however it is defined – moving along.
It’s hard to miss the role played by priests and religious in Mike’s story. This connection is far more common than is generally known. Survivors of clergy abuse often seek a relationship with a priest or religious as a way to regain a connection with the Church. Here is yet another reason it is critical for dioceses to tend to their survivors and their family members. And to train priests and religious in basic, simple ways to interact successfully with survivors, not just survivors of clergy abuse but also the multitude of abuse and trauma survivors sitting with hidden agony in the pews.
Last, this book is a cautionary tale. It should serve to remind dioceses how very important their survivor ministries are as a way to reach and reconcile with every precious survivor of clergy abuse. Another way to say it is this: Imagine what the Church would have lost had his diocese failed to care for Mike, alienating him and depriving his diocese, parish and child-abuse prevention work of his substantial talent. Sadly, that very loss is happening elsewhere, where survivors and family members are left untended and without a path home.
 This review is based on the book by Michael D. Hoffman entitled Acts of Recovery: One Man’s Ongoing Healing from Sexual Abuse by a Priest (ACTA Publications: Chicago, IL, 2013).