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Abuse survivor: Forgiveness, positive outlook key to healing

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.”

New York assisted suicide bill draws fire from disability rights group

New York City, N.Y., Apr 24, 2018 / 03:00 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Disability rights activists are speaking out in opposition to a proposal in New York that would legalize physician assisted suicide.

The Medical Aid in Dying Act, or bill A.2383-A, would amend the current public health law to legalize assisted suicide for mentally competent, terminally ill patients in the state of New York. The bill was heard in the New York Assembly Health Committee on Monday, where a number of opposing groups testified against it.

“The mere suggestion that disability acquired as the result of illness is cause enough to end one’s life is a devaluation of disabled peoples’ lives, and it’s offensive,” said Kathryn Carroll, an attorney and policy analyst with the Center for Disability Rights, who was invited to testify at Monday’s hearing.

“Our focus should be on expanding access to services and supports that allow people to live with dignity, rather than assisting their suicide,” Carroll continued.

She warned of the danger posed by economic incentives for insurance companies and caregivers to push assisted suicide on the terminally ill as the cheaper option, instead of longer term end-of-life care.

“As long as these external influences exist, the promise of a choice to end one’s life is a lie,” Carroll said.

Carroll was joined by other disability advocates, including Mel Tanzman, the executive director of Westchester Disabled on the Move and the chair of the health committee at the New York Association on Independent Living.

Tanzman gave his testimony on Monday on behalf of over 40 organizations who serve individuals with disabilities in the state of New York.

“Fears of becoming disabled and facing functional loss, whether the cause is injury or illness, are often reported by doctors as reasons patients request assisted suicide in states where it is legal,” Tanzman said.

“The disability community strongly opposes the belief that requiring the assistance of another individual for activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing and toileting, is undignified or a legitimate reason for New York State to legalize physician assisted suicide,” he continued.

Tanzman additionally pointed to the possibility of “coercion and abuse” in such legislation, noting reports that similar assisted suicide measures in other states have experienced “ineffectual safeguards” against abuses for the terminally ill or disabled.

The bill’s New York City hearing is scheduled to take place on May 3, where Not Dead Yet, a disability rights activist group, will be testifying.

The Medical Aid in Dying Act is not the first attempt to legalize physician assisted suicide within New York. Last fall, an appeals court in the state ruled against a lawsuit which stated that citizens have a right to choose doctor-assisted suicide.

The lawsuit claimed that the state’s law against helping another individual commit suicide does not apply to doctor-assisted death, arguing that the ban on physician assisted suicide is unconstitutional because it denies patients the right to self-determination.

However, seven judges of the New York Court of Appeals unanimously shut down the case, saying the current law against assisting with suicide did not make exceptions for doctors. The judges also said the measure would induce undue pressure on terminal patients to end their lives.

Physician assisted suicide is now legal in a handful of states, including California, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Pope's abuse prevention commission prioritizes survivors, education

Vatican City, Apr 23, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis' commission for the protection of minors met in Rome last week to listen to survivors of clerical sexual abuse, and to discuss abuse prevention education and policy, and ways the Church might work more closely with abuse survivors.

According to an April 22 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) April 14, 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 organize 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, April 21, 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.

After meeting Pope Francis on Saturday, the commission closed their plenary Sunday, April 22. No date has yet been announced for their next gathering.

The commission was established by Pope Francis in March 2014, and is headed by Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston.

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 U.K.; Teresa Kettelkamp from the U.S.; 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 Mons. Robert Oliver from the U.S.

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.

 

Second priest murdered in Mexico in less than a week

Guadalajara, Mexico, Apr 23, 2018 / 03:30 pm (ACI Prensa).- The reported murder of a priest in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Friday marks the second killing of a priest in less than a week in the country.

Fr. Juan Miguel Contreras Garcia, 33, was shot to death the afternoon of April 20 inside Saint Pio of Pietrelcina church, in Guadalajara, Jalisco State, authorities reported.

The murder of Fr. Contreras Garcia makes the second murder of a priest in Mexico in less than a week, following the killing of Fr. Rubén Alcántara Díaz, the vicar general of the Diocese of Cuautitlán Izcalli, on April 18.

According to the Catholic Multimedia Center, this makes a total of 23 priests murdered in the country in the last six years.

The Attorney General's Office of Jalisco State reported that Fr. Contreras Garcia was believed to have been attacked by two men from the Hacienda Santa Fe neighborhood in the town of Tlajomulco, in the Guadalajara metropolitan area.

The attorney general's office indicated the killers “entered the sacristy of the parish and straight away attacked the victim, fleeing afterwards in a compact vehicle.”

“The victim was found in the church with several gunshot wounds,” the office said.

In a message released by the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, Cardinal Francisco Robles Ortega, his auxiliary bishops, the clergy and the faithful expressed “our deepest grief.”

The Archdiocese of Guadalajara urged “the state and municipal authorities to investigate and determine the facts of this deplorable incident.”

In addition, they called on “those that commit these atrocities against people's lives to reconsider the damage they do to society and the climate of anguish they bring upon the citizens, so that their minds and hearts be moved to repent of their actions.”

“We unite in prayer so that this climate of violence that afflicts our state of Jalisco would come to an end.”

The bishops of Mexico also released a statement voicing “sadness and grief over the murder of another priest in just a few days.”

“We make an urgent call to build a culture of peace and reconciliation. These deplorable incidents call all of us to a much deeper and sincere conversion. It is time to look honestly at our culture and society, to ask ourselves why we have lost respect for life and the sacred.”

“We ask the Catholic faithful to accompany their priests with prayer, especially in the pastoral service of the communities that have been entrusted to them.”

The bishops also exhorted “those who despise and take away life for any cause, to let the kindly face up God look upon you to not only lay down your weapons but also hatred, resentment, vengeance and every destructive sentiment.”

“To our competent authorities we strongly request, once again, to exhaustively investigate and determine the facts in order to act in conformity with justice and not allow this crime or the other crimes in our nation to go unpunished.”

The Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice warned that within Mexico, “the increase in violence is undeniable.”

On the council’s most recent annual list of the 50 most violent cities in the world, 12 are in Mexico.

 

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

Incoming pro-life chair to keynote National Catholic Prayer Breakfast

Washington D.C., Apr 23, 2018 / 03:00 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- The keynote speaker at the 2018 National Catholic Prayer Breakfast will be Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, incoming chairman of the US bishops’ pro-life committee.

The breakfast will be held May 24 in Washington, DC.

Naumann became the 11th bishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City on January 15, 2005. He was appointed coadjutor archbishop of Kansas City in 2004.
 
Last November, he was elected chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and will begin a three-year term in that position in November 2018. He is a member of the USCCB Administrative Committee, the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities, the USCCB Religious Liberty Committee, the USCCB Communications Committee, and the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage.

The archbishop has drawn attention for bold statements on cultural issues. Naumann has spearheaded efforts to restrict abortion in Kansas, and is well-known for challenging Catholic politicians espousing pro-choice positions.

Last year, he cut ties with the Girl Scouts, saying that the organization was “no longer a compatible partner in helping us form young women with the virtues and values of the Gospel.” Parishes were instead encouraged to start troops of American Heritage Girls, an alternative scouting organization.

The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast began in 2004, “in response to St. John Paul II’s call for a new evangelization.” The event is officially nonpartisan and people of all faiths are invited to attend. Past keynote speakers include Cardinal Robert Sarah and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.