When a cleric betrays you sexually or romantically…
It can be difficult to know what to do.
You are fighting with yourself and possibly people of your faith about how forgiveness works, which can make you feel overpowered once more.
You also know that if you speak out, you’re likely to be blamed and not the religious leader.
There’s also a tension between your instinct to protect others… but not wanting to split up a community.
What’s more, the religious institution itself faces similar challenges, as it copes with the shock that this person of faith has done something so counter to their stated beliefs.
Some of the different forms of abuse…
Aside from child sex abuse, many clerical abuses occur in the form of sexual relationships with adult parishioners, emotional affairs, and over-involvement with their spiritual children.
A cleric feeling lonely and unappreciated at home seeks out coffee with a parishioner using the mask of spiritual counsel as his motivation…
A parishioner who seeks comfort from God sees their religious leader as a guide and mentor, and relishes the opportunity to get a one-on-one meeting…
All it takes is one false step, one inappropriate glance, a hug that lasts too long, and it becomes difficult for the emotional affair-ing parishioner to reject an access point to God.
This all too common scenario does not sound so bad at first… until we look at the grooming process, the use of a collar to access vulnerable people, the vulnerable person having compromised consent in the face of an agent or man/woman of God.
Is this what God wants for me?
But this isn’t what gets preached (you whisper inside).
The leader is of God and ordained – can I reject God or God’s representative?
What does this mean for my soul?
When a religious institution, leader, victim, and community all need help…
When a cleric compromises the sexual and romantic consent of their parishioners or spiritual children, the damage is widespread… and everyone needs answers.
For the cleric, the perpetrator, there is often a high level of denial that they are not performing God’s work and seek to avoid responsibility and accountability by seeking sacramental forgiveness and further harming the victim by insisting on their forgiveness.
By working the cleric to gain empathy for his victims, by addressing the underlying narcissistic tendencies and healing identity confusion, I can effectively support the cleric repent.
For the parishioner, at times, it is hard to distinguish who orchestrated this punishment, because it is confusing – God, the cleric, or yourself – it is also shocking to discover that when you do come forward that the community you have dedicated yourself to will reject, deny your testimony, and assassinate your character – likewise the cleric and religious structure will as well.
By developing effective autonomy and self-trust, you will begin to break the betrayal bond between you, the cleric, the community, and God. This is no easy task for you have been scapegoated – but trust that healing is possible – Jesus rose in three days – with effective care you, too, will rise from this.
The Faithful Community
The community is shocked, confused, and doesn’t know who to believe and what God is asking of them. The community, in short, reveals the denial of the cleric, aware that something happened that shouldn’t have, and experiences confused allegiance – like the victim – can they go against their leader and retain their salvific standing in the eyes of their God are some of the underlying concerns?
Group/congregational therapy is what is needed to deepen their seeking the truth of the situation, the truth about their leader, and the truth about their own spiritual journey. Healing the community isn’t to repair it to its place beforehand but to grow spiritual from this experience.
The Religious Institution/Structure
Naturally, the institution tends to side with the cleric in its denial and seeks to highlight their other wonderful traits to suppress the wrongness of their actions. Too often, however, the institution becomes an agency of human trafficking by moving clerics to other parishes, monasteries, or roles – resulting in their ongoing abuses or their own re-victimization. Too often religious institutions do not assess the right markers to better identify higher risk clergy. Too often the religious institution drives or encourages the underlying loneliness that contributes to these abuses. Too often religious institutions are run by clerics and men – while the communities are a large diverse group of human expression and charisms.
The institution itself needs more effective support for all spheres of the religious system. Clearer defined definitions of misconduct, support for victims not legal payouts, support, and rehabilitation for clergy not movement, denial or sacraments. Even more is needed!
I’m an outside party who can offer you proper perspective.
I’m an outside party who can offer you proper perspective.
I am an expert in religious abuses.
Having earned a Master of Divinity and at the thesis stage of a Master of Arts in Theological Studies positions me well to understand different notions and beliefs about God.
Co-constructed the Master of Divinity – Orthodox Christian Studies program at the University of Toronto.
Involving myself as a consultant to allegations made to various religious dioceses.
Having counseled many child and adult victims of religious abuse.
Having counseled perpetrators of abuse.
Being ordained within my own faith tradition gives me inside knowledge of the inner working of a religious institution. Having first-hand experience gives me unique understanding about a topic that has been so well hidden.
You’re ready for solutions that work.
You’re ready to improve the experience of yourself and reduce the risk that your community is under.