This is a personal reflection on darkness, light, and media (or, forgiving the colloquial, “press.”) On the one hand, it offers an overview of the spirit behind best practices in organizing prayer services for healing from abuse in the Church. On the other hand, it is a commentary on the twofold role, and two-sided aspect, of the relationship between media and survivors of abuse – at least those of us working within principles practiced in Spirit Fire.
Recently Spirit Fire survivors were invited to a diocesan prayer service for victims of abuse, their families, and all Catholics which was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY. The bishop offered a warm pastoral welcome for survivors, and so we invited friends from various places who are seeking safety, and understanding, and homecoming.
Luis Torres, my co-founder at Spirit Fire, is from the New York City area. I fare from Virginia. Other Spirit Fire survivor friends from outside Albany joined. We hoped to make it easier for other survivors and family members in the local setting to come. Our friend and fellow survivor, Mike Hoffman, was planning to come from Chicago, but the weather was forbidding. We were joined by fellow survivor and Spirit Fire friend Matt Fitzgibbons, who has organized the first two prayer services in the diocese of Syracuse, NY, this year.
We are advocates for, among other things, healing prayer services. Mike has been organizing them for almost a decade. He released a free guide on how to host prayerful events without scaring children or re-wounding victims. But, how to involve survivors and family members in these healing events? Spirit Fire has a fundamental belief that survivors and family members are important partners for healing in the Church. The challenge at this early stage is how to create the opportunity for a different interaction. There is little doubt. Most people tell us they want things to be different. Indeed, it is quite common for people to tell us that “business as usual” doesn’t work, but that begs the question where to begin building the relationships that can make for a new approach based on the healing and new life that can happen in a restorative justice paradigm?
We propose to begin anew in prayer – not isolated prayer and not ceremonial prayer which can, in some settings, reinforce the distances from which the many wounded sides can survey each other but never reconnect. We propose praying with each other for each other, after learning how to pray together.
As survivors, we know first-hand how a quiet, peaceful, safe setting for prayer can be a turning point in spiritual healing for any wounded person. So, we wanted to pray with the bishop who had scheduled two prayer services for victims in just a couple months. The first was in October, the second this evening. I offered a brief reflection at both.
Compared to many prayer services I have attended over many years, sometimes as guest and sometimes as planner, this one will be particularly memorable. Maybe it is how the chill and dark did not keep people from turning out, but definitely it was because we came together to pray in the dark of Advent so very close to Christmas.
Outside the Cathedral
Luis and I arrived in Albany at not quite six pm. It was a week night the day after a snow storm. The streets were deserted. It was snowing (what Upstaters call “snowing lightly” and Virginians call “a snow emergency,” but I digress…). We were dwarfed by office buildings with their shock of cold blue bright light in squared off glass structures, against which the iconic steeple and cathedral cut a dark and, for many survivors, ominous silhouette.
Most memorably, it was to this shadow that the isolated individuals, otherwise not connected or speaking, were oriented and moving. It’s draw, it’s centrality sticks with a person such as myself, largely wondering about the effect of faith on our pathways. There it was, even in the deep of winter, with greater, larger, newer shelters abounding, the Church was still a focal point, drawing isolated people inward, despite her own shadow state, despite how her sanctuary for those wounded by abuse remains for now best judged on a person-to-person basis.
The arriving attendees passed a few reporters loitering at the foot of the cathedral stairs. A single camera was active with a glaring light turned toward a person who I believe is the same survivor whose video news clip I saw later. His name is Gary Greenberg, and he was explaining how, at some point, despite what the viewers would have known as his reputation advocating for survivors of abuse, he realized that it was time for him to explore a further, spiritual healing.
Praying for Healing
Spirit Fire appreciates that turning point. We are devoted to cultivating opportunities for such a moment for all hurt by abuse. We understand its impact, and we believe that prayer services offer a first step to explore such a possibility, as long as they are safe, psychologically and spiritually and (for some, still) physically. At the core of that safety is the privacy to feel what is felt, and to explore what it means to lower (if but a bit) the guardian walls against a once-hurtful Church.
