A Clergy-Abuse Survivor's Prayer-Service Reflection

Mike Hoffman, Founder

On August 26, 2018, as the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report and news of former-Cardinal McCarrick’s predatory behavior was just hitting the news, Mike Hoffman addressed a prayer services focused on healing in the Church which had been scheduled for months prior to the summer news revelations. That speech is reprinted here, now.

I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by clergy.  By way of a brief introduction, I am 53 years old. Married for 24 years, we have 2 beautiful children. I remain an active Catholic, despite the abuse I endured when I was a little boy. My wife and I are parishioners of St. Mary of the Woods here in Chicago. We raise our children Catholic and we send our kids to Catholic school.

I almost wasn’t going to come today. The constant reports in the news, the recent PA Grand Jury report, the recent Theodore McCarrick stories and more, are like a kidney punch to me, shocking and shameful. But I decided, that whatever our church leaders did or did not do – public prayer is an effective method to raise awareness of the issue of childhood abuse in our church and society. Also, public outreach to victims of childhood abuse is important so they know they are not alone, and we believe them. So, being confident in the benefits of public prayer and confident in the benefits of public outreach, I am here today with you.

We pray today for God’s grace to wash all over us to help heal us from this pain and this heartache we feel. Additionally, we pray for the healing and reconciliation of all childhood abuse survivors and their families.

I was happy to read the Letter of His Holiness Pope Francis I to All The People of God. In the letter, Pope Francis acknowledges the suffering endured by many minors due to sexual abuse, the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience perpetrated by a significant number of clerics and consecrated persons. To me, this letter directly expresses his desire to create a culture, wherever children are, which is able to prevent childhood sexual abuse from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of it being covered up and perpetuated. Of course, I agree with the Holy Father in this regard, and I am thankful he finally took this step.

When I was a young boy, I was hurt our Catholic priest at the time, who was a dear friend to my parents. I was 12 years old at the time. My abuser did things which I didn’t understand. He told me not to tell anybody. He told me what he was doing was normal for adults showing love or affection for one another. But he was the adult, and I was a child. That’s not right!

He did these things for years. Since he was a dear friend to my parents, I didn’t think my parents would believe me if I told them what was happening, and in fact, I thought they would say I was a bad boy for saying something bad about their friend. The teenage years are the most innocent, tender and sweet years in all of our lives as we grow up, and I lost the innocence of my youth to this bad man.

My primary act of recovery was telling my wife my story of childhood sexual abuse. This was in 2006. Initially I thought she would think differently of me, as her husband, as a provider, as a father to our children. But of course, she didn’t think differently of me. She responded to me with compassion, love and understanding.

Soon after that, since we are active parishioners, I felt I should tell the pastor of our Parish, Father Greg Sakowicz. It was difficult to tell my current parish priest that I was sexually abused by my Catholic priest when I was young. I felt Father Greg might think I had a problem with him, or I was questioning his ministry or his character. Father Greg listened to me and he heard the depth of my sadness. We continued to talk and because that conversation was so good and went so well, soon after, I felt comfortable reaching out to the Archdiocese of Chicago, and I began the Independent Review Board process.

During this time, I was able to tell my story to officials of the Archdiocese, who responded to me with professionalism, decency and compassion. In short, they believed me, and with that, I was able to begin a therapeutic process of healing. One aspect of that healing process was a meeting with Francis Cardinal George who apologized to me for the abuse imposed upon me when I was a little boy. Because of the time he spent with me, and because that conversation was so good – I feel comfortable continuing practicing my faith.

I want to say to all who may have suffered abuse when they were a child, by a priest, or by any adult, that we are here for you, we believe you, healing is possible, and resources are available. Since 2006, I have accepted virtually every outreach effort offered by the Archdiocese, and I am grateful for the many priests and staff who have walked with me on my healing journey.

Since telling my story, I now volunteer my time as chairman of the Hope and Healing committee of the Archdiocese – a group of clergy abuse survivors, priests and staff from the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth. We reach out to victims of abuse as a way to heal from the pain. This includes this year’s seventh annual Hope and Healing Mass in October, and next year’s eighth annual Mass. We are here for you, waiting for you to find a way home. These are each beautiful, heartfelt Liturgy for healing the wounds caused by childhood abuse for victims, family members and our larger church family.

Shared at the Holy Name Church, Chicago Illinois, August 26, 2018

If you found this helpful, you might like a weekly roundup of posts delivered to your mailbox. Subscribe for free here.