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CNY clergy abuse victims call for forgiveness of abusers

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)

A message of forgiveness is coming from two victims of the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. The two men want to propose an alternative to the anger and bitterness the scandal has wrought.

Both 42-year old Dan Paden, who was born and raised in Johnson City in the Southern Tier, and 58-year old Matt FitzGibbons of Fayetteville, remember being abused as a young child by a parish priest. And they say the way they have come to terms with the abuse is by forgiving their abusers. It’s a message not often heard from victims of clergy abuse, and FitzGibbons believes they are not alone.

"What needs to happen for evil to win is for good people to be silent," he said. "And Dan and I decided we can’t be silent, and how do we get love out there in the conversation once again."

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News
Dan Paden, left, and Mark FitzGibbons were abused by priests when they were children. They say the way to come to terms with their abuse is to forgive their abusers.

Paden said the angry and bitter narrative surrounding the scandal didn’t help him heal. Forgiveness did.

"Being able to forgive my abuser doesn’t help victims," said Paden. "I still want to help other victims. And one way that I want to help them is share the peace I found in moving to the point of forgiving my abuser and actively praying for him every day."

FitzGibbons does say the church could do better helping victims of the abuse. He suggested the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse create an advisory board to oversee that.

"For people like me and Dan and our families, this is a life changing event, and it doesn’t go away once it's out of the news," he said. "And so how do we support victims and their families through the whole process, and be there for them."

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.