Reading about the tragedy of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandals is difficult, to say the least. I don't think it is possible for me to grasp the suffering of those children or, for that matter, of anyone who has experienced sexual abuse in his or her life. It's also almost impossible to imagine ever healing from it.
Theresa Burke is the author of Forbidden Grief and the founder of the Rachel's Vineyard retreats for people experiencing pain following an abortion. I have spoken with a number of women who have gone through these retreats and heard their painful personal stories. But more importantly, I've heard how their stories end---with healing attributed to Christ. The retreats are in such demand that they're now held in 48 states and in 29 other countries, and are conducted in seven different languages.
Burke and her husband, Kevin, have recently started a program specifically for victims of sexual abuse called Grief to Grace. The model is similar to Rachel's Vineyard: Weekend retreats feature Scripture readings and therapeutic techniques with the goal, according to Grief to Grace's website, of spiritual healing "fully centered upon the person and presence of Jesus Christ." This healing ministry is "for anyone who has suffered degradation or violation through sexual abuse, rape, incest, or other forms of traumatic violation in childhood, adolescence, or as an adult."
The testimonials included on the website are deeply moving. There are recurring themes of forgiveness of self and of others, an end to the self-loathing so many sex abuse victims experience, and feelings of peace finally achieved.
Impossible as it seems, people are healed. Or maybe not so impossible, considering that Grief to Grace's program is designed around God doing the healing. The website describes it this way: "Grief to Grace helps participants to experience how the works of God might be manifest through the painful events in their own lives. The process will help them recognize in their own stories of death and destruction that Jesus has truly come to bring us new life."