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Your Family Can Heal the Church

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September 8th, 2019 – 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (other years, Birth of the Virgin Mary)

In January of 2019, Denae and I began writing a book to bring hope and healing to the Church and those who have been abused by members of the clergy. At the time I recall thinking about why God would ask us to share something so personal in such a public manner. We knew that God called us to family ministry and thus in 2013 we founded Your Holy Family. At first, writing a book about clerical sexual abuse of minors seemed to have very little to do with Family Ministry, but as we wrote our own stories, mine as a direct victim of sexual abuse and my wife as the spouse of a victim, we discovered that hope and healing for victims and the Church comes through healthy, holy families. The last chapter in our book is entitled, The Fortress of the Family, for it is where healing takes place and is the hope for the future of the Church.

If the current leaders of the Church have failed to bring consolation to victims and the laity, then it is up to the families of the Church to form and raise up leaders that can more effectively do the job. If we want to know what we can do to help victims of sexual abuse to heal (those abused by leaders of the Church or others), it is through the unconditional love of the family. That is what it was for me and for many of the survivors who contributed to Abuse of Trust. God chose to bring salvation to the world through a family, the Holy Family. The Family is the Domestic Church and is the foundation of society. Each of us who are blessed with a family has the power to transform the world and more importantly to heal the brokenhearted, even those who are wounded by clerical sexual abuse.

The book, Abuse of Trust, was published only 8 months later on August 15th, 2019

A Guide to Healing Survivors and the Church

In this book, you will meet several survivors of sexual abuse committed by a priest of the Catholic Church. Unlike the vast majority of victims, these survivors have received much healing from the Church that at one time harmed them. They are committed Catholics seeking to help other victims and the Church they love to heal. These stories contain descriptions of evil, but are not graphic accounts of abuse. It is through recognition of the problem of sexual abuse of minors and the oftentimes uncharitable response of the Church to victims, that we can begin the healing process. By better understanding the suffering and needs of victims, we will more effectively minister to them.

In addition to these witness chapters, we will also provide you with chapters written by experts sharing their wisdom and practical advice.

Elizabeth Terrill, LPCC, the Victim Assistance Coordinator for the Diocese of Gallup New Mexico, will help you to identify the warning signs of an abuser, as well as the behaviors exhibited by a child who is being abused. She will provide an overview of the process of healing and practical advice on the steps to healing, as well as what to expect when working with a Diocese.

Dr. Deborah Rodriguez, a pediatrician who is active in the Maria Goretti Network and the Catholic Medical Association, will explore the typical effects of trauma experienced from childhood sexual abuse and ways in which family, friends and the Church can help survivors work towards healing from abuse. She will also discuss ideas on how the Church can effectively seek out and minister to these victims. Her chapters identify key success factors in an effective outreach program and discusses how parishes and Dioceses can effectively assist in the healing process through Trauma-Informed Ministry.

Christopher West of the Theology of the Body Institute will present the beauty of the Church’s good news about human sexuality based on St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. This chapter seeks to untwist the lies that many victims of childhood sexual abuse were taught as part of their experience of abuse. It is through understanding the meaning of our bodies that we can throw off the shackles of the lies we have believed about ourselves and about our dignity as a beloved child of God deserving of respect.

Within these pages, victims of sexual abuse will know they are not alone and that others have felt the way they do; they will know healing is possible and that it is possible to find the peace that their abuser took away from them without losing their faith.

This book sheds light on a subject that is not often spoken about because it is so personal and so hideous. Yet, we can see the harmful effects of a culture of silence. It is only by showing the reality of the effects of sexual abuse and its cover up on the survivor, and also on the Church, that we will enable the Church to once again evangelize the world.

Sexual abuse is not a Catholic problem; it happens everywhere. It happens in other organizations, communities, and it even happens in families. The Church has good news to proclaim to set the captives free from a world obsessed with sexuality, a world that hasn’t been able to effectively prevent the sexual abuse of minors or adults in any meaningful way. The authentic teachings of the Catholic Church are life giving, but the scandal of sexual abuse by members of the clergy and the systemic cover up by leaders of the Church is preventing this saving message from being shared with the world.

I guarantee you know a victim of sexual abuse; the CDC estimates that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men are victims. Do you want to help them heal? Do you want to use the words of compassion that will bring them peace and encourage them to seek healing? We all do. We are called to be the healing hands of Christ in this world. There are people in your community who are carrying with them the baggage of abuse and are wearing the chains that deprive them of the peace they deserve. They are afraid to talk to someone because they fear that you will judge them as harshly as they judge themselves. Read this book, understand the problem, feel empathy for the victims, and help our church leaders to do the same. The victim could be a member of your family, your church community, or your neighborhood, and you may be the person whom God has chosen to speak the comforting words of healing that they need to hear. Learn to share the peace and healing of Jesus Christ right now. Don’t delay; someone needs you.

Victims of sexual abuse and their families, members of the laity, and leaders in our Church have all felt a sense of an abuse of trust. They trusted that their children would be safeguarded, they trusted that the Church would believe them when they reported their abuse, they trusted the abuser would be removed from ministry and punished, and their trust was betrayed. It is our hope that this book provides a beginning to repair that broken trust.

Action Items:

  • Read the book (Amazon print $25, kindle $9.99) If you can’t afford it, please contact us and we will ensure that you get a copy of the book.
  • Work on your own personal, marital (if applicable), and familial (if applicable) holiness. Holiness is the key to healing.
  • Share a copy of the book with your pastor or priests that you know who care about healing survivors and the Church
  • Talk about the issue with your friends and identify who is concerned about the problem of clerical sexual abuse (perpetrated on children or adults) and recommend the book to them.
  • Encourage others to share a copy of this book with priests and friends.
  • If you encounter a survivor of sexual abuse, follow the advice in the Healing the Brokenhearted chapter and walk with them to help them in the healing process. If you help one person who is suffering, all the work that the contributors have put into this book has been worthwhile.
  • Financially support healing ministries such as the Maria Goretti Network, Grief to Grace or ministries dedicated to family ministry like Your Holy Family.
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About the Author:

Allen Hébert is a Senior Systems Engineer in the Information Technology Industry. Allen and his wife Denae, have been married for over 28 years and they have been blessed with nine children. Allen enjoys swimming, driving the family RV and the great outdoors.

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