Friday, February 8, 2019

Betrayed By the Church

There's a saying that "Time heals all wounds" but no one said how much time that would take. It's been almost 4 years since I received one of the biggest wounds of my life and yet here I am...still unable to move past it. I have been wounded in many ways over the years. I have been abused, and abandoned and betrayed before but the wound is different when it is the Church that hurts you.
All I have ever desired was a family that loved and cared for me. A family that would protect me and see my value. When I found the Church, I thought that I had finally found it. For years I made the Church the center of everything in my life.  So imagine the intensity of grief and pain when the only real family I ever felt that I had, betrayed and abandoned me. The reason? To protect themselves and their insurance policy.
While I have experienced many betrayals by Christians over the past 20 years, but there are only two that have brutally assaulted and violated me to the point where I have almost lost my faith. The first I have recovered from but the second is still so all encompassing that I feel some days as if I am bleeding out from the gash upon my very soul.

I am still grieving and I still have not been able to forgive.

Perhaps it is because of the grave injustice of it. Perhaps it is my own lack of holiness.  My hope is that by writing this piece on the betrayal and injustice that somewhere in my heart and soul I will finally feel as if I have had a chance to say my peace and to speak to the truth of what was done to me so that I can then let go of the pain and forgive. I pray that God will hear me and finally throw down a ladder into the dark pit I find myself in and to be set free. I pray that anyone else reading this knows they are not alone and God understands when we are hurting and it is ok to acknowledge our pain and need for healing.
I have been a speaker defending and teaching the Catholic Faith throughout the United States, Canada and Australia. I have done this for almost 18 years and I have loved it.  I have worked in a parish and I have written books. I have had my own international radio program for almost five years and I have been a guest on radio and television as a witness to Christ and His Church. So imagine my surprise when a false allegation against me and the abandonment of my priests and my own Bishop caused my good name to be scandalized, I lost my job and those who called themselves "Christians" set out to deliberately sabotage the ministries I was involved in.  It was and is still as if my soul itself has been pierced by a sword.  My trust has been violated.  I feel as if a sacred vow and promise to love and protect me has been broken. I have been abandoned and forsaken.

Finally, and this is the most painful of all of the betrayals, I have been abandoned by my Bishop

I had always believed that those in charge of the Church would protect me and would seek justice and truth but it is clear to me now that the relationship that I thought I had with those I called friends, and a Bishop that I thought was my shepherd, was not what I believed them to be. The Bishop was someone that I trusted and who had met with me more than once to help promote my ministry and encourage my work. I guess that does not make me special as he should treat everyone the same. Every soul in his diocese should have equal value, yet I still cannot believe that a man that I trusted, would abandon me because his lawyers told him too. Only now when I contemplate the words "on the night he was betrayed" do I realize that even God has experienced betrayal.  I just never realized the amount of sorrow and deep grief that comes with betrayal.

I still cannot believe that a man that I trusted, would abandon me because his lawyers told him too.

I guess, in my own pride, I thought that if I was working for the Lord then who would be against me? I thought that surely the years I have given to the Church would speak for itself and that I could trust that truth would always prevail. My mission statement was to help raise up a radical army of laid down lovers that would not only be able to see Jesus in the lost and broken but would be so full of passion and intimacy that they would join me by running into the darkness without fear to bring in Christ's lost bride. I did this by sharing the truths of our faith in Jesus Christ and how he desires to heal us and set us free. For over 20 years I have been blessed with the opportunity to travel all over the world sharing this truth, life and love and while those who heard me speak received the message there were always those on the outside that for whatever reason made it their mission to create as many obstacles for me as possible. I have always been amazed at how jealousy causes some to set out and try to destroy your ministry or to seek to take it over for themselves.

So what happened?

