I need to comment again, at some length, on the horrific story of the life and death of my sister in Christ, Alana Chen.
It’s been pointed out to me that Alana Chen’s death hasn’t been officially ruled a suicide yet, so I want to mention specifically that I’m calling it a suicide based on her mother’s public statement, which you can see in its entirety in my post. I am also calling it a suicide because someone saying she’s one of the parishioners of Saint Thomas Aquinas parish where Alana went, who claims to know everyone involved, got on my facebook page and called it a suicide multiple times. She later deleted her comments, but I have screenshots of the whole thread if there are any questions. I don’t have any reason to believe she lied.
She is upset with me for condemning the spiritual abuse that Alana allegedly suffered at the hands of her parish. She made her statements to me very publicly, so I’m going to dialogue with them in public. These are her statements, unedited, and my answers expanded considerably from the shorter ones I gave on Facebook.
This is my parish, Mary. The people in it (currently, Fr. Peter Mussett and Sisters of Life who visit) are not perfect, but they are doing the best they can. Please pray for them. This has been a hell of a week. No one wants a child to die.
They should have thought of that before they abused her. And she wasn’t a child; she was a 24-year-old woman who, according to her mother’s statement, the parish kept badgering even when she was driven to self-harm and ended up hospitalized– even when her mother asked them to stay away. That’s what Alana’s mother has stated. They didn’t just bully her for being a lesbian and put burdens on her (such as weekly confession so that she could receive Communion) that they wouldn’t have put on other people whose temptations were different. They kept calling her, and they showed up at the hospital and treatment center uninvited, after they’d driven her out of her mind, and after they were told to stop.
If Alana’s mother is telling the truth– and I don’t have reason to believe she’s not– then that’s not only spiritual abuse but plain old harassment. It’s not only the behavior of deeply misguided priests and religious, but of people who are simply dangerous and abusive.
And Chen herself stated before her death that ““I think the church’s counsel is what led me to be hospitalized. I’ve now basically completely lost my faith. I don’t know what I believe about God, but I think if there is a God, he doesn’t need me talking to him anymore.”
That’s two different witnesses that these “spiritual directors” caused her grave harm.
You just lost me as a reader/follower/supporter. This is madness. Fr. Peter wouldn’t torture anyone and the Sisters of Life wouldn’t, either. I don’t support the Trump-loving Christianists, but I can’t get on board with you, either.
I’m anti-spiritual abuse. That’s what matters to me: shutting down abusers who hurt people. These alleged abusers had plenty of time to realize their mistake and back off, but they didn’t. They did the opposite. They showed up at her rehab, according to her mom.
I’m sorry if you don’t like my commenting on this. I’m sorry to lose a reader. But this is more important to me than my being popular, which I’m not anyway.
P.S. by a hell of a week in a parish, I mean that our priests and staff have had to disconnect the Sacramental Emergency line because it’s been flooded with people saying absolutely vile things. Christ did not tell us to insult our enemies in the most vicious way possible, he told us to love them.
I don’t support saying vile things. If any of my readers are among the people saying vile things, this is me telling them to stop. But I support calling abuse abuse, and Alana Chen was allegedly abused until she died. The people who abused her have to be held accountable for that. The priests and sisters should be removed from ministry.
You don’t seem to be denying any of this happened, by the way. If it didn’t happen, say so. But if it happened the way Chen and her mother said, then Chen’s abusers need the book thrown at them, by both ecclesiastical and secular authorities.
Oh, and did I mention that a beloved child committed suicide and had to be buried?!?! That alone would have made it a “hell of a week.”
She wasn’t YOUR child. She wasn’t a child at all. She was a full grown woman who spoke out about being tormented for nearly half her life for something she couldn’t help. She was a woman who loved Christ, and tried as hard as she could to serve Christ, and was slowly ground down until she came to believe Christ didn’t love her.
And she didn’t just die from suicide out of the blue, she did it after ten years of spiritual abuse. She and her mother said that Father Nix started abusing her when she was fourteen, and she died at 24. When she joined Saint Thomas Aquinas parish, they apparently took up the torch and abused her. The parish having to mourn and bury a parishioner they tormented until she died, doesn’t make the parish the victim. Alana is the victim. I’m sure it must be traumatic to realize you’ve caused a person’s suicide and to have to live with that realization your entire life. I hope that the people who did this to her can find healing. But if you hurt someone until they break, you’re not the victim when you’re traumatized by their brokenness. If you throw a coffee mug onto the floor repeatedly until it shatters and then step on the shattered pieces, the mug didn’t cut you; you cut yourself. The same is even more true of persons. If you bully a person to death and are traumatized by her suicide, you traumatized yourself.
Conversion therapy has been demonstrated to be ineffective, and to cause harm. That’s not me giving some kind of psychological opinion you have to be a qualified professional to make; it’s common knowledge. It is one of a huge number of psychological treatments that have been used in history to change a patient in various ways, that are now no longer used because they are ineffective and cause harm. Ice pick lobotomies are ineffective and cause harm. An old-fashioned Victorian electroshock treatment without anesthesia is ineffective causes harm. Ice water baths, insulin comas, tying the patient to a chair and abandoning them there until they snap out of it, flogging the patients at Bedlam and charging spectators money to watch, drilling holes in the skull to let the devil out– all of these have been tried, often with the best of intentions, and found to be ineffective and harmful. So has conversion therapy.
If Father Nix had put on a butcher’s apron, tied Alana down, and lobotomized her with an unsanitized ice pick, he would have been abusing her– even if he meant to help. If Father Mussett had tormented her with an old-fashioned Victorian electroshock device, even if he’d meant it kindly, he would have been torturing her. If the Sisters of Life had given Alana spiritual direction by putting her in an insulin coma, honestly believing that this was the best possible thing, they would have been torturing her. As it is, they allegedly put her through conversion therapy. And they don’t seem to have stopped when they had evidence that it had driven her to depression and self-harm. And now she’s dead.
Saying that those priests and sisters ought to be removed from ministry isn’t me being vindictive. It’s not me demanding they suffer humiliation or punishment. It’s me saying that people who commit that kind of malpractice, and cause that kind of suffering and death, have to be kept from doing it again. No one who gives spiritual direction should harass the directee for any reason, they must not show up at the hospital if the directee is hospitalized and they’re told not to go there, and they sure as hell should never recommend or try to practice conversion therapy. They shouldn’t be practicing therapy of any kind, unless they’re both spiritual directors and licensed therapists as well. But a spiritual director itself is not a therapist. That’s a completely different profession. That they allegedly recommended and submitted her to an ineffective and harmful form of therapy is even worse.
Wow. This makes me so sad. I truly loved reading your work. I still wish you the best and will pray for you. I just don’t think things are nearly as black and white as you think they are. May the love of Christ wash over you and heal all of your wounds; and may you never, ever have to doubt that you are loved. And may Christ bring his healing to Alana and her family, may she rest in peace, and may they all be united forever in Paradise.
This is a classic example of gaslighting. I pointed out harm and abuse that were committed and you start painting me as “wounded.” If this the brand of Catholicism they teach you in that parish, no wonder it’s causing suicides.
And we are all children of God who need to learn how to get along and give each other a break …
A break, yes. Stopping spiritual abuse has nothing to do with not giving people a break. It’s about preventing more suffering and death.
Just looking for an admission of common humanity here …
They’re human. And humans who misbehave this grossly need to be stopped.
As one of my readers pointed out in this same conversation: “Angels and animals don’t torture women for sexual attraction they have no control over. This evil was definitely committed by humans.”