A new European network of survivors of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church is being launched at a gathering in central London on Saturday 26 March.
Survivors Voice is an international community of men and women who were abused by Catholic clergy in their childhood.
The meeting takes place at Conway Hall from 1.30pm - 4pm, and speakers include Bernie McDaid and Gary Bergeron, co-founders of Survivors Voice from the USA; Peter Tatchell, human rights activist; David Greenwood, specialist child abuse lawyer, and Dr Tommaso Dell’Era from Italy, a former member of Opus Dei and a survivor.
In addition Silvia Amodio, a photographer from Italy, will exhibit her project, ‘Out of the Shadows’. This features pictures and stories of survivors, recently published in Marie Claire.
In the light of protests during Pope Benedict's recent visit to Britain, Survivors Voice's first 'Reformation Day' at the Vatican, the new European arm "represents an increase in focus on the Catholic Church’s failings and fulfills an increasing need for survivors across the globe," says the group.
Survivors Voice Europe will focus its efforts on increasing awareness, providing robust empowering resources for people recovering from their abuse, petitioning the Vatican and the UN for a change in law and acknowledgement of the human rights breach that this kind of abuse represents.
Spokesperson Sue Cox, who along with Thon Leerschool, is helping launch Survivors Voice Europe told Ekklesia this week that the vital need behind the network was the need for the experience of those who have undergone abuse to be central to tackling it, and to pushing the Church and other institutions away from a culture of "denial, evasion and refusal to really acknowledge fault."
"Saying sorry is not enough", says Ms Cox. "What is needed is change and action". That includes releasing to the police the information held by the Vatican which could be vital in securing prosecutions, identifying culprits, and challenging the collusion around abuse, "in the past, in the present and in the future."
She adds: “In coming together from our shared experience, our little lone voices become a huge primal scream and our outrage has not abated and cannot fail to be heard. This launch is a celebration of our amazing survival, against all the odds, a chance for other people to add to the roar and to keep up the impetus that our recent experiences in London and Rome have created”.
All of the team at Survivors Voice are of the same mind, says Ms Cox: “Change is coming and we have a window of opportunity here that needs to be utilised to prevent the Catholic church from covering up these travesties which still continue, to bring them into accountability and to give survivors a chance to regain the potential that was cruelly and cynically taken away from them.”
Despite suffering the worst betrayal of body and trust, survivors of what SV describes as "crimes against humanity" have found that in connecting with each other and sharing their experience, strength and hope they can defy their abusers and find empowerment - moving away from "the shame and guilt that the Church has used to repress us".
Meanwhile, in the USA, Survivors Voice has called for the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, and for root and branch reforms within the Church.
People joining together in the new European network include both those who have stayed within the Church, those who sit on its edges, and those whose experience has pushed them outside. Secular groups in Britain have helped provide a 'safe space' for the first gathering.
* More on Survivors Voice Europe: www.survivorsvoice-europe.org
* The launch meeting for SVE takes place on 26 March 2011, from - 1.30pm to 4pm, at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London.