Learning from Victims Turned Victors

How real-time witnesses of the abuse scandal offer support

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In the 20 years I have served as a Catholic talk show host, I have heard from countless people impacted by the abuse crisis, and not all of them are actual abuse victims themselves. Some are friends or loved ones of abuse victims. Others are Catholics who truly struggle regarding the scope of the abuse crisis. Despite the positive and productive steps the Church has taken and continues to take in addressing this issue, the knowledge that a number of those entrusted with teaching the Faith could be guilty of such evil is overwhelming. Some wonder why they should stay in the Church. They might point to other areas of the Church dealing with corruption, and again they are truly challenged, as we all are at times.

A natural reaction would be to tell concerned Catholics to look at the big picture. After all, this is not exactly the Church’s first rodeo as far as scandal and corruption are concerned. If we look at the lives of St. Hildegard, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Padre Pio, St. John Vianney, St. Teresa of Ávila and St. John of the Cross, just to name a few, we can see how over the centuries, because of our fallen nature, sin has impacted the Church to the point of leaders persecuting some of her best witnesses.

But what does that mean to the person sitting next to us in the pew whose friend or daughter was abused by their pastor or deacon? Those great saints mentioned can no doubt teach us much with their fine example, but I believe it is crucial to provide very current resources.

In addition to being a Catholic talk show host, I am also a deacon’s wife. And, as we all know, parishioners come to deacons and their wives regularly for advice and input. While my husband and I are always pointing to that “great cloud of witnesses” that have gone before us, and are rooting for us in heaven today, we also try to provide real-life witnesses to whom they might relate.

bookWith this in mind, I highly recommend a wonderful book published recently by Our Sunday Visitor and written by abuse survivor Faith Hakesley. Faith contacted me several years ago during my radio coverage of the shocking story involving now-former cardinal Theodore McCarrick. Faith is an abuse survivor who had the strength and grace to recognize that her pain and sorrow would only become deeper if she walked away from Jesus in the Eucharist.

In “Glimmers of Grace: Moments of Peace and Healing Following Sexual Abuse” (OSV, $15.95), Faith not only tells her story of healing and hope, but she also provides reflections for other abuse victims and what I believe is a great deal of food for thought for every Catholic; because we are all impacted in some way by this problem.

I do not believe in coincidences. And there is a reason this brave soul was given such a prophetic name. This young woman named Faith had the faith and strength to not only confront her abuser in court and seek healing, but also, despite everything she had been through, to remain Catholic. If Faith can do this, perhaps in understanding a bit more of her incredible journey in clinging to, rather than turning her back on, Jesus in the Eucharist and the Church, we can then help others wrestling with this ongoing issue do the same.

TERESA TOMEO is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio, and the author of “Beyond Sunday: Becoming a 24/7 Catholic” (OSV, $14.95). She is married to Deacon Dom Pastore, an ordained deacon in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

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