Abuse survivors, ABUSED BY A MINISTER, ABUSED BY A PASTOR, ABUSED BY A PRIEST, BURIED MEMORIES, healing after abuse, incest survivors, overcoming abuse, rape survivors, survivors of abuse, victims of abuse
“A therapist needs a therapist. A priest talks to a priest. You need to let someone listen to you like you listen to others.”
My friend heard me. She listened. And she was right. I talked to her but I needed to be able to really talk to someone. I have a therapist that I see every now and then but this isn’t something I needed to ‘work out’ or to ‘reach an end’.
I simply needed to talk, voice my anger against the evil of this world. I wanted to safely express my outrage and disappointment of the fumblings of the Catholic Church, the very church I call home, where I seek my refuge, strength and growth in faith. I love my Catholic faith. I am proud to be a Catholic and I stand by the teachings of the church but I can not back up the men (yes MEN who are abusing the gift of their collar) who are treating this serious issue with less than pastoral hands.
I’m angry for every person I’ve worked with who’s not only suffered abuse but under the guise of someone who ministers or wears a collar or any garment of faith. It is complicated and political and oh so frustrating.
Abuse is ugly when done by ANY PERSON. Knowing about it makes many uncomfortable. It is not a ‘fun’ issue. It doesn’t ‘trend’. It doesn’t catch comments or ‘likes’ because the topic alone has a stigma of shame. Shame that it happened. Shame that no one did or said anything. Shame that it continues. Shame that one human could treat another in such an inhumane manner.
And that’s a reality I want to change.
Ironically I knew I needed spiritual direction. Where else could I go? I emailed my spiritual adviser, Fr. Alfonso, and even though he is busy with our mega-parish he made time to see me immediately.
I went in and unloaded. I cried. I yelled. I got angry. I purged it all.
I told him about telling my husband a little too much information when I had a ‘trigger’ during an intimate moment and how my husband reacted. I wept and admitted that it was a moment I was willing to let Neal go, to go and love someone whose body wouldn’t betray her with these memories.
Once spent of everything that had festered and rotted inside my gut I looked at him and realized he was praying. He said to me, “It is beautiful that you are devastated for those that come to you. You said you had told your mother you wished she had ‘acted devastated for you’ when you told her for the first time that you remembered of your Grandfather abusing you. She couldn’t do that for you but you have been called to do that for so many others.”
He confided in me about someone he knew in his past that had been hurt in a deep way. He said he realized that a memory can’t be buried it can only be replaced.
“Neal can help you replace those memories, in fact, only he can replace them because they are distorted intimate memories that need to be replaced by healthy ones in those intimate moments.” He went on to say, “It has to be replaced with the same thing but a good memory. A peaceful memory filled with love, trust and hope. But it has to be in the same capacity. You can’t replace a hand with a leg, it doesn’t work.”
He went on to say that sometimes we back away from healing because it seems like too hard or difficult a task to ever ‘overcome’. That we paint a picture for ourselves of what ‘being healed’ looks like and it seems implausible to ever reach that picture. We need to get rid of the expectation, this false picture of ‘perfect’.
His words were a gift. By the time I confessed my sins I floated out of the parish office on the wings of my guardian angels.
Again it reiterates my great desire to give others a VOICE. By talking about these things that fester inside we purge them and make room for the hope and peace that is meant to reside within us.
It sounds simple to ‘replace a memory’ rather than ‘bury it’…I know it’s not. I get anxious just thinking about trying. I know you might too. But one thing I know for certain, once a memory resurfaces it is rare for it to be ‘buried’ again…so it will be a matter of choice. Do we hold on to the poisonous memory or do we find ways to replace it with love, light, mercy, hope and peace?