All posts by Angela's Heart

The Book of Daniel: How to engage with God after abandonment by one’s faith community?

An ancient text applied to a modern problem – clergy sexual abuse

The sad reality is that many victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse are abandoned and shunned by their faith communities.

As a result, some lose their faith in God. Others still have faith in God, but don’t have a supportive community in which to pray for one another’s needs, read and reflect on Scripture, and to worship God with others.

This morning, I read a text written about 100 years before the birth of Jesus which has some parallels to the situation of those separated from their faith communities today.

The Book of Daniel

In the Book of Daniel, located within the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), we meet Daniel and his companions who have been deported to Babylon.

In this foreign land, they are not able to practice their religion fully, but attempts are made to force them to adopt the ways of the Greeks.

Daniel and his friends , limited as they are in their then current circumstances, manage to keep some elements of their faith practices together.

The Spiritual Needs of Victims/Survivors

In the case of victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse, the unkind, sometimes slanderous words of some leaders and lay members of faith communities are responsible for the exile. Victim blaming is much easier than engaging in a profound conversion of one’s heart and intellect to accept the truth of abusive clergy.

Contributing to the forced exile are those members of faith communities who are happy to pray for victims/survivors individually or as a faith community, but are not willing to reach out to survivors to assess what their spiritual needs are, or how to make it emotionally safe to attempt to reconnect to their faith communities.

The Invitation to Gather in Small Faith Groups

Although a number of support groups exist for victims/survivors, most do not offer a spiritual support component.

Daniel and his friends had each other. Many victims/survivors have no one.

I pray that small faith groups will be formed for those victims/survivors who still want to practice their faith with others.

I myself am considering offering monthly Zoom meetings for those who would like to pray with Scripture in a small group.

Let’s not wait until faith community leaders reach out to us. For now, let’s reach out to one another and find new ways to connect to God together.

Creating a Safe Environment for Adults

Great progress has been made in developing materials in support of creating safe environments for children.

Unfortunately, sufficient attention has not yet been paid to the abuse of women and men seeking pastoral, spiritual, or other care within faith communities and other organizations.

The following template can be filled in with a caregiving organization’s name and contact information (the text to be changed is indicated by italics), and then used ‘as is’, or be further customized according to the needs of the specific organization.

Creating a Safe Environment for Adults Seeking Care

The [[Archdiocese / Diocese] of [Name_Of_Diocese] / [Organization_Name]] is committed to providing a safe environment for all members of our community. One area of our responsibility includes ministries to adults (and older adolescents) who enter into close pastoral relationships with priests, deacons, women religious, and laypersons with specialized training. We seek to prevent potential harm to those who enter such pastoral relationships, for example, when seeking spiritual direction, marriage, grief, or other counselling, or seeking help in other settings of spiritual or emotional vulnerability such as engaging in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession).

Whoever is providing spiritual or emotional care has an obligation to behave in a professional manner, and not seek to gratify his or her own emotional, physical, or sexual desires with the person being directed / counselled.

Some signs of when spiritual directors, confessors, or counsellors (collectively referred to as ‘caregivers’) may be seeking to take advantage of the position of trust and authority they have in relation to the adults seeking care (referred to as ‘care seekers’) include:

  • Telling the care seeker about:
    • The caregiver’s own loneliness, emotional problems, or unsatisfied sexual desires
    • How ‘special’ the care seeker is
    • How there is a special ‘spiritual’ love the caregiver can share with the care seeker, for example, using the friendship between St. Francis and St. Clare and/or the Song of Solomon to justify growing closer emotionally, spiritually, and eventually sexually
  • Asking the care seeker to:
    • Hold hands when praying
    • Give the caregiver hugs and / or kisses
    • Provide or receive a massage
    • Meet for a private dinner
    • Meet in the caregiver’s or care seeker’s home / bedroom
    • Take off clothing
    • Engage in sexual touching / activity

These are just some examples of ‘grooming’, that is, words or actions that unscrupulous caregivers might use to take advantage of their position of trust with a care seeker. Such abuse of power can cause great emotional, spiritual, and relational damage to care seekers – even suicidal thoughts or actions.

To report abuse of such power that you have experienced within a relationship of pastoral care, please contact [Name_Of_Contact_Person] at [Email_And_Or_Phone_Number_Of_Contact_Person].

One thing organizations can do to prevent abuse of adults seeking pastoral / spiritual care

Here is a downloadable .pdf version of the text above.

Samson and Delilah: Strength after betrayal

In the Book of Judges, chapter 16, Samson is betrayed by Delilah.

Delilah says to Samson, “I love you.”

Survivors of sexual abuse may have been told, “I love you.”

Or, “I am your doctor.”

Or, “I am your pastor.”

Or, “I am your father /mother /religious superior / spiritual director” or any number of other words implying that they could trust the person who went on to betray that trust.

Delilah sold out Samson for eleven hundred shekels of silver. She succeeded in getting Samson to reveal the most intimate secret of his heart – how he was vulnerable.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)

Samson’s weakness being known was exploited and, as a result, he was physically abused – maimed for life by the rulers of the Philistines.

