The Forgotten Victims of Clerical Abuse

me and my dad

Summer, 1961, visiting my father at the psychiatric hospital

“He heals the wounds of every shattered heart.” Psalm 147:3

The recent revelations about Cardinal (now Archbishop) McCarrick, and the newly- published Grand Jury report from several dioceses in Pennsylvania, are disturbing, especially to the most devout Catholics.  Some members of the Church are leaving in disgust.  I haven’t yet read the PA Grand Jury report, but from what I can gather through social media, it will take someone with a strong stomach to endure the entire document.

The most recent announcement that homosexual networks existed within seminaries and dioceses has caused some Catholics to have a crisis of faith because numerous seminarians tried to alert higher-up prelates, to no avail. It’s unacceptable that a bishop – or as in the case of McCarrick, the cardinal – would be complicit.  Pope Francis has now made a public statement promising justice for the victims.

For every abuse that was reported, there are hundreds, maybe thousands over the past 70-plus years, that were not – and have never been – reported. There are many victims who will never see justice.

Whenever I hear a story about clerical sex abuse, it opens a wound, not only because I’m Catholic, but because my father was abused over 70 years ago. He is one of many who never reported the (likely ongoing) abuse.

My father’s abuser was indeed a priest, who happened to be one of his teachers in high school.  This information was something that my siblings and I didn’t find out until after my father died in 1978 as he had only told my mother about the abuse.

Back in the 1940’s, priests were placed on a pedestal. My father couldn’t go to his parents or other teachers or anyone because he was ashamed, and he didn’t think anyone would believe him. At the time, my father was discerning the priesthood.  To say the abuse confused him is an understatement.  I can’t imagine having to attend school and see your abuser every day and not be able to say anything.

Dad later met and married my mom and tried to settle down into married life. But his troubles were far from over.  He dealt with depression and other mental illness on and off for a few years before he had a mental breakdown in 1961 and was committed to the local psychiatric hospital. I remember visiting him there and, despite the odd surroundings, I was always happy to see my dad.

He was eventually diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and manic depression (now called bipolar disorder) and was prescribed a regimen of medication.

My dad continued to battle with mental illness for the rest of his life.  He eventually became an alcoholic and died tragically at the age of 49. His life ended not unlike many other abuse victims.

It wasn’t easy to lose my father. But the first time I saw him in the casket after he had passed away, he looked more at peace than I could ever remember.  I felt confident that God would take care of him.

When I first found out my own father had been abused, I was angry, but my father’s troubled life made a lot of sense in light of his abuse. Of course, I wanted to strangle the priest who traumatized him.

There are many like my father out there, some living, and some already deceased, who are/were unknown victims of clerical abuse.

But we as a family were (are) victims too.  As a family, we watched my father’s struggles and suffering.  We watched him go through drunken stupors and depressive episodes. We watched him get on and fall off the wagon too many times to count. It wasn’t unusual for him to break down and cry. I know that there are many factors that cause someone to have a mental breakdown or become an alcoholic, but I believe the abuse contributed substantially to his ongoing despair.

So with the recent allegations, what is the way forward?  First, I’d like pass on encouragement to the many faithful and virtuous priests with the words of Dr. Janet Smith when she said: “To all you wonderful, faithful, chaste, devout, self-giving priests out there, my heart goes out to you. Thank you for answering the call and thank you for staying. The temptation to leave will be great. Please stay. We need you now more than ever. And please know I am praying ardently for you!”

Second, many of the links below give detailed ways the Church can move forward. One thing is for certain: leaving the Church is not an option.

Did my father ever leave the Church of his youth?  No.

Following his example, I will do the same. Why? Because my faith is not dependent on the pope, any priest or any human being. I’m Catholic and will remain so because of the Eucharist, because of Jesus Christ and because I believe God’s Word.  My faith also tells me I must forgive: the priest who abused my father, anyone who tried to cover it up, and any past and present priests, bishops and cardinals who have been guilty of any wrongdoing.

As Frank Sheed said in the early 60’s: “We are not baptized into the hierarchy; do not receive the Cardinals sacramentally; will not spend an eternity in the beatific vision of the pope. Christ is the point. I, myself, admire the present pope (Paul VI), but even if I criticized him as harshly as some do, even if his successor proved to be as bad as some of those who have gone before, even if I find the church, as I have to live with it, a pain in the neck, I should still say that nothing that a pope (or a priest, Bishop, Cardinal) could do or say would make me wish to leave the church, although I might well wish that they would leave.”

And there is always hope.  I believe very much what Fr. Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) predicted in 1969: “From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystallization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek… But when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church.”

As we pray and make reparation in the days ahead, I ask you to pray for all those forgotten victims (like my father) who never reported the abuse, and for all families of abuse victims.

