An Open Letter to the POPE

Belinda Martinez
1212 Ferndale Street, North
Maplewood, Minnesota 55119

April 19, 2002

His Holiness John Paul II
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City State

Dear Sir:

I am one of the vast numbers of Catholics who has been sexually abused by a priest. I am appalled at every news article or story I hear; yet at the same time, I know it will mark an increased intensity in the healing of the victim involved. I am hoping that the Holy Roman Catholic Church can be an instrument of the healing as well. So far it has not.

Please ask that your cardinals release the names of priests, formerly or presently accused of being involved in criminal sexual acts, so that the sin of secrecy does not continue. There are still so many undisclosed perpetrators of terrible deeds. We have lost human lives to suicide, mental illnesses and over-medicated adult lives in the name of your secrecy.

Please tell your church attorneys to cease the inclusion of any gag orders in any legal settlements with victims. It is not mentally healthy to be bound by a promise that suppresses pain.

Please beg that victims come forward, even if their perpetrator has died. Victims feel no sense of healing if they can feel no sense of justice. The healing will never happen if the healing has no way to begin.

Please do not become complacent on this issue. There is too much work to do. We have only shown a small portion of the ugliness. There are victims suffering great grief as a result of abuse by nuns as well. So much more light needs to be shed.

Please make bold decisions and set clear examples that should be the hallmark of a faith that calls Jesus Christ it’s Redeemer. There are many denominations in the same predicament as the Roman Catholic Church, and I know that they will be looking to see how much value you place on humanity.

It is not okay to concentrate on what you can retain of your reputation, dignity, assets, authority, or respect, if you first do not make monumental efforts to restore those very same things to the innocents from whom they were stolen.

Please forgive me if I simply cannot comply with the protocol of addressing you as ‘Holy Father’. I was repeatedly drugged and sexually abused by a priest who ran a retreat facility for youth. Years later, I was sexually assaulted by a hospital chaplain the day after I had an outpatient surgical procedure. I had to wipe his semen from my face, while protecting my surgical sutures. I call no one ‘father’, holy or otherwise. It would only serve to subordinate me to the victim I used to be.

I still pray . . . I pray for the souls of my perpetrators. I pray for the congregation that valued my perpetrator more than me. I pray for the diocese that paid attorneys a lot of money to call me a liar, when in the end it was proven that I was not. I pray for my daughter, who was affected by the calculated evil of humans, and the organized deceit of their authorities. I pray for those who have suffered indignities beyond description or imagination, by those who could turn around and preach about honesty, generosity, compassion, and grace. I pray for families who are cheated out of knowing the full potential of their abused loved ones, because they are either dead, hospitalized, living from crisis to crisis, or simply too medicated to function. I pray for victims who sever ties to any organized faith. I pray for victims who try to maintain membership in a worship community that does not understand how bittersweet the rituals have become as a result of their abuse. I pray for your ordained ministers who have been left to fix the mess that has been publicly ignored for far too long. I pray for journalists who provide disproportionate trial coverage, causing a naive public to further abuse a victim. I pray for a church that has not valued fifty per cent of its constituents – females. Mostly I pray, because I know I am still heard by the God who made me, even though it would benefit the world to listen.

In Christ,

Belinda Martinez

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