Tag Archives: sexual abuse

Forgiveness And Faith

Legate’s friendship helped traumatized man find healing

Y.G. Nyghtstorm had experienced a difficult life: poverty, an abusive and broken home, sexual abuse, homelessness, suicide attempts, employment struggles, failed marriages, and a child’s death.

As a result, he struggled deeply with depression, anger, and lack of forgiveness for those who had wounded him.

But a chance meeting with North Georgia legate Mike Drapeau developed into a bond of friendship that led Y.G. on a path toward healing and full embrace of the Catholic Church.

And it all began with a cup of lemonade.

A TROUBLED JOURNEY

Y.G. – for Yahanseh George, but Y.G. “is easier for people to remember” – grew up in the Atlanta area as an only child of bickering parents. His father left while he was very young, only to return periodically for another violent fight. His mother grew increasingly hostile to Y.G. because he resembled his father.

In 1985, Y.G. attended a summer camp. There a counselor befriended the socially awkward 11-year-old, made sure he got involved in camp activities, and spoke with him about God and Catholicism. On the camp’s final day, he took Y.G. into a cabin and raped him, quoting Scripture as he did and telling Y.G. God would kill him if he ever told anyone.

Y.G. came away from the abuse hating himself. His relationships deteriorated. And he kept silent. Above all, he hated Christianity and especially the Catholic Church for what that “wicked man” had done to him.

At 18, Y.G.’s mother kicked him out of the house. He lived on the streets, surviving hunger, beatings, and muggings. He attempted suicide more than once. One day, a wealthy and elderly Good Samaritan stopped, took off his own argyle socks, put them on Y.G.’s bare feet, and told him: “As sure as these socks are covering your feet, young man, God will cover your life. Embrace God and go make a difference.”

That single act of kindness “ignited my soul for God,” Y.G. said. But sustaining faith was much more challenging.

Y.G. got off the streets, “got saved” in a Pentecostal church, and married a pastor’s daughter. That marriage dissolved after a few years and a couple of kids, and so did his faith. Depression made it difficult to keep a job. He married again, had more kids, and together he and his wife raised a blended family of seven children.

After his oldest stepson was killed in a workplace accident in 2008, his faith began to return. “I felt powerless and needed strength to support my family during this very difficult time,” Y.G. recalled. “My children needed their dad to be strong, and leading my family back to Christ helped us so much.”

Over the next several years, Y.G. and his wife, Toby, established a foundation in their late son’s name, opened a business, and became motivational speakers and radio co-hosts on life management, marriage, and parenting. But the issues of his past still haunted him. He knew he had to forgive those who had hurt him but could not bring himself do so.

Yet a small, still voice was speaking to him. “God was planting seeds in me about becoming Catholic,” Y.G. said. One night as he slept, he heard the voice of Christ tell him plainly: “I want you to become Catholic and help others who have been hurt in my Church.”

The experience startled him. “I jumped out of the bed drenched in sweat, and I was angry,” said Y.G. “I was livid that Christ would tell me to go to the very place that nearly destroyed me as a child. I literally cussed at God and said that he was lucky I didn’t burn down Catholic churches.”

LEMONADE DIPLOMACY

Several months later, in 2015, Y.G. was driving through a subdivision in Cumming, GA, when two little girls stepped into the street and flagged him down to sell him some lemonade.

Y.G. couldn’t resist the hard sell. He produced a quarter and drank a cup. Impressed by the girls’ entrepreneurship, he asked to meet the father who taught them such skills.

That’s when he met Mike Drapeau.

“He invited me into his home,” Y.G. recalled. “I am a large, 330-pound black man driving in a prestigious neighborhood, a little white girl beautifully smiles at me while selling me lemonade, and her dad invites me into his home while our country is still bickering over race relations. I am an open and inviting person, and it impressed me that Mike was the same way…. And he just happened to be Catholic.”

The two men talked about lemonade, work, life, and faith. At some point, Drapeau invited Y.G. to a meeting of his Regnum Christi prayer group. Y.G. graciously accepted.

Mike’s friendship “allowed me to open up to the possibility of learning more about Catholics, whom I had been hating for decades,” Y.G. said.

