You have survived the most profound abuse and betrayal. Your inner strength, tenacity and courage bring you to this day.
What you have done to survive is not for others to judge. Perhaps you medicated the pain with drugs or alcohol. Perhaps you cut yourself to relieve the pain. Perhaps you experimented sexually to try and understand what happened to you. None of this is for others to judge. Please be gentle with yourself. You did what you needed to do to survive, even if you didn’t fully understand why. As you heal and grow stronger in broken places you can, if you choose, make different decisions about how to handle the pain.
Healing and wholeness are possible. Be faithful to your own process and where it takes you. Find companions who understand and don’t judge. There is a community of survivors out there who can support you, who are on their own path to healing.
Know that what happened to you was not your fault. You were vulnerable and abusers look for vulnerable children. It is as simple and horrific as that. Perhaps there was trouble at home. Maybe you were different in some way and bullied by others. There are many things that make children vulnerable. You came across the path of an abuser who saw your vulnerabilities as an opportunity. That is not your fault. You were a child. You did nothing to ask for the abuse and there was nothing you could do to stop it. Perhaps you tried; told another adult or your family and they didn’t believe you. That isn’t your fault either.
This crisis in the church has nothing to do with homosexuality. Any religious leader who says this furthers the abuse. The abuse in the Roman Catholic Church is solely the responsibility of abusive priests and the leaders who colluded to protect them. The priests who abused did so because they were abusers, not because of their sexual orientation. Perhaps they were gay. It is irrelevant.
Sometimes, however, abuse by priests makes for confused sexual identity in survivors. Perhaps you thought you were gay, perhaps you are gay. It has nothing to do with the abuse. You are who you were created to be. Abuse did not cause or create your sexual orientation. You can be gay, transgender, cisgender, bisexual or any other sexual identity and still be Christian. God does not discriminate.
It is okay to be angry. Righteous rage is a holy thing. To be angry at an institution and its leaders who spoke of a loving God, and committed horrific abuse against you and so many others is a wholly appropriate response. Righteous rage will serve you well as you heal.
The abuse was not God’s will. God is always on the side of those who are wounded, abused and broken. That the institutional church is always on the side of the perpetrator is not to be confused with how God acts and who God is. God’s presence is not confined by any institution. God’s grace and love is not mediated by any individual or agency.
You are a beloved child of God. There is nothing that has happened to change that. There is nothing that can happen to change that. There is nothing you have done to change that. There is nothing you can do to change that. It is the immutable truth of your birth. To claim God’s love for you is your birth right.
Whether or not you ever return to church is your choice. It is not for others to judge. The way will become clear as you are faithful to your healing process. Do what is right for you.
My prayer is that you will find people to companion you in the healing journey, to be with you in the hurt and rage and deep grief of it all. My prayer is that you will come to know in your very bones that you are made in Holy Image, that you are God’s beloved child, that healing and wholeness are possible.
Rev. Patricia Liberty, Theirreverentreverend.blog,