Healing the Kingston church
The invitation to heal the church by addressing the crisis in clergy sexual abuse was accepted by more than 320 people who participated in conferences at the Providence Motherhouse September 11-12.
The response was a heartwarming surprise for the organizing committee who responded in turn by extending the conference for an extra day to meet the demand. People came from all over the archdiocese – from parishes, the clergy, Catholic organizations, and from beyond its borders as well.
Presenter Sister Nuala Kenny, a paediatrician, was a passionate presence each of the two days the conference was held. She began by asking who got hurt in this crisis. And with audience help, drew the conclusion that many did. First, of course, the young victims of sexual abuse. Not only did they suffer the physical and emotional trauma of being abused, it was compounded by the role of faith … their trusted spiritual leader took advantage. As a result, Sister Nuala showed how this affected the victim’s ability to access the spiritual life and their ability to feel comfortable in the church.
She also spoke to the pain experienced by families and parishes who have suffered tremendously because of these events. She spoke of the clergy who were caught in the middle – with brother clergy to blame, parishes ripped apart, and through being associated with terrible acts and accusations, caught in the wide net of shame. Indeed, one of Sister Nuala’s gifts is that she recognized the pain of the victims without demonizing the clergy involved. She named the problem and its many shades and hues – and how helpless clergy and church leaders have felt in the wake of the crisis. Sr. Nuala made numerous suggestions for healing, encouraging participants to bring what they had learned to their own situations.
The “next steps” that participants brought forward have been collected, reports Sister Frances O’Brien, chair of the Healing Violence committee that held the conferences. In light of the conference, the committee has been asked to work with two parishes and has accepted these requests. All suggestions and feedback will be brought to the archbishop, as promised. The committee is considering what kind of follow-up they can offer, given the overwhelming call for more dialogue.