Let’s continue to pray and fast for all victims and their extended families.  As much as we yearn for a renewal of the Church and the defrocking of any cleric who chooses not to live a chaste priesthood, let us also continue to pray and fast for the conversion of the abusers.  As difficult as it is, we are all called to forgive.

Read more about the Grand Jury report here.

Read more about the homosexual subculture in the Church.

Read more about another victim

Read more about the root of the crisis.

(Opinion) Read more about why men with same sex attraction shouldn’t be priests.

Dr. Janet Smith’s Message to the Bishops: Save the Church, Tell Everything

Another excellent article from Dr. Janet Smith: McCarrick, Dissent from Humanae Vitae and the Sensum Fidelium

Sex Abuse Scandal Saps Trust in the Church, but Not in Church Teaching.

Chastity for All is Central to a Life of Holiness

Novenas and Prayers

Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Church

A Novena to the Saints for a Church in Crisis

A Novena for the Abuse Crisis

Copyright 2018 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Love is Our Mission – World Meeting of Families and the Papal Visit #WMF2015

world-meeting-of-families-philadelphia-2015-logoThe World Meeting of Families was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am grateful to have been a part of it. I was there as an exhibitor, but I also attended some of the keynote presentations as well as the daily Masses. Over 20,000 attended the huge event in Philadelphia, which ended with the Festival of Families on Saturday and the Papal Mass on Sunday. Worshipping, interacting and networking with fellow Catholics was edifying and inspiring. I made many new friends and connected with old ones!

High points:

Papal Mass
We got up early and were fortunate to be in the first section behind the seats. Security was tight on both the train and at the security checkpoints in Philly (they even carefully checked the religious sisters behind us). It was the first time I ever saw the Ben Franklin Bridge with no cars on it! IMG_1288

This wasn’t my first Papal Mass. My family and I attended the World Youth Day Mass with John Paul II in 2002 in Toronto. Attending an outside Mass with nearly a million others is wonderfully exhilarating!

This year, we had a pretty good view of the altar (until they put a tent up! Evidently, the organizers thought it might rain so they put a tent over the instruments…they also didn’t realize it would obstruct the crowd’s view of the altar. Thankfully, after the crowd chanted “Move that tent” loudly several times, they eventually took the tent down!)

photo copyright James Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

photo copyright James Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

My husband got this wonderful photo of Pope Francis in his Popemobile.

copyright James Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

copyright James Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.

Meeting (or seeing again):

Christopher West

Christopher West, author and speaker (Theology of the Body Explained, Good News About Sex and Marriage)

Jason Evert, popular chastity speaker (who also recorded a message for my 26 year old son!)

Jason Evert, popular author and chastity speaker,  (who also recorded a message for my 26 year old son!)

With Dr. Janet Smith! Years ago, I gave her copies of Emily's Hope and In Name Only. This year, I gave her a copy of Stealing Jenny, as well as four other FQP books!

With Dr. Janet Smith, author and speaker. Years ago, I gave her copies of my first two novels, Emily’s Hope and In Name Only. This year, I gave her a copy of Stealing Jenny, as well as four other FQP books!

Our diocese’s former bishop, Archbishop Richard Smith (third from left, back row), was sitting behind our group at Mass on Friday!

So many priests and religious on fire for their faith!

With Sisters of Jesus Our Hope!

With Sisters of Jesus Our Hope!

Imagine my surprise when I found out that one of them was Sr. Ellen (from Ottawa!)

I gave Sr. Ellen a copy of Emily's Hope for her and all the sisters!

I gave Sr. Ellen a copy of Emily’s Hope for her and all the sisters!

Catholics from all over the world!
We met this wonderful priest and another man from Nigeria!IMG_1158

A fellow CCL teaching couple from India!

Valy and Anna Coelho from India

Valy and Anna Coelho from India

Courage International Team
(I’ve talked to the wonderful team of Courage International over the phone several times but have never met any of them!)

With the wonderful team at Courage International

With the wonderful team at Courage International

I loved when attendees came up to my husband to tell him they recognize him from his cartoon!

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing. Please do NOT use without permission

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing. Please do NOT use without permission

I met four adult women shorter than me and one adult man!
(Sorry, no photos. You’ll have to take my word for it!)

I loved seeing so many people I already know!

With our friend, Michel McDonald (whose courtship story was included in Come My Beloved!)

With our friend, Michel McDonald (whose courtship story was included in Come My Beloved!)

