CTA Leadership Award 2009 - Recipient speech

By: Barbara Blaine

Thank you, to Call to Action!

Years ago, in the early 1990s, Call to Action was one of the first places where people were willing to listen to my story of abuse by a priest. And more importantly to hear about the horrific way church officials responded to me when I did muster the ability to tell.

Special thanks to Sheila and Dan Daley who knew me from Pax Christi and were so extremely gracious and compassionate when they learned of my abuse.

Thanks to all of you who were on the Board and Conference Committee who gave me the chance to speak at Call to Action conferences, especially Bob Heineman and Maryanne Savard.

And special thanks to each of you in Call to Action who has reached out and offered support to clergy sex abuse victims.

I also want to thank my family and friends, especially Judge Sheila Murphy and Peter Mayock who are here today and have supported me over all these years.

But SNAP only exists because of the courageous and generous survivors who volunteer countless hours to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and build the SNAP movement – special thanks to Peter Isely, SNAP’s Midwest director here in Milwaukee, who has been with us since “Day One” and has tirelessly and effectively exposed the corruption of high ranking church officials like Archbishop Timothy Dolan. Peter, would you and other members of Wisconsin SNAP please stand?

For years, you have heard me and other survivors say bishops are not responding to the real problem.

Imagine a drunken school bus driver, who’s been caught drinking on the job time and time again, drives a bus full of children and crashes off a narrow road and down into a ravine.

Some of the victims, the strong and lucky ones, climbed back up the hill, and were found on the roadside by the emergency rescue crews. But many more still lay suffering down in the ravine, slowly dying.

No one leaves the comfort and safety of the roadside, climbs down the hill, and helps those who are the most injured. They’re essentially forgotten and left to fend for themselves.

Rescuing the victims in the ravine might cause our feet to get muddy – could be messy – not unlike the type of “messiness” discussed Friday night by Louise Akers.

Caring for these is SNAP’s mission. Many of the victims of sexual abuse by priests still suffer and no one is helping them.

In the 1980’s the preferential option was for the “poor.” I suggest now we need a preferential option for the “victims of abuse.” Many of these are the most marginalized in our church and society.

More than perhaps anyone, we in SNAP know it’s very difficult to hear about priests, bishops, seminarians and nuns sodomizing, raping, and sexually assaulting children. It is painful. It is embarrassing to recognize that it could be true. Heck it is embarrassing whenever “sex” is talked about. We’d all like to think it is “history” and the church is cleaned-up. We get why folks don’t like this issue.

But that is not all. The other problem is that no one is really checking out the other bus drivers – they could also have dangerous addictions and cause the same fateful type of catastrophe. The same bishops who caused and enabled so many of us as kids to be abused are still in positions of authority. As bizarre as it sounds – many who were the most callous and who outrageously let dozens of us as kids to be abused have actually been promoted. That is what happens in our church.

I know many of you are saying, so what does that have to do with me? What can I do? How can I have any impact on the bishops?

You can! I have 4 suggestions:

    1.      Sign the SNAP petition – support a campaign for NO MORE SECRETS!

    2.      Go to the SNAP website and print up our “Tips if your priest is accused.” Next time your relative or friend tells you their priest is accused suggest they look at these and learn how to support the priest without causing harm to any potential victims.

    3.      Plan now to attend SNAP’s national conference next summer. There you’ll learn about the latest of the sorry response from church officials, learn the latest in understanding child sexual abuse, witness raw courage of heroic victims, let the survivor community know you care – just your being there will help survivors feel your compassion.

    4.      Lastly, please take this action. Each of you must know dozens of Catholics. Please choose 5 Catholics you know and with gentleness, sensitively tell them you want to bring up a difficult subject. Then ask if any priest or religious ever touched them inappropriately. If they say “yes” tell them it wasn’t their fault and encourage them to contact SNAP. Let them know that even if they don’t need help that others abused by their perpetrator may be suffering in silence, secrecy and shame – and could be helped with the information they hold!

I have been coming to CTA conferences for over 20 years. I know and feel the sense of “coming home” as Patty & Paul discussed Friday evening. I appreciate your accepting me.

You are a terrific folks –

It is an honor to be with you -- and to receive this award.

Thank you.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests