Editors’ note: This episode speaks on sexual abuse, trauma, and healing, and contains content that may be disturbing to some listeners.
In this new episode of Field Hospital, Jeannie Gaffigan and I had the privilege of speaking to Mark Joseph Williams, a survivor of sexual abuse by a Catholic priest who has undergone a long journey of healing and recovery. He now advocates for and accompanies other survivors as they seek the healing and justice they need after suffering the trauma and injustice they have endured.
Professionally, Mark is a management consultant and a forensic social worker from New Jersey. He also serves as special advisor in the Archdiocese of Newark for Cardinal Joseph Tobin. He is the co-founder of the Global Collaborative, a survivor-led organization promoting accountability, justice, and healing.
The issues discussed in this podcast are very heavy. Coming on the heels our previous episode with another survivor, Juan Carlos Cruz, we wanted to discuss in even greater detail the grave harm suffered by abuse victims, and to share with our listeners the voice of a survivor who has made a commitment to help other survivors heal along with him.
In the podcast we discuss whether the Church—which for decades enabled the crisis and helped cover it up—can change and help people heal. As in our conversation with Juan Carlos, we discussed the impact of abuse on the faith of survivors. Mark himself never left the Church, but understandably many survivors have distanced themselves from the Catholic faith or left it altogether. We discuss how survivors can help each other across a broad spectrum of approaches to the faith (including those who have lost their faith).
Finally, we ask Mark to help define and explain two terms that many Catholics have difficulty understanding: clericalism and synodality. He provides a clear and cohesive explanation of what Church leaders mean when they say that clericalism is a root cause of the abuse crisis. He also discusses what the Church means by synodality, why it is the way forward for the Church, and how survivors of clerical abuse must be leaders in bringing the Church along the synodal path.
For an even more in-depth exploration of synodality, read Mark’s recent article in America on why he believes that the synod is the process for renewal the Church needs right now.
You can learn more about Mark Joseph Williams and the Global Collaborative, as well as find resources for survivors, through these links:
- “I forgave my abuser. But I will never forget his abuse.” by Mark Joseph Williams.
- “I Was Sexually Abused by a Catholic Priest. The Church Must Listen to Victims.” by Mark Joseph Williams.
- An Interview with Mark Joseph Williams, LCSW by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.
- What is the Global Collaborative?
- Snap Network: Resources for Survivors
Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland, having worked for many years in Catholic publishing. He's a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He's active in his parish and community. He is the founding managing editor for Where Peter Is.