I have struggled with what to say. I appreciate the seriousness, the thoroughness, the evenness of your approach to the questions that my coming forward have raised, particularly in your Aug. 20 column [The benefit of the doubt, Ken Trainor, Viewpoints].

In setting aside your fond childhood memories of Msgr. Fitzgerald as leader and, in fact, warrior for the moral imperative of the day, which it was, you opened yourself to uncertainty. During the interview, I found it possible to talk about pain and humiliation because I felt listened to — and not judged. Fortunately for me and for the story, your hope that my allegation wasn’t true stayed out of it. You did your job.

Yes, coming forward and the ink and thought your paper has given my story [No longer the only one, LifeLines, Aug. 20], along with the many kind and concerned reader comments, have been part of a healing process for me. Right now I feel sort of numb, but I know I am on the other side of something. As you can see, it took 11 years after my mother’s death to get up the nerve to stand on a street corner and speak to the media. My family had a lot to contend with when the attack took place, and it was very unnerving to go back and think about that time. I adored my dad, but he often disappeared for days, then ransacked our house looking for cash. Anyone from an alcoholic family has similar stories. It’s just that people who are going through emotional chaos have a right to expect that the Church will alleviate some of the pain, not double it.

You commented that many — and
you do not spare yourself — have tended to side with the accused. That the odds are stacked against the accuser. I hope that my saying what happened will encourage other victims to come forward, and that good people, lay or clergy, will hear them out. And take action. Not only is the damage more extensive than most people know, it is also, as I have said, not over. No child today should go through what I went through 50 years ago, but there is evidence every day that children are.

If the Catholic Church is going to heal itself, it will heal from the bottom up. Unless the bishops finally figure out a way to get a camel through the eye of a needle.

P.S. In case you don’t already have these: 

daily news postings by the National Survivors Advocates Coalition at http://nsacoalition.com/nsac-newsletter.html. 

extensive information and crucial support offered by SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) at www.snapnetwork.org. 

Bishop Accountability’s archive of credible accusations against or convictions of 143 Chicago priests at http://bishop-accountability.org/.

Gail Peloquin Howard recently went public with her account of a sexual assault in 1964 by then-pastor, the late Msgr. John Fitzgerald in the Ascension parish rectory. She now lives in Connecticut.

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