Dear Pope Francis,

a1Welcome to the United States! Thank you for your messages of healing, compassion and equality. The Roman Catholic Church has been an integral part of my life, and I wish to share my story with you and to speak for those who do not have a voice.

Eight years ago, intense pelvic pain pulled me out of my regular life. In order to get better, I tried a plethora of treatments from Western, Eastern and alternative sides of medicine. I also looked at the emotional issues that might have been causing such a ramp up of my nervous system and the continuation of my pain.

After about five years of healing through the layers, I remembered being raped at age four, five and nine by the priest who was the hero of my childhood. It was incredibly hard to believe, but it completely matched the memories I had kept and my siblings told me they knew it was true. I have learned that I am not alone; many children suppress sexual trauma, and it is common for people with chronic pelvic pain to have a history of sexual abuse.

As I worked for years to heal, I began to appreciate how this trauma had changed me. At age four, I lost my sense of connection to myself, to a loving God, and to my sense of a protective family/ community. On a very deep level I became fearful and hyper-vigilant. My nervous system became ramped up and this changed the tension in my muscles, the posture of my body, and eventually contributed to my debilitating pelvic pain.

The priest who raped me was eventually put in charge of managing the pedophiles in his diocese and moving them into positions where they were less likely to have contact with children. He told my mother that sometimes the priests reoffended, and this was difficult, but that even pedophiles deserved to be loved.

I agree. Everyone deserves love and a chance to heal, and many pedophiles have themselves been victims of childhood sexual abuse. However this culture of secrecy has been damaging for so many reasons. Healing for the offending priests will never happen in the dark where shame, blame, guilt and fear reside, and we need  transparency to stop the repetition of this abuse generation after generation. And most importantly, we need to protect the children because, as I’ve experienced, the ramifications of sexual abuse can be profound and can last a lifetime.

Over the years, I have looked honestly at my darker sides, released what I no longer wanted to carry and opened up to let more light and love flow through me and through my life. Healing is a process, but I have found that post-traumatic growth is truly possible. I think the same healing is needed by the full church, and especially in this area of sexual abuse. Thank you for being a part of this much-needed change. For all the children that have lived this experience, I encourage you to continue your efforts.


Mary Ruth Velicki

Mary Ruth Velicki, MS, DPT, is the author of: Healing Through Chronic Pain. A Physical Therapist’s Personal Journey of Body, Mind, Spirit Transformation.