Planning for this kind of hope means a commitment to learn. Planners need to be reasonably informed about trauma and abuse so that no one is, even inadvertently, re-wounded. Of all things, the night must proceed in stark contrast to the experiences of abuse behind why the service is needed at all. It is about the hearts of the harmed being welcomed, the hurt being seen and heard and cared for with the primacy it always deserved.
In learning while planning, people who serve to help a bishop host such a prayer service also take a step forward in helping the Church heal. What survivors have to share are lessons about darkness and light which one does not wish to forget once one has taken the courageous step to learn them. They are lessons of hope in the darkness. More than once we have been told that, listening and learning has saved a person’s own faith. Make no mistake. These lessons are personal, too, and making them one’s own is without doubt a sacrificial act.
The hope is the truth many survivors and family members have found. We actually can be free from emotional prisons that tie us to the past. This is true not just survivors but also for others hurt by the Church and in the Church. We can be released by grace to contribute to a way forward in a new life. The hard part can be realizing the hurt isn’t limited to survivors, and that the need for the service is real for everyone in the Church.
We pray in turning toward God because, in the end, after all the recovery and truth-telling and activism and reform, every one of us still needs a Savior.
Taking time for grounding in prayer does not put us at odds with those who advocate for survivors, reform, or justice. Asking for privacy doesn’t reduce our commitment to change. Neither does praying privately together suggest a withdrawal from the public discourse. Moral outrage doesn’t end when we pray. The good fight doesn’t get set aside. But, the exhausting bondage to the broken self can itself be broken. In prayer. And, only in prayer.
This is why we must learn safe ways to pray together, so that we can gather safely to pray for each other.
Increasingly, bishops are taking prayer services under their wing, and they are stepping further forward by fostering new and trauma-informed pathways for a healing dialogue that creates an ever-more prayerful environment for healing – and for reform. The kind of steps forward (which Catholics demand and about which press speculates) can’t take place in front of cameras, lest they be mistaken for more of the same. They must be grounded in unifying prayer, even though it can take a while to learn how to foster a setting that permits such an experience.
This bishop has already experience caring for survivors and their families which, speaking as someone dedicated to this outreach around the United States, necessarily means caring for everyone in his parish, as a pastor holding his own Advent vigil and scanning the distance for those seeking safe home. His homilies in prayer services speak as if it is Christmas, about letting Jesus be born into the dark and into the hurt. About an incredible Light and many impossible things made possible. Metaphorically, at least, there is a candle in the bishop’s window in Albany.
For our part, Spirit Fire came a guests, and as friends of the bishop, in a spirit of prayer. We decline press in those instances. We are not the stars of the show. Neither is the bishop. God in His Spirit is. We appreciate all the press has done and still does, but don’t hesitate to pray in an appropriately unseen way. Prayer services are not about us. There are now, finally, many ways for survivors to find a microphone. We each can choose how and if we are heard. Nevertheless, in our prayer we are still, like everyone else. If we wish to find His Voice we seek the in quiet, where we have stilled even our own judgments and fears sufficiently to receive His Word. Whether our brothers and sisters in Christ know how to make that possible is often a matter of whether we are willing to help them learn what we know of darkness and light.
Reporters tend to grant survivors this space, odd as it tends to seem, once they understand what it is we need. Of the few reporters there at the cathedral, none even glanced at me. They kept themselves turned away from attendees. We ascended the stairs wrapped in our guarded solitude, with shoulders turned against the cold night – and, on a spiritual level, against a world that can be very very cold, even cruel, toward the survivor of abuse.
Here is an example of the twofold kindness of media in the dark of Advent.
Usually media vigilantly watches and listens, but now and then media ignores. For decades survivors suffered from being ignored in the Church, until media started to listen and made it hard for the Church to ignore us, forcing what was hidden in darkness to light. Yet, the vigilant role of media doesn’t keep reporters from restraining their presence at times of prayer so survivors may explore, unseen, uninterrupted, their private portion of hope.
