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Letter to victims from Office of Healing and Assistance

The following is the text of a letter sent on January 19, 2003, from Barbara Thorp of Office of Healing & Assistance at the Archdiocese of Boston, to people who say they were abused by priests:

From:    Barbara Thorp, Office of Healing &Assistance
Re:      Healing &Assistance Ministry Update
Dt:       January 19, 2003

These past few days victim/survivors of clergy sexual abuse have experienced great anguish regarding the reports in the media about the deposition of therapists and the subpoena of therapy records of those pursuing lawsuits.  I hope that through this communication I can respond to your concerns.  I thought it best to include everyone who has had contact with the Archdiocese through the Office of Healing and Assistance Ministry as well as those who may have brought forward a complaint prior to 2002.

For myself, and on behalf of the staff, I apologize for the distress and suffering the news of the past few days may have caused you.  Over this past year I have been impressed by the great courage required by survivors to take a step to place any trust in a representative of the church.  I have experienced it as a sacred privilege to be entrusted with your story. We are deeply grieved that your suffering has been further exacerbated by a perceived breech of trust on our part.

It seems important to state that the deposition of therapists and subpoena of therapy records is not connected to the fact that the person may be receiving financial support for therapy through the Office of Healing and Assistance.  In other words, if therapy was supported through a private insurer or out-of-pocket, persons in litigation may face the subpoena of their records and deposition of their therapist.  I understand that the reality of the litigation process is a source of great distress for those who have been sexually abused.  Survivors feel the wounds of the past are being probed and called into question by attorneys representing the same Church whose clergy caused the hurt.

In the midst of a difficult and stressful year for survivors we have attempted, through this office, to provide a safe haven of care and support.  It has been important for us to remain separate from all aspects of litigation and legal strategy in our outreach to victim/survivors.

It is clear, though, that the protracted legal action further contributes to suffering and interferes with the healing process.  Unfortunately, as steps to bring civil cases to trial proceed it is likely that the pain for all involved will be unavoidable.  It is our greatest hope that all parties will open themselves to true paths for healing by doing everything possible to "disarm" and come to the table for a just and fair mediated settlement.

If you are receiving support for therapy from the Healing and Assistance Ministry we want to thank you for giving the church the opportunity to in some small way be a part of your healing journey.  Your decision to bring your story of clerical abuse to the church is an act of courage and hope. We count on you to hold us to that pledge.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns:

Barbara Thorp, LICSW
Edna Lezotte, D.Min., LICSW
Sandy Shea, LICSW
June Chin, LICSW
Mary Leclair, Admin. Assist.

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