I am writing in regards your on-going problems related to child sexual abuse committed by priests. You may be wondering what makes me think I am at all qualified to offer someone of your rank and status advise on any subject, let alone something so controversial. Although I am not a practicing Roman Catholic, I am a follower of Jesus, and I have been a psychotherapist for many years. Psychotherapists have a lot in common in with priests; both listen to people as they struggle with the meaning of life and death, give comfort in times of grief, hear peoples' confessions, and facilitate forgiveness.
It is my experience with forgiveness, both professionally and personally, that led me to write you. Forgiveness is one of the most power forces in the lives of humans. There is no problem in the world that couldn't be improved if people were more willing and able to forgive themselves and others. In terms of forgiveness I know, as the saying goes, I am preaching to the choir, but I can't help but notice that you as head of the Catholic Church have missed numerous opportunities to seek forgiveness from those who have been injured by the actions, and lack thereof, of you and some of your subordinates. I know you are a busy man, but I think this issue is too important to engaged in procrastination. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of writing a letter for you. Feel free to modify it as you see fit.
To everyone who has been harmed by priests who sexually abused children,
I am writing you today to ask for your forgiveness for what we did and did not do that so deeply injured you. I know this is acknowledgement is long over due. Let me begin by addressing those of you who were the direct victims of priests misusing their power to engage in sexual acts with you. No matter what they may have told you to justify their actions they had no right to do what they did; you did not ask for it, you did not deserve it, and God did not approve of it. I know that in even in cases where the abuse was violent the worst wounds were often not to your bodies, but rather were to your mind and spirit. As a result of the abuse you questioned your worthiness, your sexual orientation, your place in the church, and your relationship with God. For this I apologize and ask your eventual forgiveness. I encourage you to stop keeping the secrets you have held for so long and speak of what was done to you. As Jesus said, "The truth shall set you free." Express your hurt and angry openly; we have tried to keep you quiet for too long. We are now willing to listen to you.
For the family members of those who were abused, I understand that our efforts to cover-up, minimize, ignore, and blame others, also hurt you. The fact that we meant well; that we wanted to protect the Church does not excuse what we did. We put you in the horrible position of having to be loyal to your loved ones or your Church. In the name of the Church I apologize to you for how we hurt you, I will pray that my apology will help lift the burden you have carried for so long.
Finally, to all members of the Church who we put at risk of abuse by transferring priests with known histories of abuse from parish to parish; I offer my sincere apology and promise that this will never take place again. From now on we will put the safety of parish members over the careers of priests or maintaining the image of the Church and its clergy in your eyes. We know that the fact that 96% of priests did not engage in abuse doesn't excuse the actions of the 4% who did. I also apologize for the billions of your dollars we spent paying damages to victims of sexual abuse. You gave your money to feed the hungry, cloth the naked, and comfort the sick; instead your money was spent on legal fees in an attempt to deny responsibility for the abuse that took place. We lost sight of the fact that the hierarchy of the Church is meant to serve you, not the other way around.
This is only the first step in our efforts to accept responsibility for all that we did and didn't do, to make changes to see that conditions in the Church are changed in a meaningful way, to seek forgiveness, and to move towards reconciliation with all those we have harmed.
With sincerity and humility,
Pope Benedict XVI