Well, the short version is that a priest was having a sexual relationship with a woman in his parish in Nebraska and was subsequently removed by his Bishop. This same priest met with the Bishop of my Diocese. My Bishop, knowing that this man was removed for allegations of sexual misconduct, allowed him to be reassigned to his diocese, my diocese. Once the Bishop gave him his own parish, this priest once again engaged in sexual misconduct with a vulnerable and hurting woman. He used her confessions to manipulate and control her. Ironically, it was in him being hired that allowed a beautiful healing ministry to come into being which I believe helped hundreds of people find healing and it was this very ministry that empowered this same woman being abused and manipulated, to finally expose the abusive relationship and get set free. I am grateful she trusted us enough to come to us and ask for help though I am sure she is still trying to heal from the horrific abuse she endured at the hands of someone we all trusted.
Shortly upon his arrival at his parish, he asked a myself and another woman experienced in healing ministry to begin a formal healing ministry for his parish. At the time I was working at a different parish. I was working to develop a Marriage and Family Program under a limited stipend as well as working at a part-time Children's liturgist and Vacation Bible School coordinator.  I was very involved in my parish. I taught bible studies, Children's liturgy, Vacation Bible School, 5th grade religious ed, 8th grade religious ed and I help with Confirmation classes. I helped anywhere help was needed. I was even on the team for Christ Renews His Parish where ladies form a deep connection and friendship over a year of study together. I thought the offer to start a healing ministry was an answer to prayer as it had become an area I felt God was calling me to, I even wrote a book on my own healing journey from the wounds of sexual abuse.

I thought the offer to start a healing ministry was an answer to prayer

When I was asked to start a healing ministry, I met with this priest along with another woman who also had training in this area. We discussed the parameters of the ministry and set up a schedule of monthly healing masses for the entire year. We set up courses to be offered and even a parish retreat experience that we would be asked to facilitate.
Our very first healing mass was in November of 2014. It was a huge success. We had over 200 people that came. We had a potluck dinner at the rectory before hand so that the priests that came could get a meal and fellowship and even have us pray for them for a change. We had at least 5 groups of people praying with those who came for prayer and to ensure that everything went smoothly I insisted on every prayer group having a priest present. I thought that way if they just desired a priest to pray or if they desired anointing or if they just needed to feel safe...that this would be best. So imagine my surprise when I would later (like 7 months later) be accused of removing a woman from the group and taking her to a separate location. I want to point out that it would be discovered that this woman had been involved in an inappropriate relationship with another priest in the diocese resulting in him being laicized.

The evening of our first healing mass, this particular woman came up for prayer. She immediately began shaking, writhing, coughing and even growling. At one point she laid on the ground. The priest in our group (the priest in charge of the parish and the healing ministry) said "just leave her" and we went on with the next person in line for prayer. At that point I reached out to two different prayer ministry teams as well as another priest to try to come and help her as the priest in our group wanted to move on, which we ultimately did. I no longer was involved in anything going on with her as the other teams took over. I never removed her from the group, I never took her to any separate location and I would later provide written testimony of over 6 people including a priest to prove this to the diocese but they would ignore it. It would be over a year before I would discover why.
Six months and Six more healing masses went by with great success. We almost filled the Church every time and we had at least 6 priests at every mass. We offered food and prayer for those priests before our mass because we wanted to provide spiritual nourishment for them as well. Each month we had a different theme for prayer making every month a new opportunity for deeper healing and deliverance. As far as I know the same woman came to all of them without further incident. Then, in May of 2015 I was called in to the business managers office of the parish I was employed at to have a conversation with a woman from the "Safe Environment" department of the diocese.

She asked me if it was true that I kissed a crying girl on her head. I said yes

  She asked me about an incident in which I side hugged a crying 5th grade that was in line for confession and asked me if it was true that I kissed her on her head. I said yes, that I did but she was one of my students that I was trying to calm down because she was very upset about being forced to go to confession and that we were in the main parish surrounded by everyone in the religious education program. I was informed that I violated her boundaries and that I would need to re-take the safe environment training since the course I had previously was over 10 years old. The course I was to take would be the one that she specifically taught as her course dealt with training people in ministry. Once I completed the course I was to write a paper/letter to her office stating that I knew it was wrong to hug or kiss a child and that I would never do it again. I would remain suspended and unable to work with children until then.

