SNAP is wrong to discourage victims from meeting the pope

National Catholic Reporter

Mary Gail Frawley-O’Dea | May. 30, 2014

It was disheartening to read that officers of SNAP are discouraging victims from meeting with the pope, deciding before it happens that the event is a waste of time and nothing more than a publicity ploy.

Like Tom Doyle, canon lawyer and longtime critic of the church, I believe the Pope Francis is sufficiently different from his predecessors that it is worthwhile for victims to meet him, look him in the eyes, tell him their stories, and ask for something. It is an act of great courage and hope for which any victim/survivor should be richly supported. It is also an act that no victim should be forced into or guilted out of.

Victims are men and women whose subjectivities and recovery roads are unique and personal. For some, meeting with pope may indeed lead to a renewed sense of betrayal. For others, it may represent one grace-full rest stop on a very long journey. For some, it may result in a reconnection with the Divine that has been missing and missed for decades; for others, it may free them to forever renounce their Catholicism without regret. For some, it may be disappointing and infuriating; for others, it may add to the binding of wounds.

To tell any survivor that the meeting with the pope “will actually hurt efforts to force the Church to reform because it will be all window dressing,” as SNAP’s David Clohessy is quoted as saying, is as arrogant and guilt-inducing as many too many church-issued statements about sexual abuse have been and thus is potentially destructive to vulnerable men and women. Neither David nor anyone else can predict ahead of time with such certainty what the outcome of this meeting will be for anyone involved in it or for the wider church and it hubris to say otherwise.

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