As I climbed the steps of the cathedral, I was thinking of one survivor who had asked about possibly attending. I knew how daunting the walk toward the cathedral would be. Would it prove to be too much? They had not been inside a church building for decades. They would be arriving in the same inhospitable wintry night, during the same season of holiday grief for lost innocence, knowing well how inhospitable and dangerous the Church has been for them and may still be. They would see the camera and the reporters. Would they take flight? I may never know.
My wish was and remains that, this time, such a survivor could find the gauntlet through memories and feelings and reasonable fears about safety sufficiently bearable that they could step inside, if only for part of the service, to experience an opportunity for spiritual healing in whatever terms speaks to them.
Creating space safe for this is aligned with the higher ideals of the press which has dogged after The Story of abuse and coverup and crisis in the Church. We share a sense of injustices done and the terrible harm caused. As another decade closes on a series of many decades of hell for survivors and for those dedicated to a holy Church, it seems important to me to note how media has not just shone a spotlight on The Story, but also has had reactions to some things with clarity about how the Church is expected to be a holy refuge, a clarity still lost on some who wonder why they don’t hear about the Church taking healing step but who don’t attend services themselves.
I see this expectation in objections among Catholics that criticism of the Church outweighs criticism of other institutions. Many Catholics complain as if this is unfair, but I see the imbalance as a sign that more is expected of the faith and of the Church. Personally, I welcome that expectation, because I have been the recipient of the spiritual sustenance no other source but God can give.
And, it is not uncommon for press to publish criticisms about Masses and services, sometimes penned by survivors and others, sometimes in opinion columns. There is distrust, of course. Distrust makes sense. If a predator who perverted the holiness of a Roman collar to gain access to children was tolerated, how too might a prayer service be manipulated to deliver expediency, serving double duty as it were, as a public relations story, or press showcase, or messaging opportunity, or a social media post showing someone’s private moment of tears or rest in a wounded peace.
Most journalists have a spider sense for window-dressing and opportunistic message-making. They’ll report on what may be offered, but they are not fooled. Neither are survivors fooled. By what is not authentic, we can be exiled again. We have learned the hard way that truth is the cornerstone in recovery. There is no compromise on that. Truth is or is not. For others, it can be difficult to hear this message in stereo, from press and from survivors, especially if you are inclined to let lines blur as a way to keep moving forward – without considering the historical patterns this inclination reflects, without considering how that approach has failed over and over.
There is only one way to welcome survivors and family members back into dialogue with the Church. To offer welcome without double meaning. There is only one way to reconnect with Catholics and others who have recoiled into isolation from the faith, too. To reconnect with clarity and authenticity yourself. Whatever is done must be done in such a way to show there is no second script, no subtext, no duel agenda.
Don’t get me wrong. Reporters find my return to the scene of the crime, so to speak, puzzling. Some hold what I say as dubious. I understand. This is a situation where there is no trust and where there has been no trust among sides for years. I don’t expect trust readily in anything I do. I simply keep attempting to do what is on my own heart to do, with other survivor friends, offering the best we have with the integrity we did not experience when we were wrestling with recovery and faith.
Regardless of how strange my choices about faith may seem to reporters, I have never known a single member of the media to suggest survivors should not pursue healing or should not be granted privacy in praying. No one has to explain to a reporter on the Catholic beat how much those wounded by abuse in the Church need to find consolation, recognition, and care. Press are important advocates, but their work is also not simply that. It is for survivors ultimately to advocate for each other and for families. It is for family members and friends, who are able, to advocate as well. That extends to a spiritual family, too. Clergy, including bishops, are increasingly investing in creating not just safe places for prayer, but also personal connections for healing.
This is evident when a bishop’s commitment to providing safe home for prayer takes precedence over institutional impulses for message management. It takes courage to be forthcoming with press in any event I imagine, but more courage to define sacred space that is off-limits for prayer. The distrust around such a boundary is reasonable, given how in the past privacy has been a smokescreen for secrecy. Yet, bishops or other hosts of prayer services are starting to hear survivors who seek a spiritual, safe interlude in the battle and fray.
We above anyone know what we request, because we know well the distinction between privacy and secrecy. We paid the price for when the two were blurred for expedience sake. Yet, we still need healing space to be safe. It takes courage on the side of survivors still to seek that from the Church, and courage from the bishop who ensures that safety and care is tantamount.