Before I left the office, she told me there was just one more thing. She told me that a woman who attended one of the healing masses at the other parish had filed a complaint against me. I was being accused of removing this woman from the public area where I forced her to let me pray over her "alone." I sat there in shock having absolutely no idea what she was talking about.  I defended myself saying that in no way have I ever removed anyone or ever prayed over anyone alone and that I could prove it as the mass in question was the one in which I was accompanied by two other prayer ministers and the priest in charge of the parish. The woman told me she would be contacting them to interview them as well as the priest and if my story checked out and there was nothing to the allegation that I would be reinstated upon completing the safe environment course and submission of my letter.
Rumors about me would begin to spread throughout the parish

I attended the training and took two other healing ministers with me so they too would receive proper training. I wrote the letter and asked my direct superiors to overlook. During this time I reached out to my parish priest and boss who refused to answer my phone calls or texts or emails. He would completely abandoned my family and me as he  refused to answer texts, calls or emails. I was a week away from our Vacation Bible School Camp in which I had over 180 families signed up to attend. They would later be given a vague reason for my sudden departure and rumors about me would begin to spread throughout the parish. One rumor was that I struck a child and was fired.
When I submitted the letter I was told to write, I was informed that it was not thorough enough and that she did not believe me when I said that I would not violate another a child. She also told me she believed I did remove the woman at the healing mass from the public area and that I did in fact violate the woman's boundaries and was lying about it. I was to stay suspended while she "investigated" the allegations further.

Once she finished her so called investigation, I had to meet with several people from the diocese. Two women that were representatives of the Diocese Insurance rider, the Human Resources person and the woman who ran the safe environment department.  I was refused legal counsel, the Bishop ignored my letters and phone calls, he refused all  requests to hear me or to read the 6 letters from people at the healing mass that could attest to the truthfulness of my statement. I even had a reputable friend and respected person in the diocese who was present at that mass write a letter to the bishop on my behalf and was told by the Bishop that there was information that my friend did not know and that the "Holy Spirit" would reveal the truth, insinuating that I was in fact guilty.

I would later discover that the priest who was in charge of the healing ministry, lied

For the truth to be revealed would take $3,500 my family had to pay  to a private attorney, I would have to go through a mandatory year long process of writing two papers a month on material this woman provided me as well as a monthly 2 hour meeting with her and two other diocesan personnel in which would not only harass me about details of that first healing mass as well as ask me a multitude of ridiculous questions involving different made up scenarios to see if to see if I understood what would constitute possible boundary violations. This was to be followed by a year of probation before I could ever work with kids or healing ministry again. I had just completed the first year when the truth was exposed.

I would later discover that the priest who was in charge of the healing ministry was interviewed during the safe environment investigation and he lied to the woman investigating the allegation.  He told her that he was not present or anywhere near the woman or me making me a liar.  He would tell me later, that he was so scared that his sexual misconduct would be discovered that he felt he had to distance himself from me and this allegation so as to not have any prying eyes upon him. He was afraid of being caught. So, he threw me under the bus. The woman, believing me to be liar, later told me she believed that I had my friends lie for me and that the letters they wrote were done as a favor to protect me. Why? Because she did not know this priest was a sexual offender from a separate diocese and therefore thought, because he was the diocese darling, author of two famous books and on the Catholic Speaker circuit, that his word was to be believed and mine was not to believed.

The Bishop, who hired a known sexual predator, believed him over me

After my family spent thousands of dollars that we didn't have to spend,  after hours of humiliating meetings and hundreds of essays I was forced to write on safe environment issues, it was then and only then when the woman being abused finally came forward to the diocese.  Within days of the woman coming forward, I received a phone call from the Vicar General saying that the diocese was going to reinstate me immediately and all I had to do was come up and sign some paperwork. So the deal my lawyer had secured for me of essays and meetings was put to an end and the year of probation was dropped and within hours of the phone call I was reinstated as if nothing had ever happened. But something did happen. My life was destroyed, my good name was destroyed, the beautiful ministries I was apart of were destroyed and as a result my faith in the Church was destroyed.  I still loved Jesus, thank God, but the institution....I am still very hurt and angry.
The Bishop, who hired a known sexual predator, believed him over me and 6 other people who spoke up on my behalf.  Rather than hear me and get to the bottom of things, he allowed over a year of abuse to continue in that parish and to that woman. It could have been exposed and I believe the Holy Spirit tried to have it exposed but fear over losing his insurance rider and fear of public scandal or perhaps fear of people learning he put a priest who was removed from a previous diocese into his own diocese, caused him to ignore the Holy Spirit.

I lost my job

I believe if the Bishop would have spoken to me and those present at the mass, if he would have truly cared to find out the truth because he knew the priest in charge came from a background of scandal, that my family would not have had to suffer. I was a woman who had worked in the diocese and spoken around the country for the past 20 years without incident.  I had over 20 letters submitted speaking to my character, yet I was not given even 5 minutes to hear my side. But, the Bishop made no time for me and those who "investigated" the allegations were safe environment personnel and those that were in charge of keeping our insurance policy in place to protect the diocese. Not only were they cold and condescending but I was treated like a criminal, like a sex offender. there goals were not the truth, it was containment and to avoid a lawsuit.

