Muffin Talk – SNAP & Dealing with Abuse

Guests: Bill Kilgallon (former director of National Office for Professional Standards) and Dr Christopher Longhurst (leader of SNAP, the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests).
In this interview, Bill Kilgallon and Dr Christopher Longhurst provide clarification on the work of SNAP and suggestions of how to deal with abuse in the church, starting with giving the survivors the opportunity to shape the way the church moves on.

A 30 minute interview was broadcast on Planet FM 104.6.
The full interview is available on YouTube here below.


Reflection on the Muffin Talk Interview
with Bill Kilgallon and Dr Christopher Longhurst

I have been recording more than 500 radio interviews.
The last interview of 2023 has shaken me…
I can’t believe what I learned during this interview. My two guests, Bill Kilgallon and Dr Christopher Longhurst have both been involved in dealing with abuse in the Church. I never thought that there would be so many victims of sexual abuse committed by people connected to the Church.

However, what struck me even more, was that my guests were both confirming that they believed that most victims who have taken the courage to report the abuse against them were not heard or not taken seriously.
To me, this means that the abuse against these people is still continuing. How can a wound heal if it can’t be addressed?

I used to give talks about Catholic Social Teaching. Catholic Social Teaching is supposed to challenge the “Status Quo” and to act the way we believe Jesus would act.
Annual Social Justice Weeks have been very successful in drawing people’s attention to social justice issues regarding fairness, beneficiary systems, youth unemployment or disabilities. Standing up for people who are vulnerable.

Victims of abuse are vulnerable. Their vulnerability was often the reason for being abused in the first place.
We could apply the 4 principles of Catholic Social Teaching to them:
1. Human Dignity
2. Common Good
3. Solidarity
4. Subsidiarity

Human Dignity
A person who has experienced abuse needs to be heard and really listened to – not interviewed or interrogated, but listened to – the way a pastor or counsellor would listen to them. Listening with an open heart.
The person needs to be treated with respect.
Even if a story might sound incredible. It is still important to listen. Judgements need to wait until the stories are told and properly investigated.
During this process, the human dignity of all people involved needs to be maintained.

Common Good
We, the people, are the Church.
We believe that Jesus is the way and the truth. Members of the Church need to be able to feel safe.
Our “Common Good” is our belief in the Gospels and our outreach as Jesus taught us.
If members of this Church are harming others, we have to stand up and challenge the situation.
Pope Francis mentioned our “Christian identity card” and that “we have to do what Jesus did in his life to find the portrait of the master, which we are called to reflect in our daily lives.”

We need to show solidarity.
If we put ourselves in the shoes of a victim of abuse who has been having nightmares for decades… Someone who might have reported an abuse but was shut down by their own family or by their faith community. Someone who tried to live and forgive but then sees the perpetrator abusing others again and again.
This person needs someone who gives them support and comfort, while helping to make the perpetrator held accountable, so that further abuse would be prevented.
We need to stand in solidarity with the victim.
It also means standing in solidarity with people who are connected to the abuser and who were not aware of the abuse. This can be a congregation, a religious order, the family or even a whole faith tradition. When a community realises that one of its members has done harm to a person, this community needs support.
In order to show solidarity with a victim, it is crucial that the organisations or groups to which the perpetrator belonged, distance themselves from the behaviour of the perpetrator, and that they support seeking accountability. This accountability includes personal acknowledgement of wrongdoing and personal reparations towards the victims.
Subsidiarity is about empowering the vulnerable, the powerless.