First-hand report from survivors vigil at Vatican

by Joshua J. McElwee

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While moderating the comments on John Allen's report on Sunday's vigil of sex abuse survivors at the Vatican, I came across something remarkable: a first-hand account of the events from one of our commenters.

The comment comes from Judy Lorenz and has been slightly edited, just for formatting purposes.

It's a wonderful look into what the event meant for those who attended. Have a read:

Back from Rome after traveling there from Bowie, MD. My husband, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse, and my daughter attended the candlelight vigil in the Square across from St.Peter's.

While people may think the event was not well attended or did not evolve into what was hoped for -- it was still a very powerful moment in time. Earlier in the day the survivors met, and it was there that we had the opportunity to meet the deaf commnunity who traveled six hours by bus from Verona, Italy. Men and women who were brave enough to face their demon in their own country. A country where speaking ill of "Papa" is risky indeed.

Survivors from England, Ireland and America shared their stories. As they spoke, their messages were translated from English to Italian to Sign Language. And as I looked into the faces of the deaf community who were eagerly awaiting the translation to get through, I could see the message they were getting was eerily similar to what they had experienced themselves; a message of pain, guilt, shame, fear, anger and betrayal.

Then it was their turn to share and now their voices are silent no more. The sign language from Verona was loud and clear!

But, somehow, as we lit our candles and tried to proceed to St. Peter's Square later that evening to draw attention to the pain of child sexual abuse, somehow we did not feel like the Church was our ally.

Was it the police barricade or the fact that six or so were detained for passport checks? I thought of Jesus and what he would have done if a group of deaf people came up to him to let them know how hurt they were. Even if they came in anger, with signs and candles. And I was overwhelmed with sadness at how unlike Christ our hierarchy is.

My husband, daughter and I did manage to get into St. Peter's Square. It was not a problem as long as our "ENOUGH" shirts were covered and we weren't holding candles. We put our stones down which represented the lives of so many that we know who have survived clegy sex abuse but could not make this trip.

My husband waited while the police checked his passport. And I wept at the victim being victimized again.

The church as our ally? I think not. Imitators of Christ? Not even close.

But survivors calling attention to this problem, calling for real change -- they are the imitators of Christ, even if some of them can't put their trust in Him because their spiritual life was stripped long ago.

Thank you to all who really understand that the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is one symptom of the misguided leadership running this institution. And thank you to Bernie and Gary for organizing this event and making a difference for at least one deaf community and the others who were there to witness it. ENOUGH!

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