Bishop Accountability
  Be Careful What You Wish For

By Bill Gately, SNAP Co-Regional Coordinator for New England
Delivered at a Voice of the Faithful Meeting
Middleboro MA
January 2003

Good Evening.

The title of my brief remarks is "Be careful what you wish for."

To stand here in front of you drains my energy because I am uncomfortable here. The reason for my discomfort is because I will tell you things that you won't want to hear. What I say may shake your comfort level or pierce your protective illusion.

Although we are all in the same building, you, as a group, celebrated a mass of healing. My task is to simply wait to deliver a message of truth to a group of spiritually nurtured Catholics.

"We are not alone." It is theme so full of irony. I don't know who you mean by "we". Does the "we" include those sexually abused by priests? or is it a message of comfort and support directed at each other? Regardless of it's intent, can we remove the word "ALONE" and replace it with the word SEPARATE? "We are not separate." I submit that there is no choice or the ecclesiastical joke is on you.

We are not alone, we are not separate, can mean various things. Regardless of to whom you direct your message of compassion, remember this. If it is not followed by definitive action by each and every one of you then it is nothing more than the all too familiar empty church rhetoric.

Lying naked in the filth of stolen virginity, stained with the sexual gratifications of a child molesting priest, brings with it trauma, shame, bewilderment and confusion.

My initial response to this experience was one of nausea and confusion. These were the same emotions I felt when I first heard Cardinal Law explain Father Geoghan earlier this year. As the abuse continues over time, young vulnerable victims of priests wonder: "where can I go with this, who can I trust, I am so sad, I'm angry, I don't know where to turn."

Do these questions sound familiar to any of you? You live in the darkness, no longer trusting your own judgment, afraid to really process what has happened.

How does one go on? Perhaps self blame, parental blame, maybe denial, maybe it wasn't that bad or just maybe it didn't happen. How does one cope? Talk to a priest? Nah, Maybe he has known about it all along, or worse, maybe he's one of them. Perhaps talk to God. Ask forgiveness, but for what? Should I pray for guidance? to whom, the same God that the priest told me about? Do any of these questions sound familiar to anyone?

You see what happened to me some 35 years ago, is a microcosm of what has happened to you this year. Although the assault is of a different nature, is the betrayal that much different? The answer matters not. What matters is your willingness to look at your own victimization.

I emerged from the status of victim in 1993, My "graduation to survivor" took place in Phoenix, AZ in July of that year. It was there that I found and confronted my priest/abuser, after a process of tracking him down that lasted 18 months. I will never know spontaneous joy. I will never trust, especially men in authority. I will always live as inadequate and with much shame. Becoming a survivor means you adapt to living life from within, accepting your particular life experience rather than grieving over what could have been.

With regard to this crisis, have you sat in the paralyzing pain of your own experience long enough to move from the status of victim to that of survivor? Are you reconciled with the fact that for your entire lifetime, priests have been molesting children and Bishops and Cardinals have known about it and done nothing, while using your money to pay for their perversions? All the while being told that Father knows best? Have you healed yet from the knowledge that they have covered up these crimes, that children have died of drug abuse and suicides and they still stonewall the truth?

These are the men that pretend to know the way to heaven. Remember by the way that they have no intention of holding themselves accountable. They have decided to police their own crimes and yet YOU can't worship in your own buildings! Do you think just maybe you may have been duped?

Perhaps I should have started by asking you if you think you have been wounded by this betrayal.

If you have been wounded, then have you healed? I tell you that you can not heal until you know how badly you have been wounded. Do you really have any idea? Do you realize although we are exposed to this in the Massachusetts it exists all over the world?

I tell you that if a priest, Bishop or Cardinal makes the choice to discredit a survivor then you have been betrayed one more time. If a priest, bishop or Cardinal hides behind the law in order to hide the truth then you are betrayed. And YOU ladies and gentlemen are victims once again. Singing, praying and holding hands minus outrage and action will not bring healing. Have you seen the depth of the cancer? Then how can you heal?

When we experience a death, perhaps of a parent, we deny, we bargain, often we try to become strong by, not yielding to grief. But it is not until we are able to face the depth of pain will we be able to begin healing. Eventually, after a long process of darkness and grieving we begin to mature. Self trust and self reliance are reestablished even more strongly than before. We trust ourselves as adults to be the stewards of our own destiny. We are forever changed but more mature.

This leads me to ask: where are you in the death of your illusion about Holy Mother the Church? Do you really know? Have you thought about it yet? The process of grief from betrayal is just that, a long, long process. Your only option choice is denial, allowing the abuse and illusions to continue.

"We are not alone." No ladies and gentlemen we are not. Direct your message of compassion to each other. It is of no consolation to us. We invite you to grieve with us but not for us. Grieve for yourselves for you are the victims now. And it is for this reason that I say be careful what you wish for. For we are not separate but for one exception. Once you become a survivor, you mature and regain your self respect, in a word, you heal. With that comes outrage and the motivation to stand against the corruption and injustices of the Catholic Church."


Original material copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.