Not only maimed, but put on display in the temple of the Philistines who celebrated how Samson had been brought down so low.

Has the way you have been treated by the ‘rulers’ in your life – Church, educational, family or other ‘authorities’ made you feel like Samson did in the temple? Maimed, mocked, abandoned?

Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “Sovereign LORD, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more..” (Judges 16:28 NIV)

God answered that prayer, and Samson became stronger at that point than he had ever been before.

Samson thought his power was in his hair. His power came from prayer.

I pray that all survivors will one day again feel power, and use that power to pull down the pillars of denial and cover-up in the institutions in which they were abused.

I also pray that survivors and their supports will use their power to seek trustworthy help and to build new pillars of healing and truth in those same institutions.

The Prince of Peace and Division in the Church

In Luke Chapter 12:49-51, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, tells His disciples that He had not come to bring peace to earth but division.

Surprising to say the least.

After I joined a church community a number of years ago, the pastor told the new members that God had not called us to a love boat, but to a war ship.

In my efforts to bring to light abuse in the church, sadly, I have found this verse of Scripture and the pastor’s words to reflect my experience. Yet, I have hope.

Why would the Prince of Peace bring about division?

My hope is that the current conflicts between church leaders of various denominations and survivors of abuse are part of the birthing of a new maturity in the Body of Christ.

Instead of settling for the status quo, where we all politely gather together on Sundays, collectively in denial about the existence of the deep sin of sexual abuse affecting our lives, might Jesus be stirring up the voices of some survivors to raise up a sword of truth – not to harm anyone, but to dig us all out of the dark and into the light of Christ and true Christian living?

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13, NIV)

To enter the Promised Land, the Israelites had to fight battles.

Some survivors fight in court cases. Others fight ignorance through writing or speaking about abuse. Others are simply fighting to stay alive.

Our future ‘Promised Land’ will come directly from the Prince of Peace.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27, NIV)

May Our Lord bless our fight to bring truth and holiness to His church.

#ChurchToo: Online Discussions Launch

In my decade or so of looking for church-based ministries to clergy sexual abuse survivors, I have yet to find such a ministry. Not only has clergy sexual abuse directly harmed the abused, but it has also harmed their families, friends and other members of faith communities.

There are professional treatment centers for abusers who are in the clergy: there are none, to my knowledge, for their victims. Instead, churches of many denominations sadly leave survivors to secular therapists and anonymous support groups for help.

Some survivors have had their faith lives shattered and feel no desire to engage with others in a Christian setting. Others still have faith in God, Jesus, and the Bible, but don’t feel welcome in a church setting due to their exposure of wrong-doing on the part of the offending pastors.

Not all survivors are able to attend clergy sexual abuse survivor support groups in person – particularly if they live in remote areas.

There appear to be a number of survivors who feel called to help prevent abuse and to help support healing in other survivors, but struggle to launch a ministry solely using their own limited resources.

To help people of goodwill – survivors, their supporters, church members – to pool expertise, experience, and human as well as other resources to map out a path towards prevention of abuse and high-quality support for those directly and indirectly affected by abuse, I am inviting people of such goodwill to join online discussions on related topics, such as sharing:

  • Your own efforts to launch a ministry related to clergy sexual abuse
  • How you are moving forward after having experienced clergy sexual abuse (or having had a loved one experience it). These groups can be for general participation or restricted to persons abused as children, persons abused as adults, and so on). At the moment, these are informal peer-level meetings. At some point, perhaps some qualified therapists can host their own discussions.
  • How you as a religious leader have been affected by wrong-doing on the part of your peers
  • How the Bible, prayer or other spiritual discipline may be helping you to persevere

A draft ‘vision’ of the effort is outlined on (when I have some more $’s, I’ll invest in a fancier website 🙂 ).

If you are interested in being part of these discussions, please contact me through .

Reaching out may take you out of your comfort zone – offering this effort certainly takes me out of mine. If you feel ready to take a step in working with others in this effort, please consider being in touch.

Good Friday and Clergy Abuse Survivors

With a kiss, Judas betrayed Jesus.

With a kiss or other intimate touch, some priests, pastors, and others with spiritual authority have betrayed the trust placed in them by those in their care.

Jesus knows what it is like to be betrayed. And abandoned. And abused.

What comfort had he when hanging on the cross, being mocked from below, bleeding and in agony?

Did he remember the words spoken by the Father at his baptism: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11) NIV?

Did he hold on to those words and replay them over in his mind to remember who he really was and not what a hostile crowd was telling him about his worthiness?

If you find yourself this Good Friday abandoned by a faith community, family, or some other person or group, because your wounds are too painful for them to look at, remember that Jesus is always available, through prayer, to listen to you.

You may be “struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:9) NIV

Let us live in hope that the power that raised Jesus from the dead will lift us all to remember how lovable and valuable we truly are – that we, too, are God’s children, in whom God is well pleased.