Catholic News Agency
24 April 2018
Rome, Italy, Apr 24, 2018 / 11:12 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At the age of 16, Deborah Kloos was a distraught young woman who turned to the Church in hopes of finding solace, peace, and a reprieve from a “dysfunctional” and complicated family life.
She attended Mass often and sought comfort in the Eucharist. But she was sexually abused by a parish priest in Ontario.
After years of living with anger, sadness, and guilt, Kloos made her way back to the Church and was able to find healing through the sacraments. Now, she wants the Church to make praying for abuse survivors a priority.
She believes the Church has made progress on the abuse front, and has said that for real healing to happen, learning to forgive is key, as is keeping a positive attitude about the concrete efforts the Church is making.
“If we want to heal and make progress in healing we have to open up our hearts, pray together, communicate with one another, forgive one another, focus on the small changes in progress because they all count,” Kloos told CNA.
The Church “has made a lot of progress on the issue of clerical sexual abuse,” she said. “I know people are hurting deeply for this irreparable damage done as a result of clergy abuse and I know how painful it is as an abuse survivor.”
“When an infected wound like clergy abuse is covered up, it will fester and eventually will explode,” she said. “Only until the pus and ugliness is out of the wound, can it begin a healing process. It takes time, but we have to pray together and talk about it.”
Everyone deals with the trauma differently, she said, noting that in many cases people affected by abuse will likely never come back to the Catholic Church or bring their families to Mass.
“It is such a huge wound that only God can help with healing,” Kloos said, explaining that it is important for people to look at the progress that has been made and to “respect one another, because we are all human beings who are not perfect. We need God.”
Kloos, who lives in Canada with her husband, stopped attending Mass after she was sexually abused by a 63-year-old priest at her parish.
After the abuse happened, Kloos said she felt “sad and frustrated,” and was estranged from the Church for 20 years before eventually coming back when she enrolled her son in Catholic school.
“I carried a lot of guilt for years,” she said, but explained that she wanted her son to learn about God, so she put her son in Catholic school and started attending the school Masses. Eventually she began attending Mass everyday, and joined her parish choir.
The whole process “was emotionally hard for me, because I still carried so much anger and sadness, but I kept attending Mass,” she said, explaining that “the times I felt saddest and angry, I would feel this warm, supernatural light around me like a spiritual hug, like the Lord was hugging me and asking me to stay in the Church and not give up.”
However, Kloos said that after coming back to the Church, it was still hard for her to feel fully welcomed, because those wounded by abuse were not yet prayed for during Mass.
She began sending letters to her bishop in the Diocese of London, asking him to offer a Mass for victims of clerical abuse. For seven years she wrote with the same request, and she also made rosaries which she sent to clergy asking them to pray for those who have been wounded by abuse and who are far away from the Church.
She spoke of the importance of receiving the Eucharist, and lamented the fact that there are “thousands of people wounded by clergy and generations of people who may never enter a church again because of the irreparable damage caused by abuse that separated them from the Eucharist.”
There are many people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, who struggle with mental health problems, families have broken up and there have been suicides, “all caused by abuse,” she said, stressing that this is why prayer is so necessary, yet often times the issue is still too taboo to talk about publicly in the Church.
“People just did not know how to deal with this,” she said.
“It is uncomfortable. I understand this. It hurts to acknowledge and talk about sin and abuse in the Church, but only when we pray together and bring the darkness into the Light, by asking God to help us, can communication, forgiveness, and healing occur.”
When the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors was established in March 2014, Kloos began writing to members voicing her desire for a day of prayer for abuse survivors. She also sent them artwork she had made as a way to heal and show how she found hope.
In 2016 the commission recommended that a day of prayer for abuse survivors be established, and Pope Francis accepted the proposal, asking that it be organized at a local level.
In the London diocese, the day of prayer was held on the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, and “it was beautiful.” Kloos voiced her gratitude to the clerics of her diocese for organizing the now-annual Mass, saying she believes they are doing their best, and are trying to move in the right direction.
