Mutual Healing in Dialogue

Teresa Pitt Green, Founder

My experience of the partnership between Church and survivors has been forged in the diocese of Arlington, Virginia, where annually there are multiple Healing Masses, survivor prayer services, discussion groups and other opportunities like spiritual guidance. Most importantly, there are priests, sisters, deacons and a bishop who have been caring to us all.

Moreover, I have been blessed – and transformed – by invitations to co-lead retreats with a wonderful priest, Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, OSFS. Similarly, I have been invited to speak to many different audiences, including at the USCCB, and to co-lead workshops with Fr. Fiorelli training priests and sisters in ways to speak with survivors of abuse by clergy and any other authority figure. Indeed, we have collaborated on a workbook drawn from our work together and often used both in spiritual counseling sessions and individually by survivors, family members, priests and sisters alike.

The potential for unexpected healing in this dialogue takes many forms. For example, when I speak to seminarians and priests, they arrive open, heart-broken, wondering how to relate. Sometimes, many often, they arrive with some kernel of doubt if they have anything to offer a survivor of clergy abuse. Yet, after we speak, they leave energized and sometimes released of the guilt they carry for sins which we all know they did not commit. Why? Because I, who carry different wounds from the same sin of others, am uniquely qualified to tell them what all priests need to hear. That is, no one knows better the power of a true priest like we who know first-hand what the opposite of a true priest is.

Further, in seeking the opposite of what which survivors have suffered, we know the antidote that a healthful relationship with a priest can be, especially one who is educated on caring for survivors.That is why one of my personal goals is to help priests gain confidence carrying on the dialogue with survivors, because this exchange helps more than just survivors heal. In this work, I have become convinced that nowhere is potential for a healing partnership more overlooked than that between the devoted priest and the wounded survivor.

Along with the other founders of The Healing Voices Magazine, I am committed to fostering such a mutually affirming dialogue in which there are opportunities to mend torn connections related to abuse in the Church. So, Msgr. Stephen J. Rossetti’s article about a New Alliance speaks clearly to why we exist. It casts a bright light on something few realize about the potential of Catholic survivors of clergy abuse to be partners in healing and reconciliation.

I close now, to permit this Spirit-filled call for a New Alliance to speak clearly to all. In closing, I issue an open invitation. If you or your diocese needs help beginning or deepening its dialogue with survivors for the sake of something like the New Alliance described here, contact us. We will find a way to help you.

To read the article which this one introduces, click here.

To read the Special Issue of The Healing Voices Magazine in which this articles appears, click here.

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