Your Turn: ‘Listening’ fails victims of sex abuse

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I am writing in response to the Dec. 13 Times Our View, “Listening sessions give voice to all.” I participated in the listening session on Dec. 4 at Holy Spirit Parish. I was disappointed, shocked and even insulted by the glowing terms used in the Our View to describe listening sessions. The session on Dec. 4 was anything but glowing, unless you consider anger and frustration “glowing.”

Despite the victims having unanimously communicated to their “advocates,” at their first opportunity, that the format of the meeting was not working for them, the session continued as planned. As such, the victims were not given an opportunity to address the community until a full one hour and 45 minutes into the session, and then only at the prompting of another participant.

At this point, a number of the victims were feeling ready to explode. It seemed that the “listening” role was primarily for the victims; the speaking for diocesan personnel.

The session failed to address the concerns of those for whom it was primarily intended, the people who may be victims of Michael Weber. This should have been absolutely clear to all present on Dec. 4, including those on the Diocesan Response Team.

In fact, Roxann Storms, who was moderating the session, publicly apologized to all present, for the failed format of the session. She explained that she (not Bishop John Kinney, as described in the Our View) had created the format after consulting with experts in the field, as well as victims.

Her apology was one of the high points of the session. It led me to believe that maybe this time, in this diocese, Catholic Church personnel would truly help victims to figure out what happened, who was involved, who knew, and what was done or not done with that knowledge.

After reading the Our View, I believe otherwise.

It is clear to me from diocesan spokeswoman Jane Marrin’s quotes in that piece that the diocese is not interested in whether any of this works for victims, their family members or friends. Maybe they’re most interested in looking like they’re doing something wonderful. Why else would they describe listening sessions in such favorable terms when their most recent experience was such a disaster?

I would like to see the Catholic Church hierarchy and the victims of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic clergy, work together for justice for the victims; individual, community and societal healing around this issue; an end to the cycle of victims becoming perpetrators; and the protection of future generations of children from sexual violence.

In fact, last week I spent a couple of hours putting together a letter to Storms, thanking her for her apology, and offering what I hoped to be constructive criticism. She and I have had a few phone conversations since. Hopefully, in an honest effort to meet the needs of victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy members, the diocese will change the format of its listening sessions.

This is the opinion of Mary K. Brown, a resident of West St. Paul.

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Topics: John Kinney, Michael Weber, Opinion, Roxann Storms

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