Victims/Survivors of Abuse
Diocesan Toll-Free Number for Abuse Response:
Outreach to Victims of Clergy Abuse
"After years of hurt and anger, I broke my silence and reached out to this Church for help. What I found surprised me: caring Catholics who weren't afraid to hear my story and share my pain. They taught me to trust again, restoring my wounded faith. With their help and God's grace, I experienced the healing I'd longed for. Forgiveness dispelled anger, love washed away pain, and dignity replaced shame. If you or a loved one has been hurt - even if you've left the Church - I pray you will reach out to this Diocese for help. You don't have to carry your burden alone."
– Victim of Abuse
The Church in Pittsburgh continues to reach out to those who have been hurt by priests, religious or others involved with the Church.
If you are a victim of abuse, the diocese wants to help, even if you have drifted away from the Church.
We offer assistance with counseling, spiritual direction and referrals to other supportive services. For information on any of these services, we invite you to contact our Diocesan Assistance Coordinator at (412) 456-3060, or toll free at 1-888-808-1235.
A Victim's Reflection
By a Victim of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Shattered Trust, Shattered Faith
When a trusted member of the church has hurt you or a loved one, it can shake the foundation of your whole belief system. Before this happened to me, my faith was based on my trust in this Church and its clergy. My primary relationship with God and prayer was through weekly mass at my neighborhood parish.
Afterward, this shattered trust resulted in shattered faith. I couldn’t pray. I became mistrusting of organized religion. I was unable to experience a personal relationship with God, which left me confused and frustrated, and feeling unloved and abandoned.
An important part of healing was discovering that my spiritual being was also injured and needed care. You seek medical advice for physical ailments, counseling for psychological concerns. But what about the very essence of your being, your soul?
Healing with God
We are integrated people - mind, body, and soul - but there is a tendency to leave the spiritual part out when we begin the process of healing our hurts. That is unfortunate because God doesn’t expect us to go it alone and we deny ourselves the greatest source of help there is – God’s grace.
We’ve all met or heard of people who rise above tough situations by drawing upon some kind of inner strength. That inner strength is a divine presence that lives in all of us, what some call a “higher power.” When we allow this grace to flow freely through us guiding our thoughts and actions, it lightens our burdens and eases our pain, strengthening us to do the impossible.
The difficult emotional challenges some of us now face become much easier when we include God. For example, our pain and confusion can make us feel alone, terribly isolated, but it is in these lonely times when no one else seems to understand that we find deep within us God's solace, sometimes for the first time in our lives. A damaged self-esteem is restored beautifully with the prayerful request to be able to see ourselves as God sees us. Exercise or meditation may lesson our stress and comfort our inner child, but there is no peace sweeter than placing oneself in God’s loving care like a child in his or her mother’s arms.
I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me; he freed me from all fears. The oppressed look to him and are glad; they will never be disappointed. The helpless call to him, and he answers their troubles. Psalm 34: 4-6
Forgiveness, probably our greatest challenge, really is divine. On our own, this nearly impossible task can sometimes take years until we are just too tired to hold onto the anger anymore. But when our soul meets God's love, a profound change happens. We are able to see the people that have hurt us in a different light. Our grip on anger lessens and soon we find ourselves free of this painful burden.
When we are nearly crippled with fear and anxiety, where do we find the courage to take the risks from which we will learn to trust again? Courage isn’t the absence of fear; it is being able to move forward even in its presence. With God at our side we can do that. That is faith. That is freedom. That is healing.
Healing with the Church
A personal spirituality doesn't necessarily depend on your participation in any particular religion. However, it is through our interaction with other people of similar beliefs that we strengthen our own faith. When our faith is weak and we find it difficult to sense God’s presence in our own lives, it is the loving care and example of others that creates a bridge back to God for us.
Because God is love, as our relationship with God increases, so does our desire to be in community with others. As a baptized Catholic, you will always be a member of this spiritual family and have a place at this Eucharistic table, a source of healing grace.
Your faith family needs you here, as the Church is also hurt when we are hurt. Just like any family, estrangement is painful to all parties. But reconciliation is possible. One of the gifts of grace is the ability to see God’s presence in this Church community and its sacraments, even though some of its members have sinned terribly against us. Remaining separated from God and our spiritual family may be the greatest of all injuries.
Where to find help
Often we are too afraid, angry or embarrassed to seek the pastoral care that we need or we don't know where to turn. We may have already reached out to someone in the Church only to be hurt and disappointed again. For that reason the Diocese of Pittsburgh offers a program of care to help us connect with members of our Catholic family who understand our unique situation and can assist us with pastoral care and spiritual direction. You don't need to carry this burden alone.
“Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
“The Lord is my refuge; of whom am I afraid?” (Psalms 27: 1)
“Jesus described a people hungry for hope and healing as ‘sheep without a shepherd’ (see Mark 6:34). In the light of the sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, I cannot help but think so many were without true shepherds. These words of Jesus can be a promise for each of us that we will always have at the center of our ministry the heart of the Good Shepherd.” – Father Charles S. Bober, Pastor, Saint Kilian Parish, Mars, PA
“Families are places where love should be nurtured and forgiveness offered. This should also be true of the Church family. Unfortunately, there were priests that misused their position in the Church through the sexual abuse of innocent victims. The Church always needs to step forward to offer the true love, compassion and healing of Christ for those who suffer that they may find restoration of their lives and regain their trust and hope in the Lord.” – Father Robert F. Guay, Pastor, Our Lady of Peace Parish, Conway, PA
“We continue to have a special care for and a commitment to reaching out to the victims of sexual abuse and their families. The damage caused by sexual abuse of minors is devastating and long lasting. We apologize to them for the grave harm that has been inflicted on them, and we offer our help for the future. The loss of trust that is often the consequence of such abuse becomes even more tragic when it leads to a loss of the faith that we have a sacred duty to foster. We make our own the words of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II: that the sexual abuse of young people is ‘by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God’ (Address to the Cardinals of the United States and Conference Officers, April 23, 2002).
”Along with the victims and their families, the entire Catholic community in this country has suffered because of this scandal...We feel a particular responsibility for the ‘ministry of reconciliation’ (2 Cor 5:18) which God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, has given us. The love of Christ impels us to ask forgiveness for our own faults but also to appeal to all—to those who have been victimized, to those who have been offended, and to all who have felt the wound of this scandal—to be reconciled to God and one another.” – Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (2005) – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Diocesan Assistance Coordinator
Rita E. Flaherty, MSW, LSW
111 Boulevard of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222