Y.G. returned home, prayed, and apologized to God for the bitterness he had felt. “I was still adamant about not becoming Catholic, but I agreed to be open-minded,” he said.

Within that Catholic prayer group, he found compassion, acceptance, and healing. He also began drawing closer to the Church.

“Mike and the other good men of the faith showed a lot of love to me,” he said. “Their families embraced my family while Christ was ministering to me and comforting me the entire time. I had to finally put down my ego, let go of my pain, trust God, and forgive the Church.”

Drapeau said that although the group was “a pretty stable group of guys” that had been meeting for more than 15 years, they welcomed Y.G. with open arms. “He was definitely a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Drapeau marveled at Y.G.’s progress through the group.

“Part of the methodology is to not only break open the Gospels but also to study aspects of Catholic history, spirituality, theology, and apologetics,” he explained. “So week by week he encountered that. Sometimes he listened. Sometimes he reacted. Sometimes he was stupefied. But always he came back. And, little did we know, he was systematically knocking down his prejudices and misperceptions about the Catholic Church as he interacted with us.”

RESTORATION

Ultimately, Y.G. did more than just forgive the Catholic Church: in January 2018, he was received into the faith at St. Brendan’s Church in Cumming.

“It was an amazing Mass,” recalled Drapeau, who was Y.G.’s confirmation sponsor. “The entire parish appeared to know him, and they all clapped. It was a powerful moment for those in attendance.”

Drapeau said he and Y.G. have a “close personal relationship” and have participated together in charitable endeavors, mission trips, and the National March for Life.

Y.G. said that with his Catholic friends’ encouragement, he has reached out to his mother in reconciliation. He has even forgiven the “wicked man” and what he came to represent.

“I carried around unforgiveness in my heart against the Catholic Church for over 30 years,” he said. “What started with one wicked Catholic man snatching away my self-worth and power when I was a child has transcended into a life of unimaginable power as I am loved by a group of Catholics that helped me in more ways than I can count.”

Gerald Korson is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Our finest hour: how Laity can help Church overcome abuse crisis

Sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is the most serious issue facing the Church today. The legal and financial ramifications are immense. Even more damaging is the spiritual fall-out. Some Catholics, including victims and their families, are leaving the Church in disgust. Some non-Catholics have become more aggressively opposed to the Church. In spite of all this, this calamity may be our Finest Hour, comparable to the British during WWII.

Perhaps surprisingly, the depth of this crisis confirms the truth of Church teaching on sexual morality. Catholic clergy sexual abuse is one facet of the toxic sexual culture that pervades today’s society. If people had done what the Church teaches, literally none of this abuse, inside or outside the Church, would have happened. Thoughtful people are ready to reconsider their commitments to the Sexual Revolutionary ideology.

The Catholic version of the culture-wide sexual abuse scandal has its own unique features. In most sectors of society, the numbers of boy and girl victims are roughly equal. But the victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse have been roughly 80% male. My organization, the Ruth Institute, has done the most comprehensive statistical analysis of Catholic clergy sexual abuse. Our reports show that the incidence of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is over 90% correlated with the number of self-described homosexual clergy. Perpetrators of clergy sexual abuse are concentrated in certain age groups. Two “graduating classes” of priests, one group ordained in the late 1960s and the other in the early 1980s, account for a disproportionate percentage of sexual abuse. Our data shows that self-described homosexual clergy are more likely to struggle with celibacy and are less likely to accept Church teaching on sexual morality.

On the bright side, newly ordained priests appear to be different. The incidence of clergy sexual abuse fell in the early 2000s (although it has shown a disturbing recent increase). Recent cases of clergy sexual abuse are about equally divided between male and female victims. Recently ordained clergy appear to be less likely to be homosexually active.

This really is a “bright side.” These findings suggest that appropriate changes in attitudes and policies inside the Church could help prevent future abuse. We, as laymen and laywomen, can play an important role in changing the climate within our Church. The Ruth Institute proposes a simple three-part strategy.

1. Support the victims. Protect the innocent. The Church must acknowledge the pain of the victims and help them heal. We must also remain vigilant in protecting all minors, boys and girls alike, from sexual abuse. “We” includes everyone, clergy and laity, young and old.