“They are good people in my diocese and I care about them,” she said. “We have really dedicated clergy in the diocese. I feel it is important to focus on the positives and when people change for the better, then we should encourage them because a change of attitude and behavior takes time.”
Kloos has maintained close correspondence with members of the pontifical commission, including Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, head of the Center for Child Protection.
Commission members “need encouragement and positive support from people, especially clergy abuse survivors,” she explained. The members “work hard and need lots of prayer and support. I want to give them this support as a clergy abuse survivor and thank them.”
Kloos said she believes that while there is still more that needs to be done to prevent abuse and help survivors heal, the Church has made progress.
Citing guidelines and safety policies that have been put into place as well as suggestions for tougher screenings for Church employees and free counseling for clergy abuse survivors, Kloos said these are “huge changes” that she appreciates.
She also pointed to a course organized by the Center for Child Protection on the dangers of abuse in the digital world, and the degrees in child safety being offered by the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.
Kloos voiced appreciation for Pope Francis’ recent apology for having made “serious mistakes” in the Chilean sexual abuse case.
Francis “had the courage to admit what he said was wrong to the Chilean abuse survivors and is meeting them now to apologize personally.”
She voiced her hope that the Church will continue to pray more intentionally for abuse survivors, especially during Mass.
Prayer “changes hearts to enable forgiveness and healing to occur, it opens up communication between people and asks God for help for the irreparable damage of clergy abuse that people feel uncomfortable talking about.”
“I understand that clergy abuse is something very painful for everyone, especially clergy, so they need lots of prayers and support too,” Kloos said.
In terms of learning how to talk about the issue more and make it less of a taboo subject, Kloos said she knows it will take time, because people “feel uncomfortable, threatened, afraid, and it is just human nature.”
“All that matters is that the right thing is done and that people work together for healing to make our Church better.”
Abuse survivor praises papal panel for hearing victims’ ‘pain and anger’
Apr 25, 2018
ROME – A Canadian victim of clerical sexual abuse who describes herself as a “prayer warrior and encourager” for reform says a recent meeting with Pope Francis’s main anti-abuse panel “provided a lot of closure” for victims and praised the group for listening to them, many of whom, she said, experience a great deal of “pain and anger.”
Last week, Francis’s Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and Young Adults met for the first time since half of its members were changed this February, after the term of the original group expired last December. According to a statement from the commission, members encountered the pope, discussed abuse prevention education and policy, and ways the Church might work more closely with abuse survivors.
The commission dedicated the first day of its plenary session to hearing the testimony of people abused by priests.
Among them was Deborah Kloos, a Canadian from Windsor, Ontario, who’s long advocated for the Catholic Church to publicly pray for, and with, survivors, and who describes herself as the commission’s “prayer warrior and encourager.”
In a series of private messages she exchanged with Crux via Twitter on Monday and Tuesday, Kloos had nothing but words of support and encouragement for the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors (PCMP) and the meeting she had with them last week.
“It gave me a lot of closure to meet them,” she said. “They were kind to us and welcoming. They need support from survivors, because I realize that they hear a lot of negative things from people who criticize the Church,” in part because many survivors of clerical sexual abuse, understandingly, have “so much pain and anger inside.”
Speaking about the commission, she also said that the group at times hasn’t had the support of the Roman Curia, referring to the Church’s central government in the Vatican. That’s something abuse survivor Marie Collins of Ireland, for instance, spoke about when she announced she was leaving the commission early last year.
“The [Pontifical Commission members] are people trying to make our Church better, and they need lots of positive support. As a survivor, I may not have all the qualifications to be part of their team, but I want to be their prayer warrior and encourager,” she said.
The commission was created by Francis in March 2014. According to his legal document instituting the body, its “task is to propose to me the most opportune initiatives for protecting minors and vulnerable adults, in order that we may do everything possible to ensure that crimes such as those which have occurred are no longer repeated in the Church.”
