Abuse Victims: One Keeps Faith, One Loses It

By James DeCrane
Catholic Online
December 10, 2007

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Catholic Anchor) - Anger, betrayal and embarrassment are powerful emotions that James Niksik and Peter Kobuk say plague them every day.

The men say Joseph Lundowski, a church missionary, abused them when they were young boys in the Western Alaska village of St. Michael.

The men shared their thoughts and feelings at a press conference with the media on Nov. 19, after the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, confirmed a $50 million settlement between the Jesuits and more than 100 Native Alaskans.

SPEAKING OUT - Peter Kobuk and James Niksik talk to the press about their ordeals after a $50 million settlement between them and a hundred other Native Alaskans and the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus was announced.
Photo by James DeCrane

Of all those victims, many, like Niksik, have left the church, unable to reconcile their Catholic faith with their emotions.

But despite the horrendous ordeal of being sexually abused as a 12-year-old boy, Peter Kobuk holds on to his Catholic belief. In fact, it has helped to sustain him in some ways.

"I pray the rosary every day — and if I need to, 15 decades. I'll do that and read the bible," he said.

Kobuk said he recognizes that what happened to him is a result of man's fallen nature and not a failure of God.

"Human beings are corrupt," he said, but that's because they are human. Kobuk said he goes to frequent confession and Communion. He told the Anchor that he is able to look past the humanness of the priest and realize that God is still present in the sacraments.

A step toward closure

If Kobuk were able to face his abuser, what would he say?

"I would ask him 'why?' You gave Communion to Catholics, you prayed the rosary — why as a man of God would you do that?" he said.

Despite his hurt and pain, Kobuk said he would forgive his abuser if he were still alive and had asked.

While Kobuk is still an active Catholic, he says he does feel a sense of betrayal from some people in the church — especially from those who tell him he should put his abuse in the past.

"They say it's in the past, let it be," he said. "It's not in the past, it was like it was yesterday for me."

For Kobuk and Niksik, the settlement is a start towards closure, because they say it is an acknowledgement that the abuse happened.

But Kobuk says more must be done to help with the healing process.

Getting counselors to come out to the individual villages would be a start, he said. Right now it's a minimum three-hour round trip flight into Anchorage for a 45-minute counseling session.

Also, more rigorous training for priests and religious leaders who come out to the villages would help, he said, especially a focus on what it's like to work in a native culture.

"Victims of families are forgotten, my own children and family have been affected by my anger," Kobuk said, stressing that it is not just the victim who suffers from clergy sex abuse, but whole communities.

Above all else, these hurting communities need prayer, he said. There must be a return to deep spirituality and a more focused prayer life for everyone, especially priests, he said."Now is the time to come back to prayer and pray the rosary and have a devotion to the Blessed Mother."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.