2. No new “gay” ordinations. Seminaries and dioceses should follow the Church’s long-established policy of not ordaining men with deep-seated same-sex attraction.

3. Teach the whole truth about Christian sexual morality. The Church should increase educational programs on authentic Church teaching on human sexuality, including Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. Traditional Christian sexual ethics protects the interests of children, women, men, and society. Laymen and laywomen can contribute to this goal, both by encouraging their local Catholic institutions, and by their own educational and apostolic work.

For reasons that are not entirely clear to us, we have been chosen to live in this time and in this place. We have a responsibility to future generations to conduct ourselves with courage, clarity,s, and charity. In spite of all the attacks, both in the natural and super-natural realm, we must persevere. Our Lord and His Blessed Mother can use this terrible crisis for good. Let it be said of us, “This was their finest hour.” 

JENNIFER ROBACK MORSE, PH.D. is founder and president of the Ruth Institute. Their reports on clergy sexual abuse, “Is Catholic clergy sex abuse related to homosexual priests?” and “Receding Waves: Clergy Sexual Abuse Since 2000,” can be found at www.ruthinstitute.org, including access to the Ruth institute newsletter, podcast or You-tube channel. Their recently released petition to Make the Family Great Again, can be found at https://lifepetitions.com/petition/askpresident-trump-to-make-the-family-great-again

Defending the Church in her hour of need – two guiding principles

Our beloved Catholic Church is facing the worst crisis in 500 years. Clergy sexual abuse, rampant sexual immorality, and cover-up by Church authorities: it adds up to a Church deeply in need of reform. We are waiting anxiously to see what the hierarchy decides to do. But we have no control over their actions, and indeed, they are divided among themselves. So what can we as laity do to help our mother in her hour of need?

I have been on the forefront of defending the Church’s teaching on marriage, family, and human sexuality for the past decade. In my opinion, the laity can and must do two things.

First, we must make it our business to work for justice for the victims of clergy sexual abuse. No excuse-making. “But the Protestants and public schools have as much abuse as we do.” Perhaps true, but not relevant. The only relevant fact is our commitment to getting our own house in order. That includes: justice for the victims, and punishment for the perpetrators, including those who covered up. Justice also includes protection and support for innocent clergy.

Second, we must make it our business to proclaim the Church’s teaching on marriage, family, and human sexuality in our own sphere of influence. This is directly relevant to the current crisis. If the clergy had lived up to Church teaching, including the 6th Commandment and their vows of celibacy, none of the abuse would ever have happened.

I will go further and say: the world desperately needs to hear the Church’s timeless message. We need not apologize for our beliefs. Sexual self-command, lifelong married love, and the need of children for their parents: These teachings are good, decent, and life-giving.

We now know why we have heard so little from the clergy: too many of them are morally compromised. Others are under the thumb of corrupt superiors.

The only way we can be sure the world hears the Church’s teaching is for us, the laity, to deliver that message ourselves.

Please note: these are guiding principles, not a detailed program. Each person will implement these principles in his own unique way, depending on vocation, location, and the season of life. The mother of school children will have a very different role than an attorney at the peak of his career. Both are different from a college student or a young professional beginning her first job. But every one of these people may be needed to address a situation in a local school or church. Every one of them can spread the message of lifelong, life-giving love.

If we make excuses for ourselves or the Church, we are going to look bad, and make the Church look bad. If we act like “business as usual,” we are going to die in an empty church. More importantly, the Lord will ask each one of us for an accounting of how we handle ourselves in this great crisis.

If on the other hand, we faithful Catholics conduct ourselves with dignity and integrity and charity, we will pull our Church through this crisis. We will expose and correct evils that should have been addressed long ago. We will create room for a genuine flourishing of the Gospel. Our neighbors will be drawn to us.

In other words, this is our chance to become saints. We can be crusaders for the truth like
St. Athanasius and authentic reformers like St. Teresa of Avila. Let’s not drop the ball.

JENNIFER ROBACK MORSE, PH.D. is the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, which equips people to defend traditional Christian sexual morality. She is the author of The Sexual State: How Elite Ideologies Are Destroying Lives and Why the Church Was Right All Along.

A reformed Church

Reforms in the Catholic Church over the past 8 years are a model for the world . . .

