When the news broke about “Kevin,” my writing changed. For a few weeks I thought I was writing from a place of strength and healing, but I finally realized that the news of Kevin’s defrocking — and the bishop’s response — broke open my old wounds. After the “Anger” post, I finally felt how shaken I was. I stopped writing. I needed a time of wordlessness. I’m grateful to M.E. Dunham, who allowed me to post her artwork as a peaceful top layer to this blog.
It took years for the bleeding to stop after I left St _____’s in 2010. I tried to write about events as they happened, but how could I when my emotions were so erratic and chaotic? It was more than three years before I had enough clarity to start this blog.
When the news broke on January 19, everything started swirling again. I was stunned to hear the bishop’s voice on my cell phone. Elated that Kevin was no longer a priest. Devastated for his new victims. Fearful and hopeful and barely breathing as I waited to hear if the bishop would end his long silence about my story. Overcome with gratitude when he did. And (many days later) angry about all the things I wrote about in that post.
And now, sorrowful. A week after I posted “Anger Rises,” I heard from the bishop. In words both bitter and gracious, he said, “I do not believe that anything will be accomplished by continued contact.” In one sense, I’m not surprised that he has cut off contact. When I released the hope that he would ever truly hear me, I finally felt free to speak aloud the anger I had swallowed for years. I knew I was ending the relationship with my words; the bishop’s response only made it official.
Still, it makes me sad. He’s not a bad person; he’s a decent man whose bad decisions caused me harm. He has given better justice to at least one other survivor, so I know he can learn and grow. I pray that his ears are only stopped to my specific voice. I pray that he remains open to truth from other victims and survivors, and from leaders at places like the FaithTrust Institute, The Hope of Survivors, and Baylor University, where Dr. David Pooler is now conducting a study of how churches respond to clergy misconduct.
I don’t regret my words of anger. They were and are true, and I’m glad I spoke them. When we stifle our anger, we often turn it against ourselves, imperiling our health, our relationships, and sometimes our very lives. I still have a hard time feeling my anger, much less speaking it. This was an opportunity to prove to myself — and perhaps other survivors — that we can express our anger and still keep our souls intact. We work so hard to be polite and agreeable. We hope that if we’re “good” enough, the church will respond with justice, which of course it rarely does. We need to recognize our anger and give it voice, even when it scares us. Especially when it scares us.