"The idea of a Healing Garden was brought to me by clergy abuse victims, priests and Office for the Protection of Children and Youth staff members. They proposed the construction of a Healing Garden as a place of refuge, prayer, reflection and solitude – a sacred space where healing resources would be available, and where God, whose presence and goodness is most visible in nature, might help all of us on our individual paths toward healing and reconciliation."
"For a tree there is hope; if it be cut down, that it will sprout again and that its tender shoots will not cease. Even though its roots grow old in the earth and its stump die in the dust. Yet at the first whiff of water, it may flourish again and put forth branches like a young plant."
Offered by a victim-survivor
of clergy sexual abuse
to the Planning Committee as an
inspiration for his personal healing.
The sexual abuse of children and young people by some deacons, priests and bishops, and the ways in which these crimes and sins were addressed, have caused enormous pain, anger and confusion. As bishops, we have acknowledged our mistakes and our roles in that suffering, and we apologize and take responsibility again for too often failing victims and the Catholic people in the past. From the depths of our hearts, we bishops express great sorrow and profound regret for what the Catholic people have endured.
…We feel a particular responsibility for the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18), which God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, has given us. The love of Christ impels us to ask for forgiveness for our own faults but also to appeal to all - to those who have been victimized, to those who have offended, and to all who have felt the wound of this scandal - to be reconciled to God and one another.
…We know that after such profound hurt, healing and reconciliation are beyond human capacity alone. It is God's grace and mercy that will lead us forward.
…In a special way, we acknowledge those victims of clergy sexual abuse and their families who have trusted us enough to share their stories and to help us appreciate more fully the consequences of this reprehensible violation of sacred trust.
I consider my involvement with this Healing Garden project an on-going act of recovery from childhood sexual abuse. As I struggle with and try to manage my own anxiety, mild depression, feelings of being overwhelmed and out of control, I find the process of working with other sexual abuse survivors, priests and staff from the Archdiocese of Chicago to create the Healing Garden, to be a process filled with hope and reconciliation. It is my hope that the Healing Garden will draw attention to the tragic consequences of childhood sexual abuse, not only within the Catholic Church, but in all of society.
As an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I am trying now to understand and reconcile in my life, the traumatic loss that I experienced at the hands of my abuser, and how those painful memories affect me today. To me, the Healing Garden represents a good, decent attempt to create a beautiful space for reconciliation and contemplation. Information regarding church efforts to protect children and youth will be made available, along with crisis abuse center resources and other appropriate information that may help a victim/survivor or a family member or loved one begin healing from their tragic loss.
I am pleased that Cardinal George has been personally engaged in the planning committee process from the very beginning. This fact gives me great hope that as a church we can heal from the stain of clergy sexual abuse. We can learn from mistakes that were made which caused real pain for too many children and their families; so that we can grow together to be better people, filled with compassion, love and understanding.
Michael Hoffman Letter