Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests
Survivor writes liturgy for healing
By JESSICA TROBAUGH TEMPLE, Tribune Staff Writer
January 30, 2003 South Bend (Indiana) Tribune
One lingering complaint about the Roman Catholic Church, survivors
clergy sexual abuse say, is what they perceive as the institution's
reluctance to move beyond its defensive stances and denials of
liability and move toward comfort and reconciliation.
A survivor of sexual abuse who identifies himself as Stephen,
and who says that Church officials compounded the horror of his abuse by refusing
to acknowledge his pain or offer him support, hopes to change all
In March 2002, the musician and writer began work on "A Service
for Victims." Though the liturgy has yet to be published,
a church in Cleveland offered an adapted version of the service
for survivors and their families on Oct. 14.
Sister Chris Schenk of FutureChurch in Cleveland, the Rev. Joseph
Fortuna and Laurel Jurecki, a certified pastoral minister, both with Ascension
Parish in Cleveland, partnered with Stephen to create the "Liturgy
Nearly 200 people attended, including 22 survivors, Stephen says.
And since then, roughly 100 people have downloaded the liturgy from
the FutureChurch Web site: www.futurechurch.org.
Stephen first had the idea for a healing service for victims at
a church service where friends and loved ones laid hands on and
prayed over him.
"At that moment, a great weight was lifted off of my shoulders,"
Stephen, who says he has suffered for 20 years with the burdens
of his abuse, he recalls.
What he also realized in that moment, he says, was that other
victims, who also suffer depression, anxiety, guilt, even physical
ailments as a result of their abuse, could benefit from a service
that acknowledges and shares their pain.
So, he went to work.
"I felt the Holy Spirit moving in me," Stephen says.
"The hymns and the readings and poetry just started flowing
out of me."
For one of the hymns he created for the service, he wrote these
When no one would listen, the Lord lent an ear;
When I was hurt, helpless, the Lord drew me near.
When justice was wanting, the angels came 'round
and lent me their shoulders, their wings and their crowns. ...
No longer a haven for wolves among sheep
Where victims were trampled, their sorrows to keep.
A welcoming church filled with mercy and love
No room for abusers, new hope from above.
After talking with other victims of clergy sexual abuse, Stephen
incorporated their wishes, needs and struggles into a liturgy
that includes the sharing of the Eucharist, the laying on of hands
by family, counselors and clergy; foot-washing and the Veneration
of the Cross, or the symbolic signing of the cross on the forehead.
"This kind of healing service says you matter to us, we care
about 'You, (and) we want to help,' " Stephen says. "The
way (the church) can help is through the gifts of the Holy Spirit."
The laying on of hands, he says, not only signifies the love and
support of those who care for survivors, but also represents God's direct
intervention in their healing.
Signing the cross, he explains, expresses the renewal of baptismal
promises and reminds survivors that Christ, who died a cruel and humiliating
death on the cross, identifies with their pain and suffering.
While the purpose of the service is to offer comfort to survivors
and aid in their recovery, it also challenges the Catholic Church, Stephen
says, to abandon its legalistic practices and focus instead on what the
church is supposed to do best: help others heal.
"The focus should be on the good works that the Roman Catholic
Church can do if they apply their energies toward reconciliation with victims,
rather than rejection or reluctance," he says.
of those Abused by Priests