Open Letter to Priests

An Open Letter to Priests

Dear Fathers,

I am a Catholic survivor of incest and other childhood abuse.  I have been a recipient of Mental Health services and currently work in the Mental Health field with adults diagnosed with chronic mental illnesses.  I would like to share with you some of my experiences before I ask you to please stop sending women to counseling.

While I was working as an intern in two different places at once, one being a Veterinarian clinic and the other a counseling office, I was placed in a very difficult situation for any woman but especially difficult for one with my background.  The Veterinarian had a file at the Counselors office and I was able to read his clinical notes.  (Counseling notes do not have the privacy that the Seal of Confession offers.  HIPAA does not provide anywhere near the protection that the Seal does.)  This man had confessed to a beautiful, tall, blond, female Mental Health Nurse Practitioner that he mentally undresses the women who work in his clinic, suffers from ED and has anger issues.  She recommended that he “watch pornography to aid his manual stimulation to help overcome ED and go tanning to help with anger.”  I wish I was making this up, but I am not.  HE confessed to HER and SHE prescribed SIN.  SHE told HIM to watch pornography and masturbate and work on his anger in a tanning bed.  I wish this was an isolated incident, but sadly it was not.  All of her notes that I was privy to as I did her dictation offered advice along these lines.  She even suggested to a married couple that they watch porn to help a “dry patch” they were going through.

One of the men I care for with a chronic mental illness was receiving command hallucinations to corner and rape me.  He was admitted to the hospital where he was advised by the Psychologist who runs the floor to “watch porn in his room until the urge to rape is gone.”  Again, I wish to God this was a joke.  I have many more instances such as these to share, but I’ll leave it at these.

When I began actively healing from incest, the first person I turned to was my Priest in the Military.  He advised I go to counseling and stated he did not feel competent to help with such issues.  So I did; I started AMAC Counseling.  While in therapy I was taught to “embrace my anger as the fuel to get me through the healing process.”  As a Catholic with a basic Catholic High School education, I was taught that anger was one of the seven deadly sins.  So, during the week, I would “embrace my anger” and on weekends I would confess my sins of anger that I was committing because my Priest told me to go to counseling.  It was the same for compulsive sexual sins, hatred and addictive behaviors.  It seems the only thing that my counselors and Priests agreed on was forgiveness but even on that they were divided on what that was and how to go about it.  The confusion and guilt drove me to leave the Church for about a year because there was no way I could heal when the healing process included committing sins that I had to confess.  Something had to give, either I stop therapy or I stop going to Church; the two were incompatible.  I eventually did stop therapy when I was advised to burn my memories in a “fire cleansing ceremony”…Sex abuse, sexual abuse, sex abuse healing, spiritual healing, catholic healing, healing memories

When I turned to other Priests for help over the years, I was advised to go to therapy until I met one good Priest who led me through the healing process with only the Church and Saints as guides.

The women I have known that have gone to a Priest for help with abuse issues are usually going as a last resort instead of first recourse.  Please stop sending them back to therapy.  They are coming to you because you are a man of God, an ordained Priest an Alter Christus.

How can men and women who prescribe pornography as a remedy for sexual sins have true understanding and compassion for incest and sexual abuse survivors? 

One Sacramental Confession and hour of Adoration has more power to heal abuse wounds than months of therapy.  If a woman who was abused comes to you, she is looking for Christ.  Don’t send her back to the wolves.  With the statistics claiming that one in three women have been sexually abused as children, the chances are very good that you will have a few coming to you for help.  Give her the advice of the Church and Saints, not the garbage of hell.

If you, Father, can’t help us, who can?

In Christ

Natalie Anne

“The priest holds the key to the treasures of heaven: it is he who opens the door: he is the steward of the good Lord; the administrator of His goods…The priest is not a priest for himself, he is a priest for you.”
St John Vianney

13 comments

  1. So happy to have found your site. I came across your post on Courageous Priest & followed you back here. Our experiences overlap in interesting ways; I wrote a post on Loved As If (lovedasif.com/2014/03/03/get-thee-to-a-therapist/), the blog for the book I’m writing & linked to your open letter. Thanks so much. I’ll check in often.