And, that is why we need to gather in prayer.
For each other.
And for bishops to lead the Church to healing.
Bishop Scharfenberger gave a press conference before the service that wintry night in Albany, but at a place removed from the steps which attendees would need to climb. It is my observation that he personally asks reporters not to gather at the sanctuary when prayer is the focus. This is why I am comfortable offering a public reflection where he leads a prayer service.
As a survivor, I don’t have heroes and don’t believe they exist. The time for believing in some kind of perfect authority is long gone. I am no longer a child, but then I was never a child really. Abuse made me old when I was young, but at least recovery taught me to respect those who walk the walk and merit respect. That is why these things need to be said not just about the press who ignored us that night, but about the bishop who led the service that inspired this Advent reflection.
Darkness and Light
Advent is all about darkness and light, being lost and being found. The press has played a pivotal role in calling out truth, in shedding light on what remained stubbornly hidden in shadows. In finding our stories. In unearthing facts that were concealed. Their work is hardly done because abuse is rampant, and is getting worse, where concentrated power continues consciously to suppress the truth of abuse in the name of expediency – leaving thousands of minors wounded in secret and without comfort, protection, relief, or kindness for many years.
Boy Scouts. Olympics. College sports. Kids camps. Smaller Christian denominations. Schools. Daycare. Foster care. NXIUM. Caribbean islands. And, farther abroad: Child soldiers. Child trafficking. Child war trophies. United Nations peacekeepers. Dear God, the list of horrid clusters of abusers is legion, where children are de-humanized and made into playthings of predators and their enablers… taught nothing but lies about their worth and their dignity and right to informed self-determination. It must all come out, and like any war the vigilant press peers into the darkness to find the stories and the facts hidden to date.
The press fights for truth. It serves as witness as well as listener. It was among the first to listen to what survivors had to say. Its best veterans proceed in keeping with its revered tradition from muckrakers like Sinclair Lewis to reporters like Edward R. Murrow to storytellers like Joseph Mitchell. Even as they track The Story, reporters whom I’ve met wish for, even work in, hope for our healing from the indignity of abuse. They reject darkness. They know light.
They also serve the public. While Spirit Fire prayer services seek to restore sanctuary, there are many other situations for fostering a healing dialogue, such as at parish services and workshops, and at nationwide Pinwheels for Prevention events in April. Mike Hoffman has written a good deal in this magazine about these prayerful events where press is welcomed. Offering information on child safety and personal interviews, Mike and other survivors and pastoral ministers in his archdiocese of Chicago help get out a public-service message about keeping kids safe and about healing communities. Most Spirit Fire survivors and friends have comfortably spoken to press when the time and place is comfortable.
Spirit Fire prayer services in the vein of the one in Albany this Advent night are slightly different. They are about coming together to learn, as a broken family, in planning and in praying, how to pray together despite the rifts and falsehoods and betrayals. We learn how to take early steps by training our focus on one God and Savior – not on our respective experiences or mutual complaints or accusations, not on our goals, or convictions, or opinions, or solutions, or resentments, or even ambitions.
For a Spirit Fire prayer service, it is best to arrive empty in order to be filled.
It is best to arrive with the single identity as a child of God, equal to all others, and as precious as all others so to deserve the death of a Savior. It is said that the evil one fears nothing more than he fears humility, so the humility in our services, where we consciously set aside everything else to make God primary, is itself an action to rebuke the evil of abuse.
The Price of Witness
The role of the press has its price. No one hears and learns our stories without also sharing our wounds. Reporters, especially investigative reporters, who persevere also can be traumatized. There is a thing called “secondary trauma,” which is not a poetic concept. We write about it regularly. We see it in those whom we love. We see it in the health care providers and the pastoral caregivers.
This is why, in those prayer services hosted by Spirit Fire at least, we lift up the press in prayer along with everybody else. For healing. Spirit Fire does welcome press to our prayer services for this singular reason. Not with camera and light and pad, but with heart and mind. Not as intrepid reporters tracking The Story, but as a person who carries the wound of our abuse by some degree of separation.