With Brother Joshua, an author and fellow member of the Catholic Writers Guild

With Brother Joshua, an author and fellow member of the Catholic Writers Guild

Each Daily Mass was trilingual:
English, Spanish and Vietnamese. With the Mass booklet, I could actually follow along in other languages.Mass booklet

I enjoyed attending Mass with 17,000 fellow CatholicsIMG_1183

Catholic Writers Guild Booth
I was at the World Meeting of Families representing the Catholic Writers Guild. I spoke to many people who were either interested in writing or knew other Catholic writers who might want to join. I gave away many brochures, booklets and business cards and I think CWG gained nearly 20 members!IMG_1152

Cool architecture and artwork! IMG_1199

copyright 2015 James Hrkach, please do not use without permission

copyright 2015 James Hrkach, please do not use without permission

Low Points

Early Shutdown of the Exhibitor Hall
Although the exhibitor hall was scheduled to be opened until one p.m. on Friday, we were informed at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday afternoon that we would need to shut our booth down by 6:00 p.m. and that the exhibitor hall would be closed on Friday because of “security concerns.” We wound up spending the last hour trying to give away books and taking down our booth. Since we had taken the Speedline in the morning, we had no car available. My husband and I are especially thankful to friends from our diocese for helping carry all the stands and books ten blocks to the Speedline! (Thank you, Dan, Kelsey, Grace, Chris, Yvette and Irene!) Also thanks to my sister, Laurie, and her friend, George, for helping carry items. We would never have been able to take down the booth and get the materials back to my sister’s place without everyone’s assistance!

Unfortunately, because of this early shut down, many of the attendees didn’t have an opportunity to browse the exhibitor hall. (I myself was waiting until Friday to purchase tee shirts and other items for Christmas gifts.) Many exhibitors lost money because of the early closure.

Narrow hallways
One of the main exits from the large conference room used for Mass and keynote presentations exited into a very narrow hallway. 15,000 people trying to squeeze into this narrow hallway was challenging at best. After Mass and keynotes, it often took half an hour just to exit. Anyone with claustrophobia must’ve had a difficult time.

I was told that a few FEMEN demonstrators tried to draw attention to themselves in front of the Pennsylvania Convention Center on one of the days (but I didn’t see them). As well, another attendee told me that several same sex couples attended one of the breakout sessions on Marriage and confronted the speakers.

There was too much packed into three and a half days. It began with Mass at 8:30 a.m., one or two keynote presentations and many, many breakout sessions, and ended at 6:00 p.m. We were commuting back and forth from New Jersey via the PATCO Speedline so that made the schedule a bit more challenging. (Although I must commend the PATCO people during the weekend of the Papal visit. Trains were frequent and PATCO employees were very courteous and helpful!

Disneyland Atmosphere
There was a bit of a Disneyland Atmosphere even at Mass, although this is understandable given the once-in-a-lifetime event for most of the people attending.

Communion at Papal Mass
While there seemed to be enough priests giving out the Eucharist at the Papal Mass, there was no organized way to receive. The priest came to the fence and immediately hundreds of people descended to that area without forming any lines. It was haphazard at best. A few times, I thought I was going to be crushed. I realize that perhaps they didn’t have enough volunteers to organize the lines for communicants, but this was the only aspect of the Papal Mass that seemed disorganized.

All in all, however, I’m thankful I had the opportunity to attend! Both my husband and I had a wonderful — if not exhausting — time! Check out more photos on my Instagram page.

Copyright 2015 Ellen Gable Hrkach #WMF2015 #popeinphilly #worldmeeting2015

Condom Controversy

With all the controversy in the media and the “taking out of context” of Pope Benedict’s comments about condoms, Dr. Janet E. Smith’s excellent commentary will hopefully give clarification to those who mistakenly think that the Pope is giving “permission” to use condoms:

Here is a short excerpt:

“Is Pope Benedict indicating that heterosexuals who have HIV could reduce the wrongness of their acts by using condoms? No. In his second answer he says that the Church does not find condoms to be a “real or moral solution.” That means the Church does not find condoms either to be moral or an effective way of fighting the transmission of HIV. As the Holy Father indicates in his fuller answer, the most effective portion of programs designed to reduce the transmission of HIV are calls to abstinence and fidelity.

The Holy Father, again, is saying that the intention to reduce the transmission of any infection is a “first step” in a movement towards a more human way of living sexuality. That more human way would be to do nothing that threatens to harm one’s sexual partner, who should be one’s beloved spouse. For an individual with HIV to have sexual intercourse with or without a condom is to risk transmitting a lethal disease.

An analogy: If someone was going to rob a bank and was determined to use a gun, it would better for that person to use a gun that had no bullets in it. It would reduce the likelihood of fatal injuries. But it is not the task of the Church to instruct potential bank robbers how to rob banks more safely and certainly not the task of the Church to support programs of providing potential bank robbers with guns that could not use bullets. Nonetheless, the intent of a bank robber to rob a bank in a way that is safer for the employees and customers of the bank may indicate an element of moral responsibility that could be a step towards eventual understanding of the immorality of bank robbing.”