03 December 2020, The Tablet

Hope and healing at the Church’s heart: a new approach to helping abuse survivors

by Peter Beer and Hans Zollner

Hope and healing at the Church’s heart: a new approach to helping abuse survivors

Peter Beer, left, and Hans Zollner


Dealing with the impact of sexual abuse has been largely outsourced by the Church. Now an initiative is being launched, with the support of Cardinal Reinhard Marx, Archbishop of Munich and Freising, taking a fresh pastoral approach to the welfare of survivors

“You took away my faith”;
“The Church cheated me out of my relationship with God”;
“When I needed the Church,
it was not there for me!”

Time and again, we hear these cries from the victims of sexual abuse. They point to the pastoral and spiritual failure at the heart of this crisis. Many of the survivors of abuse are members of the People of God; their suffering is a deep wound in the Body of Christ. Saying “sorry” is not enough. There must be a fundamental change. It is now time for the Church to walk together alongside victims, to listen to them and to learn from them, and to serve and support them in their search for healing, wherever that might take them.

Anyone listening to survivors will often hear how badly sexual violence by a priest or other church figure can damage their relationship with God, or destroy it completely, and how they have felt completely abandoned by the Church when they have tried to understand and deal with the spiritual consequences of the abuse they have suffered. Despite all the public and private apologies, the compensation paid to victims, the implementation of prevention and training programmes, the creation of safeguarding structures, and the commissioning of scientific studies into the root causes of abuse, it is clear that the Church is still failing survivors at this fundamental, spiritual level.

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