Remarkable: how a man who was abused came to forgive his abuser

From the Santa Barbara Independent, a column by Paul Fericano that shows great courage, empathy and grace:

On November 23, 2013, the Franciscan priest responsible for molesting me and hundreds of other boys at St. Anthony’s Seminary in Santa Barbara during the’60s, quietly passed away in a California hospital at the age of 82. Mario Cimmarrusti committed crimes that made him one of the most notorious perpetrators in the history of the clergy sex abuse scandal. It’s fair to say that he was detested not only by his victims, their families, and the community at large, but by the majority of his fellow friars, most, if not all of whom, chose to ignore and alienate him during the last years of his life…

…It’s understandable. There was a time when I promoted my anger and cherished the safety and comfort it offered me, smug in the knowledge that I could openly hate someone like Mario so thoroughly and profoundly. It wasn’t until I entered therapy in 1994 that I recognized the great toll my hatred had taken on my life. The poison I had methodically prepared for Mario over the years had become a deadly concoction I was slowly drinking myself. This realization radically changed my thinking and my life.

As a result, I made a conscious decision to examine the question of forgiveness and what it meant to free oneself spiritually. From my earliest memories as an obedient Catholic school boy, I knew I was not interested in the church’s demands and conditions for forgiveness that only created more guilt and resentment. Instead, I pursued the concept of forgiveness that arose from a willing choice, and one that sustained an ongoing process.

I came to understand that forgiving Mario was not about Mario. It was about me. It was something I could ask and do for myself, not for him or anyone else…Through my work with SafeNet, an organization I cofounded to support everyone’s healing, including the perpetrators, I was fortunate to establish and maintain contact with Mario.

Since 2003, and up until his death, he and I exchanged several letters and met privately on six occasions. I didn’t attempt this because of any traumatic bonding I was experiencing. I was in therapy at the time, and had been for some years, learning to move further and further beyond the reach of this man who hurt me. Rather, I felt a sense of purpose.

Read it all. 


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