Come, let those whose suffering you brought into light pray over you, because you have shared a darkness that leaves a wound no matter who you are.
Our invitation does not seek to compromise anyone’s quest for truth. We have found a treasure in prayer during our quest to recover from wounds that are essentially shared with family, friends, parishes, communities – and the press. We simply offer the same to all attendees, safety from being used (again) as pawns in the setting of faith, safety from the agenda of any other person, safety to explore the potential for consolation and new life. Safety to be reminded that, contrary to the lies of abusers and the dismissive reception of enablers, our radical dignity as precious children of God is in tact and worthy of care and love.
Spirit Fire survivors, who have committed ourselves to help the Church by including victims in the institutional healing process, do understand. We understand the value of every distinct story and voice needed for a shared healing, and we know how sometimes, instead, what’s important is blending voices seamlessly in prayer. We endeavor to ease the approach to being heard distinctly and to being part of a single prayer. Both for survivors and for all who have been hurt by the crisis of abuse in our Church that has lasted for years.
The challenge is difficult for survivors and family members. Trusting a representative of the Church where so much harm occurred is a grace, part choice and part miracle.
The challenge is very difficult, too, for the hosts and the clergy and Catholics trying to sort it all out. Many have never encountered a survivor in a friendship dedicated to Christ. You’d be surprised how people relate to the crisis with nothing more than a mental construct of people on the other side of the issues.
It’s hard to incorporate the voice of the survivor who has taken a step further in healing so to be able to speak of our experience. The defense mechanisms against these voices speaks to the pain everyone shares. Quite some time ago someone directly challenged my qualifications to do what I do. There was even talk, which proved futile for them, that whatever I say would be vetted by an expert in (that case) counseling. It goes something like what kind of expert am I, without a degree in therapy or theology or some other applicable discipline.
There were technically correct responses. There’s the research demonstrating the crucial role of peer support in trauma recovery. There’s the entire paradigm of restorative justice that demonstrates the positive impact of facilitated dialogue that includes all voices, particularly the victims. There’s even the story of fishermen who changed the world without training and only a message about personal impact from encountering Jesus. Yet, these arguments are just that, arguments. What I intuited then I have learned more clearly with time: there can be a rush to the expert as a proxy for the testimony of a victim who has survived abuse. There is much work to do to be ready to hear what survivors have to say, without a filter and, for the Church family to heal, without long-term supervision by experts.
Media hones in on the story, not without experts for context, but the first-person accounts have made the impact of the media’s witness very strong. There is something very important to learn from media in this regard – as well as to appreciate in media over the past years. No one needs a proxy to tell their own story. In our case, that story contains a darkness many doubt can find healing – and contains a testimony the Church needs to heal as a collective.
Spirit Fire, in partnership with bishops and other leaders, helps open doors and secure entry into the dialogue of healing. We serve simply to let each person explore and decide what is possible in terms of integrating faith in their recovery. These are stories people are free to tell family, friends, and press. But, first, the story needs sustenance and light for its movement into new life.
This decision point includes Catholics and does not exclude press. We point out that there are many venues for sharing information, if it’s information you want to share, but the exchange of words and all they mean during a prayer service is about sharing with God alone and together. There is no need to blur the line between different events and different gatherings.
You know, we understand that this asks a lot of the press and of the Church, and by “Church” I mean all Catholics.
For our part, as survivors, we help the dialogue proceed when we keep in mind that we have already dealt with many things that are shockingly new to others. It helps when we help each other see clearly the powerful progress we have made, even if the days are difficult or seem dark. For example, we have been forced to face the fact that we are strapped with the responsibility of coping with the impact of abuse we did not cause. We may resist that or accept it, but there it is. Others, when engaging with us, may not have encountered that shocking and difficult fact until they speak with us. And, in smaller portion, they are facing the fact that they are responsible for coping with the impact of the abuse on the Church – although they may not have been alive in the years of the worst of the abuse or complicity.
