Podcast features survivor of priest sex abuse who is working with Columbus diocese

By Danae King
Columbus Dispatch
October 5, 2020

Teresa Pitt Green, co-founder of Spirit Fire, a national "Christ-centered restorative-justice group" that helps Catholic churches reach out to survivors.

Neither priests nor the public really understand what survivors of clergy sexual abuse go through, but they're beginning to, says survivor Teresa Pitt Green.

Co-founder of Spirit Fire, a national "Christ-centered restorative-justice group" that helps Catholic churches reach out to survivors, Pitt Green recounted her personal story of being abused by a priest as a minor on a Sept. 30 episode of the podcast "Crisis: Clergy Abuse in the Catholic Church."

She has also been working with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus on its response to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy since May 2019.

The podcast, which premiered Sept. 9, is produced by the Catholic Project. It has 17,379 subscribers. Pitt Green is featured, alongside another survivor, on episode four of the podcast, which ran Wednesday.

Pitt Green, who began Spirit Fire in 2018 with co-founder and fellow survivor Luis A. Torres Jr., believes healing can happen with the Catholic Church, but, she doesn't force survivors to return to a church that has harmed them.

Starting when she was 6 or 7, Pitt Green said she was sexually abused by a series of priests for more than a decade in a small town in Pennsylvania that she declines to name. The parish that her family attended, she said, was one where the diocese sent many priests who were known to be abusive.

Her journey to heal led Pitt Green back to the church, she said, where a priest encouraged her to share her story to help others."When you see people realize that they can integrate faith into a really pretty healthy recovery (and) how much that catalyzes a whole new level of healing, you get kind of hooked and you can't see any better way to use your time," Pitt Green told podcast host Karna Lozoya.

Real progress and healing happens when each side stops thinking about a caricature of what the other person might be like and just talks to that person, she said. Pitt Green said she tries to help priests use their passion for pastoral care in a way that doesn't trigger survivors by training them on trauma-informed ministry.

"(The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) has done a lot of the institutional reforms; there's more to be done," Pitt Green told The Dispatch. "What got forgotten is we're also not just an institution, but we're a family of faith and the family is still hurt."

The Columbus diocese continues to work with Pitt Green and Spirit Fire. 

"Her very personal perspective enlightens all in our community who feel the pain of those who have suffered from this harm and the loss of collective trust," Columbus Bishop Robert Brennan said in a statement to The Dispatch. "Her story is also testimony that, beyond the real pain and hurt caused by these deplorable acts, the redemptive power of Christ’s eternal love remains the ultimate force for good." 

Despite the fact that she works with priests, bishops and various dioceses, Pitt Green told The Dispatch she doesn't know if thechurch as an institution can be reformed when it comes to clergy sexual abuse and its response to it.

"I know they can't if there aren't people (survivors) that come back and work with them," she said. "The decision to make it better is not mine. The decision to help it and help people make the right decision, that's what I do."

Pitt Green wants other survivors to know that they're innocent — that the abuse that they endured is not their fault.

"I'll never be happy this happened but it makes what I went through worth it because maybe it helps other people," Pitt Green said. "I don't know that I'll see the healing from my work in my lifetime but the fact is we have to start now together."



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