I would like to share a letter that Shannon Age, a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest and the wife of Deacon Stephen Age, wrote to The Courier Journal. It appeared on December 13.
I would like to address the recent article concerning the handling of the clergy abuse crisis by the Archdiocese of Louisville.
I know many, if not all, of the major contributors to this article. I have broken bread with members of the survivors group, because I am one of them. I was the lone female member of their clergy abuse support group that met at Holy Spirit in 2003. They were like very protective big brothers to me, and they helped me learn to trust men, and to start a process of healing that is still ongoing. I will be forever grateful to them.
I know William McMurray. He was my attorney in the case against the archdiocese, and with his help, and the fearless and compassionate help of his entire staff, especially Hans Poppe and Barbara Crawford, my now deceased sister and I were awarded the top amount allowed based on the horrendous abuse done to us by Father Kevin Cole.
I know Dr. Brian Reynolds very well. In the early years of 2002-2004, as the archenemy. But in 2005, that all changed. Dr. Reynolds, or as I now call my dear friend, Brian, called my pastor to arrange a meeting between us. Brian wanted to know what he could do to help me to heal, starting by addressing the great anger I had against him. Brian decided to let himself be vulnerable to whatever I could throw at him. He decided that my healing was more important than his comfort level.
And so, on an August day in 2005, Brian, my husband, and Father Scott Wimsett met. Brian very humbly listened for hours. He offered no reasons, no excuses, and no comments, unless I asked him a specific question. A new type of healing for me started that day. Because, as Father Scott later told me, those moments were holy. What happened was holy.
In 2011, my husband and I decided after much prayer and soul-searching that he would enter an application to the archdiocese to become a deacon. That’s right. My husband wanted to become one of THEM. The clergy. He was accepted into the program.
And so, over the next five years of formation through St. Meinrad Seminary and the Archdiocese of Louisville, we found out from the clergy’s point of view just how serious our Archbishop Joseph Kurtz and Chancellor Dr. Brian Reynolds are in their jobs.
The rules and regulations put in force since 2002 are strictly enforced. The Safe Environment program is a mandatory program for anyone who wants to work with any child within our archdiocese. Our victim assistance office and Martine Siegel personally have been of great help to me as I have needed assistance with different aspects of living with the aftermath of my abuse. And the head of the abuse board, John Laun, is a dear friend who has walked my journey with me in such a quiet, loving way.
Archbishop Kurtz has personally walked with Deacon Steve and me. Archbishop Kurtz and I have had numerous conversations through the years, and even now, we are continuing to search for different ways to address the needs of survivors and their families. What many may not understand is the level of pain this crisis brings to the good and faithful priests, deacons, and especially bishops.
I know Archbishop Kurtz feels my pain at what was done to me, but I can also feel his own pain from his feelings of betrayal by the clergy who caused this horrific crisis. He has been deeply affected, and it weighs heavily on him.
For those who feel that Dr. Reynolds should have been let go because of his tenure under Archbishop Kelly, and therefore his work with dealing with abuse reports before 2002, I totally disagree. If he had refused to change programs, if he had refused to have the archdiocese audited for the last 16 years, and if we had a long list of current abuse ongoing, you would have all the ammunition you need for your case. But those things did not happen.
When you hear of any problem now, it’s because the archdiocese has called the local police to request their involvement, as is required. Dr. Brian Reynolds has led the way in our archdiocese and in showing archdioceses all over the country how to get things done following the Dallas Charter of 2002. I am confident he will do everything in his power to do that until the day he wishes to retire.
I humbly ask for your continued prayers for the survivors of clergy abuse, and for those who did not survive, as well as for those who continue to work to protect us all.