After abuse, addiction, and recovery, Mike McDonnell works to help others

Philadelphia Inquirer

January 3, 2021

By Isabella Simonetti

Mike McDonnell understands how victims can lose their way.

He was abused by two Catholic priests, one of whom was later convicted, a dark secret that traumatized him so much he became addicted to drugs and alcohol, two of his three marriages failed, and he stole about $100,000 from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — a crime for which he served nearly a year in jail.

But through recovery, and maintaining his Catholic faith, McDonnell, 52, has rebuilt himself as a victims advocate as he tries to help others. He’s now a local leader for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

“He’ll take phone calls at all hours of the day and night,” said Shaun Dougherty, a board member of SNAP and a fellow advocate. “He’ll talk victims through any problem that they have. He’ll find resources for them if they need it. He’ll help guide them in any way that he can.”

Many of the victims McDonnell supports have suffered unemployment, divorce, the loss of a home, or addiction.

“I’m able to validate what they are sharing with me,” McDonnell said. “They’re getting an understanding that someone else has walked the same path.”

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