Fellow Catholics and others may be almost uniformly outraged at the crisis, but for some it remains a fact in mind. By contrast, it can be daunting to imagine participating in that needed healing dialogue in person, with another person who has suffered abuse. Such conversations underlie prayer services and other pastoral care initiatives. These are junctures, one per person, that the press cannot capture until people have walked through their own personal conversion.
I believe this offers an insight into why dioceses are struggling to create prayer services and other venues for pastoral care as defined and required in the Dallas Charter. Among those who care for the abused in dioceses already, there is a great deal of desire to offer care. There are many obstacles. One is little considered: The interactions are often cast in terms of paradigms that limit the healing to expert disciplines, refraining from defining ways for us to talk about not just the Passion and Death but also the Resurrection even as the process of healing unfolds.
What hasn’t worked is what Catholics seem both to criticize and yet to expect: a problem to be figured out and solved by the bishop alone, or with any kind of old or new counsel different people think would work. Here’s the problem. We are not solving a problem. Solutions we see are just providing the groundwork. The healing needs to be for an entire faith family, building on the healing of others as told in the voices of those healed and healing. Everyone has been hurt by this travesty, and everyone needs to face their responsibility for their own healing – and their new approach to the problem and quite possibly the Church.
And, that is another reason why we need to pray together.
So we can complete The Story.
In a way worthy of our Savior.
Without being a media story.
Learning how to welcome survivors means learning the reasons to respect and receive the treasures survivors offer not just each other and their families, but also their Church. It means believing in the Resurrection and leaning on God more than before. It means a conversion in every heart. This is part of the next chapter.
This is not easy news to deliver. It appears to be very difficult for some to accept that they have brothers and sisters in Christ, back in the Church, who have been abused as we have. For as many reasons as there are people on social media, and elsewhere, the reactions are not consistently welcoming, yet. For diverse and private reasons, it may be painful – impossible for some. We have traveled a very different path. We tell very different stories. We are the strangers in a familiar land.
For our part, we share among Spirit Fire survivors a commitment to aspire to be wounded healers. We help each other witness and serve as the paradigm shifts. We support one another in letting others react and then learn. I’m not sure why it has remained difficult for Catholics to relate to us. Perhaps along the way it got easier to think of us as victims, powerless, voiceless, needing the hero and not a Savior Whom we could grow strong and freely choose. Perhaps in our testimonies of improbable healing we challenge the complacent faith of others. Perhaps the rush to honor the wounds in our spirits leaves those who seek to offer care shocked to face their own wounds, left unattended or unhealed. Yet, for the Church to heal, we must talk about the darkness and suffering as the prelude to new life.
I don’t know the path forward. I just happen to have decided to explore and see what it looks like – and maybe contribute along the way to help others find the way too. I do know we need to pray to a Savior to heal all wounds, the known and the unknown, the wounds of abuse and the other wounds of life that hold us back from loving and serving with the high virtues like courage which we expect of our bishops.
We can pray now, or leave it all to some other generation.
But our wounded Church requires prayer to heal.
And we require prayer to learn how to pray better … for each other and … how to draw on the experience of healing from abuse in our lives and in our Church as a way to serve well in an abused and traumatized world.
Long before media can write the final chapter of The Story, our prayer must create the ending. This will take time. And steadfast patience. But, long suffering has taught survivors the patience needed to wait for hearts to open, just as the dogged media coverage has, with time and attention, been able to open windows to the truth where people have resisted looking.
Changing the Paradigm
And we are blessed to find leaders willing to speak openly, willing to encourage difficult dialogue required, over time and with gentle pacing, that alone can heal by including all voices in the telling of The Story and in the mending of the Church.
For me, what remains as a decade ends is a snapshot of darkness and light and media on a winter night in Advent. It’s a picture without camera but imprinted on the heart, not of the press that night in Albany only, but of all the times when we survivors have received the fruits of their professional commitment as truth and as kindness.
Luis and Mike and I never forget that these reporters and other media are “just” people who are moms and dads and brothers and sisters and friends and daughters and sons whose lives are now interrupted by moments, due to their work, that shudder to think of safety for their own loved ones.