Experts from all over the world were asked to be a part of it, and Collins was one of original members. Later, a second abuse survivor, Englishman Peter Saunders, was also invited to participate, though like Collins, he left before the three-year mandate was over.
When she originally found out that Collins was going to be a part of the commission, Kloos said, “it gave me hope.”
She “spent hours on the internet trying to find her and contact her,” to see if the Irish woman would help her mobilize the Church to pray for survivors of clerical sexual abuse.
“Marie Collins emailed me back, and then we began communicating. She is a very strong, intelligent, brave person and great advocate for abuse survivors. I researched all the names of the PCPM members and made all of them a rosary with a personal letter requesting that they help me to get our Church to do a Day of Prayer for Abuse survivors.”
She also got in contact with German Father Hans Zollner, who’s been a member of the commission since 2014. A Jesuit, he also runs the Centre for Child Protection (CCP), headquartered in Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.
Through Zollner, Kloos said, she’s been sending letters to the commission’s members for the past four years, as well as handmade gifts. She did this ahead of each of the body’s meetings, in an attempt to ensure that each time, they had her request of a prayer day for survivors on the agenda.
Her efforts, which were not cheap considering the cost of international shipping, panned out. A 2016 statement reviewing the work accomplished by the commission throughout the year states that “a survivor of clerical child sexual abuse made the proposal of a Day of Prayer to the Commission.”
The statement recognized the importance of prayer as part of the “healing process for survivors and the community of believers,” and as a way of raising consciousness in the Church. It also said that Francis had requested that national bishops’ conferences choose a day on which to pray for survivors and victims of sexual abuse.
Kloos also thanked her own diocese of London, Ontario, for launching “a beautiful diocesan-wide Day of Prayer for abuse survivors on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows to give them positive encouragement, and to focus on the present and the future.”
“Although it took a long time for them, they still did what was right and I am grateful,” she said.
Kloos describes Francis’s request to the bishops of the world as “beautiful,” but she wants even more: “I am still hoping our Holy Father does a Mass at the Vatican where everyone is welcome to come like he does the papal audiences on Wednesdays.”
Kloos wasn’t originally scheduled to meet the commission last week. But she was in Europe with her husband, visiting several cities, including Munich, Germany, where they met with Zollner, “it was such a blessing.”
When she read that the group would meet with survivors, she reached out to the priest and said she’d like to extend her vacation and be a part of the gathering.
Zollner told her that Baroness Sheila Hollins, founding member of the commission, was hosting the group of clergy abuse survivors, who were coming from the United Kingdom. She contacted Hollins and Collins, and the possibility became a reality.
“They were really kind and made arrangements for Karl and I to meet the PCPM members and the UK Survivor group,” she said. “We extended our vacation for another week so we could travel to Rome. It was worth the extra cost to meet the PCPM members and survivor’s group.”
The PCPM, she said, “are the ones doing all the work to help the Church regarding safeguarding.”
Kloos also had the opportunity to see Francis up close during his Wednesday audience. Speaking about the pontiff, she said she admires the fact that he’s apologized for his mistakes with regards to the sex abuse crisis in Chile, and praised him for meeting with survivors (which will happen this weekend).
“It takes a lot of courage,” she said.
She doesn’t deny that the Church has made mistakes, but instead, chooses to focus on “every positive change the Church has made,” because addressing the issue takes “so much time and small steps, but every small step leads to more healing.”
A nurse by training, Kloos has much to say, and is open and candid when sharing. However, at the end of the day, there’s one message she’d like to put across for anyone who’s willing to listen to her.
“Our world and our Church need to be encouraged to pray together against abuse because prayer is powerful, positive, and healing,” she repeated in one way or another during the message exchange. “It brings people together and opens up communication. If I can help promote this message as an abuse survivor maybe it will do something to help people and our Church.”
Prayer “opens up communication and brings people together” allowing them to talk about the “taboo topic of abuse and open the door to forgiveness and healing where there was anger and sadness.”
