This year (2017) I turned 60 and am probably drawing close to Erickson’s eighth stage of life known as ‘integrity v despair’. I am married (30 years) to an exceptional woman and we have three wonderful and artistic young adult children. While I do have a deeply spiritual Catholic background, one which I took very seriously for most of my life, I have also experienced clergy sexual abuse as a child and an adult within this Church, and have suffered the effects thereof. I have also reported both, so I know what victims/survivors are going through. I have now worked through the effects of these experiences as much as one can, and now want to contribute to helping others in some way, to do so as well. Hence this website.
As to my current spirituality or belief, something is slowly coming back but it is very different to what it has always been. In the past I believe that I used religion and spirituality as the proverbial ‘opiate’, as a way of avoiding my own traumas, unhappiness and fears. Now, the term ‘God’ only makes sense as a verb, “LOVE”, but by this I mean deeply mature Love and in all of its human expressions. For this I have Erich Fromm’s, The Art of Loving to thank (see: https://archive.org/details/TheArtOfLoving). I don’t think Fromm perceived God as I am saying here, I’ve just put the two together. So, when there is no Love, there is no God. But when one lives in Love, then God lives, too, and can do and be God. When you perceive God in this way, the life of Jesus also makes more sense, as does the current age in which we live. The effects of sexual abuse by clergy, of the deep destruction of faith and trust, also oddly makes sense, too, with this concept of God. In such interaction, God/Love ceases to exist, God/Love is muffled, blinded, pushed away, hidden, abused, killed even, and in the life of the victim and the perpetrator. I’m still processing all this.
Possibly because of my involvement in the Charismatic movement as a teenager, which in its early days (1970s) was ecclesiastically liberal, but which became more conservative as time went on (and after I left), I no longer belong to, nor want to belong to any strongly agenda-ed liberal or conservative Catholic groups: I know that individuals/clerics/lay people from both sides, along with their own particular systemic cultures, have contributed to this issue and its cover up in their own way. However, I also believe in the good of the people from both these cultures within the Church: They all have valuable and reasonable insights and contributions to make. Solutions to life’s problems are rarely ‘either/or’, but rather, ‘both/and’.
My goal now is to work for ‘truth, justice and healing’ for the forgotten victims/survivors of this more hidden expression of clergy sexual misconduct, but beginning with, to quote a Morris West character, those who are or have been in ‘the bloodied dust’ rather than from the higher echelons of Church leadership, who, based on my experience of them, rarely fully/personally grasp such things. To this end, four years ago, I chose to research this issue based on surveys and interviews of victims/survivors, and then to write about my findings based on their experiences. I completed my Master of Justice (Research) degree entitled “Clerical sexual misconduct involving adults within the Roman Catholic Church”. My thesis can be sourced here: https://eprints.qut.edu.au/96038/ .
I am currently a sessional academic and PhD candidate in the School of Justice, Faculty of Law, at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). My PhD topic concerns the reporting (or not) of clergy sexual misconduct against adults within the Catholic Church and the Church’s responses thereto, again based on the personal experiences of those involved.
I have written some articles on this issue for Eureka Street magazine which can be accessed here: https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=38542 ; here: https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=50509 ; and here: https://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=52339 .
Lastly, I need to say that while I am currently a PhD candidate at QUT, this website has been established as a completely separate and personal venture and is not in any way connected to QUT.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Please know that I am still and will probably always be a relatively vulnerable person because of my past but I am willing now, and for the sake of others, to step out a little bit more, through this website, to try to be a positive influence for anyone who wants it.
Too idealistic? Well, that’s me, too. I’m also a ‘devil’s advocate’ so don’t try to pigeon hole me. You will also notice I, like many a fellow victim/survivor seeking to be heard, suffer from ‘excessive verbage’ (to quote one of my Master’s supervisors) and will try to control this now that I have said most of what I have wanted to, for now.
So let’s get started. As the cliche goes: ‘This is a discussion we so need to have’.
Stephen de Weger