• Faith Hakesley

A Survivor's Thoughts on the Release of the Long-Awaited McCarrick Report

+JMJ+ The McCarrick report is set to be released today. Whether the timing of this report is intentional or not, I have to admit that I'm a bit disappointed in the timing. With the election still on everyone’s minds, I worry that this report won’t get the attention it deserves and I am concerned that a lack of attention is exactly what church leaders have been hoping for. We shall see! However, with that being said, I am relieved that this is finally coming out. We need to hear the truth. I am also nervous because I know that this report could be very triggering for so many people, particularly those who have suffered from the scourge of sexual abuse, myself included. Hearing about the abuse, the secrecy, and the corruption is going to hurt and there is no doubt in my mind that it’s going to hurt bad. I haven't yet decided if I will read the report. Many of you already know that I am seven months pregnant with baby #4 and under a lot of stress as it is. I'm not sure that reading this report would be wise for my health or for baby Christopher's well-being at this time. God will surely guide me in this decision! I have known for years that things would get worse before they get better and, in order for survivors and our Church to fully heal, there needs to be complete transparency. That means turning over every stone no matter how painful and no matter how long it takes. It's taken far too long already.


The scandal has been big news on a few occasions and then been thrown onto the back burner when “bigger, better” stories have come along. It was big news in my own Archdiocese of Boston when the Spotlight Team broke their story in 2002. It was big news again when the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report was released in 2018. For awhile, the sexual abuse plaguing the Catholic Church was all we heard about (or so it seemed). Do you remember how angry and frustrated everyone was? We were all shouting for resignations, praying and pushing for reform, and talking about how we could best support survivors. Too many leaders, meanwhile, were scrambling to hide their secrets and trying to figure out how to best continue the cover-up of their sins and the sins of others. Clearly, they had a lot of success. Otherwise, we wouldn't be where we are today.


Time marched on. When the news broke out of Pennsylvania two summers ago, we were filled with a renewed vigor to put a stop to the corruption. We were determined to not let the scandal get pushed onto the back burner just like it did after 2002. We promised to fight for change, for justice, and for survivors. We promised that we would not be silent. There was an intense spiritual sort of fire seen among Catholics as we vowed to fight for renewal.


Then, newer, hotter stories took over and news of the scandal mostly faded away. I somewhat expected this to happen, but it hasn't lessened my frustration or resolve to keep up the good fight even if no one else is.


A lot of people want to forget. A lot of people have chosen to remain in denial, stuck in their reverence for corrupt men and women. The ranks of perverse leaders sure want us to forget! I have heard several fellow Catholics suggest that survivors like me are holding onto the past or that we desire vengeance. Rest assured, this isn’t about getting back at anyone or about holding onto the past or trying to control things out of our control. This is about allowing truth and justice to prevail, and you cannot have justice without truth. This is about ensuring that good changes take place, that people are held accountable for their actions (or lack there-of), and that those guilty of any wrong-doing face what they have done. This is about ending a culture of silence that has reigned in the Catholic Church (and in society for that matter) for far too long.


While I have personally been fortunate enough to deal with my own past as a victim of clerical abuse and have been able to build a new life (praise God), I recognize that, sadly, not everyone has had that opportunity. Not everyone has been supported and believed. Not everyone has been able for any number of reasons to come forward or see justice done. Daily, I think of all those who continue to live in silence, of those who have suffered with substance abuse, fallen into abusive relationships, inflicted self-harm, or made the decision to take their own lives.


During my meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 which I have spoken of many times before, he was presented with a book containing the names of approximately 1,500 victims of clerical abuse in the Archdiocese of Boston alone. There were little crosses next to some of the names indicating that that person had died. Many of those individuals died from substance abuse, overdoses, and suicide. Each of us present on that day was given a smaller copy of that book. I still have mine and it still breaks my heart every time I open it to remember and pray for the victims, both living and deceased.




Unfortunately, survivors don't have the luxury of forgetting and moving onto the next big topic of the day. We live with it every single day. We wake up everyday and choose to not let our pasts control our lives. Every single day we choose to live in hope rather than despair. Daily, we have to choose faith over fear, but it is not without effort. It’s not without pain and frustration. It's not without occasional doubts. It’s not without so much grace!


We can’t just forget about the sex abuse scandal. We need to fight for the truth. We need to stop enabling abuse by our silence! We need to stop enabling corrupt individuals, priests, bishops, and cardinals whose actions will surely drag many souls to hell with them.

