By Barb Arland-Fye
Bill Christman remembers feeling furious when he walked into a mediation session concerning his clergy sexual abuse case against the Diocese of Davenport. The case had dragged on for several years during which he’d been grilled about the accuracy of childhood memories, the quality of his character and the minute details of what defrocked priest William Wiebler had done to him. Frustrated, broken, suicidal, Christman recalls wanting to make the Catholic Church hurt just like he hurt. But through the grace of God, the desire for revenge evaporated at that mediation session when another priest apologized for what had happened and told Christman that he was praying for him. That simple act of compassion led Christman on a journey of healing and forgiveness, which he describes in his book “Forgiving the Catholic Church:”
“The priest stood and introduced himself as Father (Bob) Gruss. He said he’d been chancellor for just a few months. Then he looked directly at me, and spoke. He said that he had looked at my case thoroughly and wanted to say that on behalf of the Catholic Church, his colleagues and himself, he was extremely sorry for what had happened to me … ‘Ever since I became familiar with your case,’ he said, ‘I have prayed for you daily.’ I was stunned. It was the last thing I expected. I stared at him, and at that moment God touched me and gave me the grace to see clearly. There was total sincerity in Gruss’s face. He meant what he was saying. It wasn’t a question of believing him; I saw that he was truthful. I physically felt my anger and fear drain away.”
To read the rest of this article, subscribe to The Catholic Messenger’s e-edition.