The organizers of a campaign to bring survivors of clergy sexual abuse around the world to the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square Oct. 31 say the event will open what they are calling a “Year of the Survivor.”
Abuse survivors Bernie McDaid and Gary Bergeron of greater Boston told Catholic News Service that the year is meant to focus on survivors and their spiritual, physical and psychological needs.
“It’s never been done before. There’s never been a time when survivors have come together,” Bergeron said.
To help spread the word, McDaid and Bergeron have launched a website, www.SurvivorsVoice.org.
The site offers information about the planned Vatican gathering, statistics on the impact of abuse on survivors and opportunities to support survivors.
The men are hoping enough survivors and supporters make the trip to Rome to ring St. Peter’s Square for a candlelight vigil at nightfall.
They also have settled on a simple message to spread: “Enough.”
“I think the one universal term everyone around the world can agree to is ‘enough,’” Bergeron told CNS. “It’s time we got together and said, ‘This is enough.’”
Since first announcing the gathering in April, McDaid has been working with survivors globally. He said he recently returned from Ireland to gain support from abuse survivor organizations. He said German abuse survivors have been in touch.
Survivors also plan to leave a basket of letters at the doors of St. Peter’s Basilica seeking the support of church officials, McDaid said.
He compared the planned offering to the action of Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk who nailed his 95 Theses to the doors of All Saints’ Church (Castle Church) in Wittenberg, Germany, Oct. 31, 1517, marking the start of the Reformation. The monk’s document criticized elements of Catholic belief and practice, particularly the selling of indulgences.
Bergeron hopes the effort will focus worldwide attention on all abuse survivors, not those who were victims of Catholic clergy.
“It’s not just a Catholic issue,” he said. “But we really need to change the way the world views the issue.”