Guest Blog #5

A few days ago, I read the Associated Press article by Nicole Winfield: “Vatican-backed sex abuse research institute expands mandate, The Catholic Church’s foremost research institute studying sexual abuse of minors is expanding its mandate to also include the sexual and spiritual abuse of adults”

Vatican-backed sex abuse research institute expands mandate – ABC News (go.com)

The article quoted Jesuit Father Hans Zollner, the head of the former Centre for Child Protection and a professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Zollner is now president of the new: Institute of Anthropology: Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care. The Institute is taking over the child protection effort and expanding to study the abuse of adults and also spiritual abuse.

In the Associated Press interview, Zollner mentioned the Vatican’s definition of “vulnerable adult” and said that it was under discussion. My letter to Father Zollner was intended to primarily address this issue. I sent this email to the Institute at the Gregorian.

October 14, 2021

Hans Zollner SJ

IADC

CollegioBellarmino

Via del Seminario 120

00186 Roma

Dear Rev.Zollner,

I read the article yesterday about the new Anthropology Institute at Gregorian University. I am glad that you have expanded. The title of the article above gave me hope that you were now addressing the abuse of adults, also. Yet, when I read the AP article, I saw that you are speaking of seminarians, nuns, and “vulnerable” adults. I notice immediately the influence of the McCarrick case and of the work of Doris Wagner Reisinger. However, my heart sank when I read your statement on vulnerable adults.

I would like you to understand and those who study with you to understand that the focus should not be on whether the woman is “vulnerable” or not. The focus should be on the man. Many of the Protestant churches have such clear and modern abuse policies. The clergyman has a fiduciary responsibility. The focus should be on the man and what he may not do. The laws everywhere need to make it clear that a clergyperson may not violate the professional ethics of his office. The question of child abuse is clear because laws exist; before those laws the children were often blamed. We need laws that make it clear that abuse of adults is also criminal, unethical, as well as morally wrong.

That discussion on whether women are “vulnerable” or “temporarily vulnerable” is insulting to me, someone who has been raped by a priest. It should be a question of whether the priest is unprofessional, unethical, criminal, and dangerous. Put the focus on the man who commits the abuse and not on the woman who is the victim. And I say “victim” because the clergyman is always in a more powerful position and especially in the case of Catholic priests is not even supposed to be sexually active, so there is a huge violation of trust for him to sexually approach anyone.

In conclusion, I hope the Catholic Church at some point affirms the dignity of women and removes the “Scarlet Letter” that we survivors of clergy sexual abuseas adultshave been wearing forever.

I am going to send you a copy of my recently published book:

Amazon.com: Josh: My Story eBook : Wurst, Regina: Kindle Store

If those at the Institute want to understand the story of one woman who was assaulted by a priest, I hope they read my book.

Sincerely,

Regina Wurst

joshmystory@gmail.com

I received this timely reply from the Institute:


From: Institute of Anthropology Dignity and Care <iadc@unigre.it>
Date: Mon, Oct 18, 2021 at 12:35 AM
Subject: Re: for Rev. Zollner and IADC


Dear Mrs. Regina Wurst,


Fr. Zollner has received your email. At this point, it is difficult for him to reply in person because of the recent inauguration of the Institute and all what is connected to that.

We are very sorry if the interview has upset you. However, in the interview there was no special mention to women, but to vulnerable persons. And as the recent report on abuse committed in the Catholic Church in France has shown, the question is indeed not only whether a clergyman has abused, but also male or female laity in the church have been victims or perpetrators.


The article in AP could not reflect the whole conversation between Fr. Zollner and the journalists. In any case, there is an ongoing discussion on how to address this issue, also in different legal constituencies around the world.

There is no question that those who abuse sexually or in another way another person, be he or she, a minor or an adult, needs to be called by his or her name and must be prosecuted.

In this sense, we are looking forward to receiving your book. That will help us to deepen our understanding and inform our teaching.


Best regards,

Secretariat

Institute of Anthropology 

Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care

Pontifical Gregorian University
Tel.: +39 06 40048453

In reaction to this letter from IADC, I take issue with their view that the AP interview “upset me.”I agree that “in the interview there was no special mention to women, but to vulnerable persons.” Exactly. That was my point. I can only claim I was abused if they judge that I was “vulnerable.” That is contorted logic.

Their letter also emphasized that“the question is indeed not only whether a clergyman has abused, but also male or female laity.”Well, yes, laity have abused, but I specifically want to keep my focus on priests, clericalism, and misogyny in the Church, as well as the requirement of celibacy which seems to exacerbate the problem of clergy abuse in the Catholic Church. Certainly, my abuser objected to celibacy when he called it “cultural imperialism” and stated that he could do whatever he wanted. I won’t accept that these issues are obfuscated and diffused.

I read in another article, though, that the IADC was beginning to look at the abuse of women, and adult men. They have started with the abuse of nuns and seminarians, and we can help them widen their viewpoints with our input.

3 thoughts on “Guest Blog #5

  1. This is well done. Thanks for speaking out. I would like to write too. You already articulated a lot of my feelings.

    I wanted to comment on your mention that celibacy “seems to exacerbate” the problem. I must disagree with the logic here. How many married men cheat? How many convicted pedophiles have a wife and children? Most. The problem is psychopathy and sociopathy. Married clergy perpetrate all the time. Countless unmarried, celibate-by-lifestyle men do not rape or abuse or exploit those over whom they have authority. Celibacy is totally incidental.

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  2. All such excellent, clearly expressed points! Thank you. While I was actually a vulnerable abused by the priest, I agree that the focus should be on the clergy who has a fiduciary responsibility, and must be prosecuted! Case closed!

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  3. I happened upon this blog and am comforted by what you’re sharing. After nearly 20 years of hurt, I recently stepped forward to report two priests who abused me when I was an 18yo seminarian. One priest denies anything happened and the other said “there may have been some touching or hugging”. I’m so upset that they’re lying but I’ve decided to trust the process and see where it leads. I’ve been offered counseling services from the diocese but haven’t taken them up on it yet; however, I know I need help. What caused me to finally step forward was Pope Francis’ updated church law (goes into effect 12/08/21) which essentially states that priests who abuse adults are, in fact, criminals. Finally, someone is speaking to my situation.

    As I said, I’m just starting the process and I hope it ends with me being believed, the Church accepting responsibility via a settlement, the priests being held to account, and that I can move on to healthier living. After all these years, I still cry about what happened and wonder how my life would have turned out had I never met those predatory priests.

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