I suffered a deep depression and loss of faith my kids suffered a loss of faith as well

I lost my job. An announcement was made in Church to the families of the parish I worked at to let them know that Vacation Bible School was cancelled which in many ways scandalized my good name. I have actually had people tell me they heard I was fired for hitting a child. In the middle of this horrific trial I had a miscarriage. I believe it was because of the tremendous stress I was enduring. While I suffered a deep depression and loss of faith my kids suffered a loss of faith as well.
My son, who was a pontifical server for the Bishop and who had one day thought he might be a priest, told me he could no longer serve the Bishop that betrayed and abandoned our family. Two of my adult kids no longer go to Church both of which were involved in their own ministries at Church and in leadership positions. My husband, who has seen other Christians over the years that abandoned us, said he was done with the Church. Our family still has not recovered. Getting a letter saying "hey your not suspended anymore" has done nothing to heal our family. We used to be the ones that attended retreats and conferences, my children taught religious ed, led March for Life pilgrimages, ran Children's liturgy for me in my absence and volunteered for Church picnics and the like, yet they no longer have anything to do with the Church. One of my adult children who is getting married this spring will not get married in the Church because she no longer believes. I know this is because of what happened to us because she was an active leader in the Church and went to adoration regularly before this happened.
I now carry the scars of betrayal and injustice

For me, the abandonment and betrayal of people I thought I could count on and trust has brought wave after wave of pain. The realization that I couldn't trust people that I relied on still burns and crushes my soul.  I feel as if I have a huge boa constrictor around me, slowly crushing the life out of me. All I tried to do was love people and in exchange I was crucified and the consequences have been far reaching.
I now carry the scars of betrayal and injustice of what was done to me and my family. As I cautiously attempt to approach the Church, I find that I am unable to trust. The betrayal I endured caught me by such surprise, it knocked me over and put a fear into me that I brace myself for I believe it is a matter of time before I receive another hit. My Bishop failed me and so did the entire parish that suffered from that priests sexual addiction and lies. My parish family failed me as they abandoned me and my family when our lives were falling apart. Perhaps they abandoned me because they believed rumors or maybe it was because they just did not believe we were important enough to make the time to love us during our dark night as they were too busy with their Church ministries to care.
In conclusion I want to add that I have forgiven the priest that lied during the investigation. It is not my place to forgive him for violating the woman at his parish but for his betrayal to me I do forgive. Perhaps it is because I know he was a broken man and that the Church abused him and then threw him away. I know that he was abused in seminary and that he begged the Church for help dealing with his needs and desires for sexual intimacy and that he told the Bishop he did not believe he was ready to become a priest, I know that he later told his bishop he was not ready to be put alone in a parish in the middle of nowhere yet his pleas fell on deaf ears.  I am not excusing what he has done but rather I merely acknowledging that he was failed along the way as well.

I still love Jesus, and his Bride, but I’m afraid

He was failed when he was abused by his superiors in the seminary,  he was failed when he asked for help dealing with emotional woundedness of his own from a dysfunctional family that formed him and his requests were met with simply pushing him along the process. He was failed when he was accepted into another  diocese when they knew he had allegations of sexual misconduct and had been removed from ministry there.  He was failed when was thrown away quietly so as to not further endanger the diocese. Our Church is broken and is failing the faithful. It is in need of deep spiritual healing.
I still love Jesus, and his Bride, but I’m afraid. I don’t want to get hurt and as of now I am still unable to trust. My prayer is that Jesus, who understands betrayal and injustice, will heal me and give me the gift of faith. For those of you that understand and know this grief, I am so sorry. I am sorry you were betrayed. I am sorry you were abandoned. Let's pray for one another that the Holy Spirit will heal our broken hearts and some how repair and make new the Church of Jesus Christ.
"Come Holy Spirit and Heal my broken heart. Heal me from the pain caused by those who are not faithful in your church. Heal o Lord Jesus, all those intimate wounds that are separating me from you. Help me to want to forgive, help me to forgive. Help me to want to trust again, help me trust. Amen"