  2. Did you know that exposure to heterosexual pornography is one of the cornerstones of AVERSION or REPARATIVE therapy which is used to `cure’ homosexuality

  3. This certainly calls to mind the necessity of Christ centered counselors, as opposed to the ones with warped views of humanity like those you had contact with. There are psychologists out there who would do a much better job. It is true that priests are not necessarily specifically trained to be counselors as you wish. Any old priest cannot handle such matters. This is an area where Christ centered lay people can assist the priests. A woman who has been abused, too, should also speak with one or more women to help heal. This does not negate the priest, but even a good priest in this area will encourage the help of Christ centered women in your life. I hope you are understanding what I am saying. The people you give example of in your story above are not ones to go to for help. Terrible and sad that they have been trained in the way that they have been trained.

    1. One of the biggest problems with this type of abuse is it is so secretive. Not many women want to offer their help to the Parish Priest. It would be a wonderful thing if many parishes had a group of women how worked in the healing ministry with the Priest.

  4. Natalie Anne GOD Bless You for raising this issue. If the all priests were like the one who walked you through the healing process, the Catholic church would be a stronger institution.

    I believe that all illnesses are Spiritually related, and i pray all priests who read this letter will take on the same responsibility as the priest who helped you did, so the healing process could heal their parishioners, instead of turning them away. All priests are counselors, as Jesus was/is.

  5. A comment from an email to Courageous Priest:

    I am an orthodox Catholic psychologist who absolutely shares your concerns about the moral and spiritual risks involved in sending abuse survivors to secular therapists. I have an additional suggestion for resources.

    Priests and pastors have often recommended therapy to my clients, and I have often been able to help them both get through their issues and reconnect to their faith.

    Since parents are our emotional images of God, all child abuse is inherently spiritual abuse, since it contaminates the survivors emotional image of God; often driving them from the Church, or leaving them with a crippled or distorted spirituality if they stay.

    Unfortunately, there are extremely few practicing Catholic psychologists in the NY area, so for most that isn’t even an option. However, there are quite a lot of Evangelical therapists (mainline Protestants are generally about the same as secular). If a Catholic client can talk to the therapist, and make sure they can respect and support the Catholic’s beliefs (most can, some can’t), then the survivor has a pro-Christ, pro-prayer, and pro-Christian morality therapist.

    The traditional anti-Catholicism of the Evangelicals is steadily fading, though far from gone, and I find most of them will allow that good Catholics will probably go to Heaven – a far cry from 40 years ago. Having been invited, to my shock, to teach in a graduate Evangelical counseling program, I know this is true from personal experience. And these weren’t limply tolerant Evangelicals. There was a map of the world in the hallway showing photos of students who were in countries where they had a good chance of being killed.

    So you might consider sending people to a Catholic-accepting Evangelical therapist as an alternative option if there are no orthodox Catholics available to the survivor.

    Warmly

    Janet Wilkie PhD

    Clinical Psychologist

  6. An email comment from Courageous Priest:

    http://ipsciences.edu/

    Re the open letter to priests, check out: The Institute of Psychological Sciences–many of their graduates are emerging. You an also share some resources on my website TrinityBridge.net although I have not “tended” it well lately.

    Hope all is well and God bless!

    Pat

  7. An email comment from Courageous Priest:

    Thank you for addressing this issue. I have volunteered for Rachel’s Vineyard Post-abortion Healing Ministries for many years. Because the issue of sexual abuse comes up so often in those who are post-abortive, Theresa Burke PhD, the author of Rachel’s Vineyard, has started a healing ministry called Grief to Grace for healing of sexual abuse. I highly recommend it. These retreats are Catholic and involve the sacraments, and the Holy Spirit is truly present transforming lives from grief-filled to grace-filled.

    God bless you,

    Anne Slater

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