Some Important News
A statement from Sr. Danielle Victoria and Sr. Theresa Aletheia
As we begin our mission to serve people on the fringes or outside of the Church, especially those who have been wounded, abused, or scandalized by members of the Church, Sr. Danielle Victoria and Sr. Theresa Aletheia felt called to speak publicly about our own experiences of abuse. Our understanding for those we serve in our mission comes from various circumstances in our lives but stems in great part from encounters with a predatory spiritual director, Fr. David Nicgorski, OMV.
We have not spoken publicly of our experiences until now, as we were awaiting decisions from the relevant dicasteries in the Vatican regarding allegations of a sexual assault committed by this person. Regrettably, we do not believe that the decision made was an adequate response to this priest’s behavior.
We are sharing our experience in order to protect anyone else from suffering under Fr. Nicgorski’s spiritual direction. We also believe that articulating patterns of abuse is crucial to reform in the Church. As difficult as it is, we want to encourage others who have suffered similar trials to trust what they have experienced and to come forward as they are able. Finally, we share our stories to show how we all are vulnerable in the Church in situations in which a power differential has the potential to be misused.
As you can imagine, divulging these painful, personal experiences is not easy for us. As much as there is now more openness in the Church to confronting abuse, discussions regarding the abuse of adults are still fraught with misunderstanding, mischaracterization, and victim blaming. For this reason, we are grateful to JD Flynn for covering our stories with such care and sensitivity. Both Ed Condon and JD cover many stories similar to ours at The Pillar and their work plays a crucial part in advancing the reform needed in the Church today.
Sharing our stories may cause some people to question why we felt called by God to begin this mission. Only God fully understands the circumstances of our call because this mission was initiated by him—but we do know that we have followed God’s mysterious call in trust, for love of his people and his Church. Because we believe that a Church firmly rooted in the redemptive power of Christ is not afraid to confront the sins of her members: “perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). In confronting her darkness, the Church reveals evermore her beauty as the Bride of Christ. As Ratzinger wrote, “Reform [in the Church] is ever-renewed ablatio—removal, whose purpose is to allow the nobilis forma, the countenance of the bride, and with it the Bridegroom himself, the living Lord, to appear.”
So, while many initiatives in the Church may begin in dazzling light, we are not ashamed of the reality that ours began amid darkness. In fact, the lessons of recent years should lead us to observe with caution, rather than unthinking acclamation, the dazzling light that often surrounds would-be saintly figures in our Church. Marcial Maciel, the founder of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement, was met with reverence and honor; only near his death was it revealed that he had sexually abused both children and adults. We now know that Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche and a figure of light and peace for so many, sexually abused many women. Carlos Miguel Buela, founder of the Institute of the Incarnate Word and the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará, sexually abused adults.
Unfortunately, examples of this reality abound. Over the past few decades it has become painfully clear that Church movements that begin in supposed light are not necessarily established by people living in the beauty, truth, and goodness of God. For this reason, though we naturally fear the implications of speaking publicly about our experiences of abuse in the Church, we do not fear the reality that our new mission was sown amid experiences of darkness. We know that God, if he is present anywhere, is particularly present in the abysses of emptiness and pain that so many endure as a result of abuse in the Church. He certainly has been present to us there. In fact, in sharing our stories we are even more convinced that God is giving many graces of reform and renewal to the Church in this particular moment.
God does not work in generalities but through concrete people and places. This means that God necessarily works through our humanity, including our weakness and littleness, to bring about light, renewal, and healing to the Church. This Little Way of profound acceptance of our weakness roots us in the truth that God is our Protector and our Salvation and in him we find meaning and strength.
Following this Little Way, our hope and trust in Christ and our love for the Church compels us to continue to step out in courage for others who, for their own reasons, cannot: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope” (1 Peter 3:15).
For the moment, what we have discussed with The Pillar is all that we will be sharing. Thank you for your understanding and know that we are offering the uncertainty, discomfort, and mystery of this time for all those we are called to serve.
Please pray for us as well
You can read our story here.