Advocacy for survivors of clergy sex abuse is a challenging and ongoing endeavor. I have been involved in this cause for several years, but the fight for change has continued for much longer. In 2018, my family experienced the trauma of clergy sex abuse, and out of that pain, we formed TentMakers. At the time, we had no clear path or destination in mind. Naively, we believed it would be easy since there was undeniable proof of priests abusing children, as acknowledged by the Catholic hierarchy itself.
As our story became public, survivors of clergy sex abuse began reaching out to us. They found us through social media, and I started connecting with victims in Louisiana and the entire country. Listening to their stories of abuse was anything but easy. It was heartbreaking and emotionally draining. Hearing about years of cover-ups within the church and the failure to take responsibility for the crimes committed against boys, girls, men, and women made it evident that someone needed to fight for justice and help restore the lives of the victims. It seemed simple: the church needed to admit wrongdoing, repent, and ask for forgiveness. Yet, they stubbornly refused to do so, as if their hearts were hardened like Pharaoh’s in the book of Exodus when Moses begged for the release of his people.
In a letter to the People of God on August 20, 2018, Pope Francis described the universal clergy abuse scandal as inflicting deep wounds of pain and powerlessness, not only among the victims but also among their families and the wider community, regardless of their beliefs. He emphasized the urgency of preventing such situations from happening in the future and putting an end to cover-ups. The Pope acknowledged that the church shared the pain of the victims and their families and reaffirmed the commitment to protect minors and vulnerable adults.
Unfortunately, recent events have shown we still have a long way to go. Father Hans Zollner, a renowned expert on safeguarding and protecting minors, resigned from his position on the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors. He cited concerns about decision-making processes, lack of transparency, and other structural and practical issues. This resignation underscores the ongoing challenges the church faces in addressing clergy sex abuse effectively.
The answer to the clergy sex abuse problem will not come from the hierarchy. Throughout history, laymen and women have risen and held the church accountable to the laws of God rather than allowing corrupt individuals to mock the Catholic faith and harm souls and families. The decline of trust in the Catholic faith, as reflected in published data, is a testament to the devastating consequences of this crisis. The church may be dying, but power-hungry and blind corrupt men will still fight amongst themselves, even when they are a dwindling minority.
TentMakers is committed to fulfilling our mission. We will work tirelessly to bring hope, healing, and justice to survivors of clergy sex abuse. No one should have to face the journey of healing alone. We will strive to make our churches safe spaces again, in line with Pope Francis’ call to protect minors and vulnerable adults. Our commitment is not just empty words; we will take action to bring about meaningful change and ensure a brighter future for all.