'We carry negativity in our bodies': Therapy sessions for priests affected by abuse scandals

By Hayley Halpin
November 14, 2017

AN IRISH PRIESTS group is launching therapy sessions for its members whose morale has been affected by sexual abuse scandals within the Catholic Church.

The Association of Catholic Priests will run its first Circle of Healing session in Cork on 28 November, as part of its move to help churchmen affected by the Church’s scandals, including those who have been wrongly accused of sexual abuse.

Father Tim Hazelwood, a spokesperson for the group of 1,000 priests, said the aim of the sessions is to help priests “process” and “explore their feelings around the sexual abuse scandals” and to provide support of those who have had to deal with years of negativity within the Church.

“The last 20 years were hugely traumatic for the lives of priests,” Father Hazelwood told 

He said that the lives of priests have changed drastically over the past number of years and the public’s attitude toward priests has shifted, leaving priests fearful “that people will say things to them or get aggressive towards them” if they wear their clerical clothes in public.

“On top of that, there have been so many sexual abuse scandals. There is all that negativity and no forum where priests can talk about it,” Father Hazelwood said.

I, myself, would be one of the people who have been accused in the past. We have had to deal with that on our own, without support, with very little support within the church.

Father Hazelwood said that the negativity surrounding the Catholic Church had affected the mental wellbeing of priests in Ireland.

“We carry negativity in our bodies,” he said.

“Nine priests have taken their own lives over the past 10 years. A group that’s supposed to be positive, that’s a terrible statistic.”

The association is hoping to expand the project in the future to victims of the Church’s abuse scandals and their families.

“There’s a whole group of people who were left with a lot of negative feelings. It’s about looking forward to the future and how we can move forward in a positive way,” Father Hazelwood said.



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