When Peter Isely, the Midwest director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, asked Monica Barrett to sit alongside priests and help form a cooperative alliance, Barrett thought “he had lost it.”
Her initial reaction was, “You want me to sit down with a bunch of priests? Are you off your freakin’ rocker?”
“When I went into it, it was half-hearted,” admits Barrett, a victim of clergy abuse as a child. “I really believed they (clergy) were all bad.”
Isely assured her there are priests who will speak out on behalf of survivors. She now works with them as part of the Survivor and Clergy Leadership Alliance, members of which applied for non-profit status in August, nearly three years following the first joint meeting.
“There are clergy of integrity who are in this vocation for the right reasons,” she said. “This is one of the biggest revelations I have had since joining the alliance. I realize that these priests have been lied to as well. They were used, too.”
SCLA has about 20 members and meets every four to six weeks, said Barrett.
“The only way to heal and resolve this once and for all is for everyone to come together,” she said. “Every survivor wants to know this is not going to happen to another child, that there will not be another generation of victim-survivors behind us.”
It includes retired and active clergy members.
“They don’t agree with how the victims were treated and they are ashamed of the church’s response,” Barrett said of the clergy involved.
The group is made up of victim-survivors who are in different places in their journey. Some still consider themselves Catholic — who participate peripherally or who are very much involved in their congregations.
“And there are people like me who would just as soon walk across glass than set foot in a church,” she said. “The diversity keeps you mindful that you need to respect everyone’s position.”
Barrett said the SCLA seeks justice for survivors, safety for children and support for clergy of integrity. The mission is to address the impact sexual abuse by clergy has had on both survivors and parishioners in the Archidiocese of Milwaukee, effect change through mutual activitism and strive for accountibility.
Its four-step strategy aims to:
- Maintain a safe environment for collaboration among the survivors and clergy members who are committed to radical and systemic change.
- Hold the hierarchy accountable by publicly advocating for full disclosure of all documents, evidence and material related to clerical sexual abuse.
- Provide education, information and professional training to support survivors and prevent future violence against children.
- Collaborate with local, national and international child protective organizations seeking legislation to ensure safety of children.
“It really is time for this type of approach,” Barrett said. “I am hopeful we will be able to accomplish these goals.”
To contact the SCLA, call Peter Isely at 414-42-7529 or email PeterIsely@yahoo.com. Barrett can be reached at 414-704-6074 or email 1Mlbarrett@gmail.com