How can anyone fully heal (survivor or not) if every single filthy, disgusting, and evil action hasn’t been exposed and properly dealt with? The evil from within goes deep. It is dark, intense, perverse, and sadistic. Everything needs to be out in the open. You can’t expect a wound to heal if it hasn’t been properly and thoroughly cleaned. We can't expect the reconciliation that our Church so desperately needs after being divided. Our shepherds needs to be willing to regain our trust, and that's going to take a lot of effort and honesty on their part. Time and time again, I have heard our leaders calling for forgiveness and healing. Great! How about they start by revealing the full extent of what our leaders have done (or not done)? How about they show true contrition? Their repeated willingness to hide wrong-doings doesn't show much contrition. The words, "I'm sorry," don't fix anything.


Words without action are useless. Maintaining awareness of the scandal is about bringing everything into the open. It is about showing transparency, something we have been promised over and over again but is still lacking. Transparency leads to accountability which, again, is sorely lacking. We need honesty and integrity. We need to put an end to the secrecy! Our church needs unity, but isn't it "funny" how so many Catholics (priests, bishops, and laity alike) talk about unity but actually cause further disunity? One such example: in many cases when someone speaks out against corruption (whether it's related to the scandal, morals and values, or politics), they are silenced. Yet, the individuals who, according to the mainstream, secular media, are the "right" kind of Catholic, are allowed to say what they want and move along unchecked and unchallenged even by higher ups within the hierarchy. It boggles the mind how so many members are able to openly disregard rules and teachings and yet still remain "in good standing."


I sometimes feel as though the Catholic Church is being run by a bunch of godless, spineless wimps.


We all need to be committed to stopping the complacency and to fighting back. We need to support survivors. We need to support rebuilding a Church that has been allowed to be infiltrated by an evil cancer. I understand that whenever the sexual abuse scandal rises to the surface once again, we grieve. That is only natural, and I beg you to not lose hope even in the midst of grief. There is always hope! If the McCarrick report does serve to bring the scandal into the light again, then we should all welcome the opportunity to witness to the truth and, most importantly, to offer a message of hope to all survivors and to the Church.  I pray for truth, justice, and healing for all. And, yes, I do pray for the grace to show mercy and forgive whenever necessary. We have all been victimized in one way or another. I pray that we can emerge from this having learned powerful lessons. I won't stop supporting survivors or the "good guys" - the fearless, holy, and faithful priests and bishops. I won't lose hope that we can rebuild Our Lord's Church here on earth.


Releasing the McCarrick report isn't going to solve all the problems we are facing, but it will hopefully be a step in the right direction. I truly hope and pray that it addresses how leaders plan to stop enabling people like McCarrick and how they plan to stop moving such predators around. I hope the report calls out every single person, every single false shepherd, who deserves to be called out no matter who that person is or how important or revered they may be. Based on the track record of the Vatican, I do have my doubts at this point as to the honesty and integrity of this report, but I am trying my best to remain hopeful and optimistic.


As I said before, it's going to hurt. Something of this magnitude should hurt! I have no doubt that the report will be damaging. However, it's better to have everything all come out than to continue to hide the truth from the world. Our leaders need to stop opening this wound over and over again. They need to just get it over with - allow it to be opened once and for all and then allow healing to take place. Sin hurts and it affects all of us. We are all affected by clerical abuse and, although we know that God will always triumph over evil, that doesn’t mean we won’t suffer in the meantime. We need to accept that we are going to suffer. That's inevitable.


But please. I beg of you: don’t back away from the Church now. Don’t abandon survivors and the faithful, especially now when we most need support from one another. Our battle is a daily one, and I humbly ask that we all join together and take up whatever battle positions Our Lord is calling us to. For me personally, I feel called to minister to survivors and I will continue to fulfill that roll to the best of my ability for as long as I am able.


Our fight will not be without much effort but it will be well worth it in the end. Pope Benedict XVI once predicted a smaller, purer Church and I truly believe that's exactly what we are headed for. Pray for the grace and strength to remain faithful. Pray for truth, justice, peace and healing to prevail. Let us grieve together and let us never stop praying, hoping, and persevering.


One of the ways I have tried to support survivors of sexual abuse and their loved ones is through writing. My devotional, Glimmers of Grace: Moments of Peace and Healing Following Sexual Abuse, was published a few months ago, and I hope that you will consider reading this book and sharing it with others who may be suffering. My prayer is that God will work through Glimmers of Grace to help bring some hope, healing, and peace into the lives of those who need it most.


Please go HERE for more information.

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