Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Madeleine Manning is a survivor of childhood clergy sex abuse. She couldn’t attend the recent SNAP conference, but she sent some powerful words that I want to share. I’ve edited them only slightly.

If you’re a clergy abuse survivor, and you’re working on dealing with it, and you find yourself here at this blog-site, I hope you’ll take Madeleine’s words to heart.

I am now 4th (final) stage ovarian cancer, diagnosed January of '03. I had two metastases recently - brain in December, bladder in March.

But I am living, not dying. Sure, I am terminal. Sure, sometimes cancer wins the day. But I am alive and vital and joyful. A major reason this is so is because I fought the church and emerged a winner.

No, I didn't change them. No, I didn't get all I asked for or deserved. And I got nothing without bare-knuckle fighting for every shred. They undercut, demeaned, twisted every word exchanged - and that was when they weren't downright lying. All, of course, with apologies and even crocodile tears in their eyes. It is no thanks to them I emerged a winner.

I won because not a single step of the way did I let their terms control my actions. I refused to meet on church property (their turf), I refused to communicate verbally, which could not be documented, only via email or snail mail. I confronted each lie and distortion as it occurred. When they triggered uncertainty, shame, and the "need" to forgive, I was able to firmly return to them the seeds of those destructive emotions they had instilled in me, and to act from certainty and pride in who I am.

My route of dealing with the complex of scars, cellular level damage, developmental stunting, broken relationships, rage and fear will not be your route. Each of us must find our own road. But our road must be taken if we are to live. Our road must be taken if others are not to fall into the pit which was ours, and be impaled there as we were.

It does not matter if your voice is quiet and undramatic, perhaps spoken only to one other, or confided only in your journal pages. It matters that you speak your truth.

Catherine of Sienna says it well: “Speak the truth in a thousand voices; it is only Silence that kills.”

So, after a lifetime of dying every day, I am now living - fully, healed, whole and holy - every day of my dying. It is worth every ounce of pain along the way.

I am not exceptional. PLEASE don't hide behind the illusion that the people you think are heroes and heroines are different, stronger, or made of better stuff than you. You too are a hero. Walk into that role until the reality of it seems obvious, fits like a glove, IS you.

You may think you are here seeking courage, hoping it will rub off from others. Well, it will - but only because YOU brought your own courage in the very act of being here.


gmommy said...

What a blessing and encouragement you are Madeline.
Thank you and may God richly bless you everyday.
I will speak the truth in hopes that one child will be protected from the wolves in sheeps clothing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing so beautifully. The best is yet to come.