Pope’s abuse prevention commission prioritises survivors, education
Pope Francis’ Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors met in Rome to listen to survivors of clerical sexual abuse and to discuss abuse prevention education and ways the Church might work more closely with abuse survivors. Catholic News Agency’s Elise Harris reports.
According to a communique from the commission, the first day of their plenary was dedicated to hearing thoughts and testimonies from survivors of clerical sexual abuse, many of them members of the Survivor Advisory Panel (SAP) of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission of England and Wales.
Those who attended voiced appreciation for being listened to, and described the encounter as “empowering”.
One of the survivors, according to the communique, voiced hope that their visit would help the commission “develop a wider network of survivors who are willing to advise and support” the commission’s work in a similar manner.
The commission expressed gratitude to the SAP group for offering their “expertise and experiences” during the plenary, saying their contribution will help the commission “to develop effective ways to integrate the voice of survivors into the life and ministry of the Church”.
In comments made in a video statement uploaded by the Center for Child Protection (CCP), clerical abuse survivor Deborah Kloos, who is not a member of the SAP but met with commission members during the plenary, said the Church needs to pray regularly for victims of clerical sexual abuse.
“It is something very important to me that our Catholic Church prays together for people wounded by abuse, because so many were wounded under the roof of the Church,” she said, asking the pope to lead the Church in praying for those who have been abused.
The wound of abuse, she said, affects survivors “their entire life and it separates them from the Eucharist”.
Kloos, who is originally from Canada, has long lobbied for a day of prayer for the victims of clerical sexual abuse, which Pope Francis has asked bishops’ conferences to organise at a local level. After her abuse more than three decades ago, Kloos left the Catholic Church for a period, but eventually came back, and sings in her parish choir.
“I feel very connected,” she said in the video, but lamented that “the only thing missing is that I don’t hear the Church praying in the prayers of the faithful for those who have been wounded by abuse”.
“It’s very important and I ask everyone to remember, because if we don’t remember and we don’t bring it out, then there’s no way that healing can occur,” Kloos said. “You don’t see the people separated from the Church, but there are thousands of people who don’t come to Mass anymore because someone was wounded under the roof of this Church”.
During their meeting, the commission also heard presentations on the outcome of the Australian Royal Commission’s inquiry into institutional responses to sexual abuse, as well as the role that faith communities play in helping to overcome trauma.
On Saturday, members met with Pope Francis in a private audience. During the encounter, the pope said he intended to confirm the commission’s statutes, which had been approved for an experimental period of three years when the commission was established in 2015.
Commission members also outlined to the pope their priorities moving forward, which they said can clearly be seen through three specific working groups: working with survivors, education and formation, and prevention guidelines and norms.
The commission was established by Pope Francis in March 2014, and is headed by Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston. Its objective is to propose the most opportune initiatives for the protection of all minors and vulnerable adults, to promote local responsibility in the particular Churches.
The commission’s initial mandate ended in December 2017, and in February of this year the Vatican announced that Pope Francis had reconfirmed some members of the commission, including O’Malley as its president, and that he had also appointed several new members.
New members who joined are Benyam Dawit Mezmur from Ethiopia; Sr Arina Gonsalves RJM from India; Neville Owen from Australia; Sinalelea Fe’ao from Tonga; Myriam Wijlens from The Netherlands; Ernesto Caffo from Italy; Sr Jane Bertelsen FMDM from the UK; Teresa Kettelkamp from the US; and Nelson Giovanelli Rosendo Dos Santos from Brazil.
The returning commission members are Dr Gabriel Dy-Liacco from the Philippines; Bishop Luis Manuel Alí Herrera from Colombia; Fr Hans Zollner SJ from Germany; Hannah Suchocka from Poland; Sr Kayula Lesa RSC from Zambia; Sr Hermenegild Makoro CPS from South Africa; and Monsignor Robert Oliver from the US.
Survivors of clerical sexual abuse are among commission members, however, the names of the survivors have not been made public, leaving it up to them whether they to disclose their experiences.
First published by CNA.
Image: Daniel Ibanez/CNA