NOW, by Kristine Ward

Published on February 26, 2013

This is an urgent, intense cri de coeur to priests and seminarians who have been abused by superiors or who know of priests, former priests and seminarians who have been abused by superiors to come forward – now.

We have learned in the 10 years since the Boston incarnation of the crisis what others who have labored in this field before us have long known: that there are patterns to abuse, to grooming, to the wrong use of authority, to the twisting of obeisance, the misuse of closing ranks.

We have learned that it is extremely rare that survivors emerge from totally unique circumstances.

The priests and former priest who took their cases to the papal nuncio in Scotland about the “inappropriate behavior” of Cardinal Keith O’Brien showed courage. Their acts of courage have borne fruit.

We believe they are not the only priests who have been abused within the system of seminarians, priests, and hierarchs.

It is the simple truth that when priests come forward they have impact disproportionate to their numbers.

We saw it in Boston 10 years ago. It was the letter signed by only 54 priests out of over 3,000 secular and religious order priests in the Archdiocese of Boston that was the hinge and deciding point for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law as the Cardinal Archbishop of Boston.

Over this weekend and culminating in Monday’s papal acceptance of Cardinal O’Brien’s tendered resignation and the Cardinal’s subsequent non-conclave attendance announcement we saw again the power of priests.

If you are a priest who has been or is being abused by a superior, a bishop, a cardinal, a seminarian who has been or is being abused by a superior, a bishop, a cardinal, a former priest who has been abused, a friend or family member or parishioner of any priest, seminarian or former priest who has been or who is being abused, please take considerable stock now on the impact you could have now upon the future of the Church.

We ask our readers who know priests, former priests and seminarians who have suffered abuse to contact them and ask them to consider coming forward now while offering their full support for what is indeed a difficult and hard decision.

We, at NSAC, know how much courage it takes to come forward. We honor it.

We also know there is no past tense to being a survivor. It is all present tense.

And it is understandable that you do not wish to come forward, to be known, to say publicly what you carry privately.

But if you have ever thought of revealing what happened or is happening to you, we ask you to go to the bedrock of why you became a seminarian, why you were ordained. We ask you to honor your own struggle, your own pain, your own deep down knowledge of what is right and what is wrong – not matter who does it, or who tries to explain it in the opposite, or who uses authority to squelch right while letting wrong run rampant.

We understand that make a promise to your bishop. We understand there are consequences to speaking out.

We ask you to consider and re-consider Who you are following.

For it is the Lord who is, who was and ever shall be, who said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

We ask you to search your heart and soul deeply for what to do now.

As the Church and with it a world so sorely in need of moral and spiritual leadership stands on the threshold of possible change – or at the threshold of more of the same — these days do carry a potency that is not found every day.

In this world, at this time, priests stand in singular, special circumstances.

It is the Truth that will set you free.

— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC), KristineWard@hotmail.com

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