Parishes explore healing circles’ potential for restorative justice

The Catholic Spirit

Maria Wiering | May 1, 2018

The woman in the film said she was 12 when a priest began to abuse her, which was complicated by feelings of being in love with him.

Confused about the situation, she eventually reached out to a religious sister at her school and then met with her parish pastor. That pastor, who was not the perpetrator, told her that, although she was young, she was “old enough to seduce a priest.” Then her parents found love-letters the priest had written. Her father accused her of sexual immorality and her mother asked, “How could you do this to us?”

Identified only as Mary, the now middle-aged woman said she lived for decades feeling the abuse was her fault, even when a therapist she visited in her 40s insisted it wasn’t. She shared her story as part of a 2016 healing circle in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, documented by its leader, Janine Geske, a law professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee, and founder and former director of Marquette’s Restorative Justice Initiative.

Geske, who also sat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court from 1993-1998, showed the documentary April 29 at St. Joseph the Worker in Maple Grove and Our Lady of Lourdes in Minneapolis. Both two-hour events included brief remarks from Geske, “The Healing Circle” video and then the opportunity for attendees to participate with small groups in the healing circle process.

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