These are people who carry some piece of our grief in their own psyche. They are people who have, working with survivors, been able to seek The Story and simultaneously have been able to manage to be kind – to all victims, including survivors, families, and brokenhearted Catholics – as we gather in private to pray, as we learn to pray together anew.
The media’s call for information is in their bones as well as in their job descriptions. In their turn, most groups who host a Spirit Fire service find ways to offer alternative options for good information without using victims yet again, lining us up like marked people on parade or in a performance to legitimatize some message that takes primacy away from our need to be heard and to heal.
It is a difficult time. It is a difficult time for Catholics to figure out how to serve. Here’s what I know: When the legal battles are over, and The Story is told, and the reforms to an institution are improved and implemented broadly and consistently…. there still remains the lifelong business of healing. That doesn’t end, not for survivors, not for the Church.
After a heinous crime took place in the house, after the perpetrators were brought to justice, after all broken things were fixed, after the stolen material items replaced, and after all the new measures and security were implemented, the family within the home remains traumatized. Only now can healing really begin.
Don’t forget our vision. We wish to share it broadly. Spirit Fire promotes healing spiritually not just as individuals but as families and parishes and dioceses and Church. We find many people who want to learn how to join us and how to amplify the hope for healing that does not tolerate secrets or expediency anymore. We seek to participate in prayer and in prayerful dialogue to create a healthy family in faith where Truth is a cornerstone we do not reject again.
Mike Hoffman and Luis Torres and I and many others associated with The Healing Voices and Spirit Fire will continue to create pathways for faith to have opportunities to help recovery for each survivor and wounded family member – and the Church as a whole. We foster that prayerful space and those healing dialogues. It is not for us to make any decision for another person. It is for each person to decide in his or her own way and at his or her pace about the offer of a fuller, spiritual recovery.
The press helped the Church get to this point, by being instrumental in creating credibility for stories of survivors which had been long buried and silenced, or intimidated, or left without counsel, or diagnosed as if thereby to be rendered invalid. Press didn’t just cover the institution, but it has also covered the plight of the victim without legal counsel and and the continuing struggle among the mentally ill for whom a social bias has undermined due justice. But we can’t leave the job to them alone.
Our first Healing Voices Roundtable was about the movie “Spotlight” and the role of media in cracking the code of silence. It’s fitting that one of our last posts takes a look at the twofold kindness of the press toward survivors of abuse.
Advent is about the centrality of the Light of the World, the Word made flesh, changing the darkness forever. Reporters shed light on truth. They have been able to serve the cause of Truth. But we still pray because more is needed than the facts, and revelations, and truth. These clean the wound. Only the Light of the world Who is Truth can destroy this level of Darkness and permit true healing to begin.
This is why survivors explore a path home to the faith in some way, to some safe degree. Some reclaim the faith of their childhood. Some resume a sacramental life as practiced in the Church. Some make peace, find closure, and venture elsewhere to worship God. For all of these reasons, we advocate for safe and prayerful gatherings to heal.
Advent is, looked at one way, a long feast day for depression, anxiety, darkness, grief, exile and so many other lost and longing experiences all victims have lived. As if by Design, it is custom-made just for those of us enduring years of recovery from the dark side of the Church institution, where God gives us Himself, as Light, Victorious and Eternal. It’s important to live this truth in healing, and to share with truth with others.
And so we gather to pray despite bitterness and chill in a winter night or a human heart.
Because the Light warms all hearts just like the sun warms a snow-covered land, to create spring and new life.
Because there is much to re-knit so that we address what is broken.
Because stories bring life back into relationships which remain torn for now.
Because shame was never ours to bear.
Because mourning can turn into dancing.
Because beauty will be returned for ashes.
Because no suffering, even that inflicted by the Church, lies outside Redemption.
Spirit Fire is dedicated to clearing a path for fellow survivors and others wounded by abuse in the Church. We seek to reduce the psychic peril and mark the spiritual fault lines. Our prayers honor the twofold kindness of the media and also offer safety to all without strings attached. The press has played an important role in a long and very dark Advent, but we, who are people of impossible hope, nevertheless have work to do ourselves, and we can only do this work together, because the work is healing, and the thing we alone can do is speak His name into the darkness to bring Light to the world.