My view: Victims deserve compassion not criticism

Diocese of Buffalo

June 26, 2018

By Siobhan O’Connor

[Previously published in the Buffalo News.]

“Bishop Malone’s office, Siobhan speaking – how may I help you?” Over the last two months, a multitude of callers have been on the receiving end of my phone greeting. I’ve talked to distressed citizens who express anger over Church cover-ups and silence, to concerned Catholics whose faith has been shaken by the priest abuse scandal, and to the victims of this abuse themselves. These latter individuals often share their stories, which are heartbreakingly horrible to hear. Even being on the periphery of their pain has been deeply disturbing. Yet remarkably, it is their strength more than their suffering that has most resonated with me.

It was my privilege to speak with the mother of two abused children, who said she would be praying for the abusing priest because he needs prayers more than anyone. I have spoken to a victim who began to console me when I broke down while speaking to him. Another time a victim shared his story of returning to God and how he found peace and joy through regaining his faith. Often I am overcome by the forgiveness, compassion and resiliency of these individuals.

Yet I’ve also spoken with people who literally mock victims and accuse them of being “out for money” or “making up stories.” Believe me, you can’t make this kind of horror up! The victims’ descriptions are too detailed, their pain is too raw and their memories are too powerful for them to be frauds. To suggest so is a slap in the face to these brave individuals, who have had the courage to speak of the traumatic abuse they suffered when they were young and innocent. Also, not one victim I’ve talked to is “in it for the money.” In fact, one repeatedly told me that “money can’t buy me peace, health, healing or happiness.”

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