Dr. John Haas

Critics and the media continue to level charges that the Catholic Church’s leadership has done virtually nothing in response to the problem of sexual abuse. One wonders if these detractors simply read salacious headlines rather than investigate the facts.

Tremendous reform has occurred. Indeed, more reform has taken place in the Catholic Church than in any other social institution in which the abuse of minors has occurred. In 2002, U.S. bishops approved a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. They hired the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to conduct an independent investigation of the problem. They established a National Review Board (NRB) chaired by a woman, Justice Anne M. Burke, stifling critics who claimed an absence of women in leadership roles. The NRB monitors the policies of the bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and oversees its annual audit. Five of its current 13 members are women.

When the report was first issued, the chairman of the NRB’s research committee, Robert Bennett, said that the sexual abuse of minors was a broad social problem and that a focus merely on the Catholic Church would be a disservice to children. Regrettably, however, that is exactly what has happened.

Media reports of sexual abuse by school teachers, Scout leaders, swim coaches and others are few and far between despite being far more pervasive than those in the Church. In March, a judge ordered the Boy Scouts to release over 1,200 “perversion files” with Scout leaders who had molested boys. In April, a headline shouted “Sex Abuse Pervasive in USA Swimming” with reports of molesting swim coaches going unchallenged for decades. In 2002, Dr. Charol Shakeshaft of Hofstra University prepared a report for the U.S. Department of Education. It found that 6-10% of U.S. high school students have been sexually abused or harassed. “The physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests,” she declared. However, the mainstream media continues to ignore this essential finding.

Many have heard of the sexual abuse by clergy in Germany’s Catholic schools. However, at the time these reports were surfacing, it was learned that a prestigious private boarding school had its own unspeakable record of abuse. The Odenwaldschule is a UNESCO model school whose administration would arrange to have students provide “entertainment” for visitors and whose male students regularly had sexual relations with teachers’ wives. Where were the headlines proclaiming that a UNESCO model school was engaged in the systematic molestation of children? In fact, when the report of the Odenwaldschule first appeared it was under a headline decrying abuse in Catholic schools!

None of these other social institutions have put safeguards in place that even begin to approach those established by the Church. There is nothing on a national level that tracks abusive school teachers, for example. Such negligence by these other institutions leaves more children at risk.

Church reforms have been extensive. When Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he arranged for abuse cases to be moved to his own office — not to cover them up, but to deal with them more expeditiously. Pope John Paul II’s 2001 decree Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela, drawn up by Cardinal Ratzinger, amended Canon law in 18 places to allow a more effective response to charges of sexual abuse. Priests are now more easily disciplined and laicized.

Other reforms continued. Virtually every diocese in the country posts abuse policies on its website. Most dioceses have a victims’ assistance coordinator — a layperson to whom abuse can be reported if the victim is uneasy approaching a cleric. The Church has also adopted a “zero tolerance” policy, meaning that if a priest admits to any past sexual activity with a minor or is found guilty of it, he may no longer function as a priest.

All were shocked by the sexual abuse in Ireland’s Catholic and state institutions. But it was underreported that the Church has been addressing the problem for some time. In 1996, the Church in Ireland published Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response. The bishops’ Committee on Child Abuse commissioned independent research into the problem. Their 2003 report was A Time to Listen. The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church in Ireland had its inaugural meeting in 2006 and was headed by Justice Anthony Hederman. Four of its current members are women.

Pope Benedict XVI severely criticized the Irish bishops for their handling of the abuse cases, and four offered their resignations. And the Holy Father recently met with abuse victims during his trip to Malta, not shying away from public acknowledgment of Church members’ sins — and the Church’s desire to make amends. None of this expresses complacency.

Critics should recognize and applaud the reforms in the Catholic Church — and urge other institutions working with young people to be equally as bold and as far-reaching in establishing programs to protect children.

John M. Haas, Ph.D., is president of the National Catholic Bioethics Center and founding president of the International Institute for Culture. He is a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Editor’s Note: While Dr. Haas’ commentary is off the topic of bioethics, he gives an astute assessment of the situation. We will return to publishing bioethics-related material in the next issue of Legatus Magazine.