Vac Pac

The Victim Assistance Coordinator Package

THIS PAGE HAS BEEN PUBLISHED for All Victim Assistance Coordinators, Child Protection Professionals, Survivor Ministers and All Other Attendees at the USCCB Annual  Conference and Webinar on October 3, 2017, where a Spirit Fire presentation was offered. Some attendees requested more information about references made by my fellow speaker or myself regarding trauma-informed ministry for survivors of child abuse by clergy and any other trusted adult. Hence, this VAC PAC, saving paper and keeping info posted for longer term reference. Hope it helps. Let me know if you need anything else.

Helpful Note: Deacon Steven DeMartino’s presentation included a quotation from Andrew J. Schmutzer of Moody Bible School, Chicago, IL. While I could not locate the quotation, I have included an article by Dr. Schmutzer below. Also, Dcn DeMartino’s email is wellnesssupport at archny dot org.


We are wounded in relationship and we heal through relationship. – Karl Jung

For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. Love is a high inducement to the individual to ripen. – Rainer Maria Rilke

Basic Links

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Article 1, see Page 5

Teresa’s Bio  CONTACT: Teresa @ SpiritFire dot Live

Spirit Fire Ministry

The Healing Voices Magazine

Teresa’s Publications

While I could not find the exact quotation from Andrew J. Schmutzer from Dcn. DeMartino’s presentation, I did find this article by Dr. Schmutzer entitled: “A Theology of Sexual Abuse: A Reflection on Creation and Devastation.” For those interested in reading more along the lines of the quotation provided. 

Shared Wounds and Secondary Trauma

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has useful summary and infographic about Secondary Traumatic Stress in counselors. You are encouraged to apply these insights, in addition to counselors and yourselves, also to family and friends of survivors in terms of the overall shared wounds from abuse at familial and parish levels.

Catholic Psychotherapy Different?

Yes … but it only works for some, others it could be rewounded.

In Psychotherapy According to Catholic Scholars by Ryan Howes, PhD ABPP (in Psychology Today blog, posted September 21, 2011), a layperson’s explanation can be found. Here Catholic therapists comment on the ways a Catholic theology of the person enriches a strong scholarship or training in psychotherapy. It touches on some topics early in today’s presentation but from a cross-disciplinary view of theologian and psychotherapist.

Many survivors or others traumatized in connection to abuse reject professional care at all related to Catholicism, and they prefer therapists who are skilled in trauma care (not using this patient as part of a learning curve). Some may mean that they do not want to be evangelized during therapy–a natural fear. Yet, they may also be unaware of the growing practice of professional Catholic mental health care as described by Catholic psychologists in the article above. Some of these survivors, upon reflection, may opt for a trauma-informed Catholic therapist who also can listen with theological training, offering an appreciation for the spiritual facet of this psychological wound in terms of, for example, prayer, religious education, Scripture, or faith–or sacraments and sacramentals.

Strength-Based Therapy

As mentioned, another new and very effective approach to overcoming–at least to stabilizing–in the wake of the trauma of abuse is an approach in broad use in many services offered to victims of human trafficking and domestic violence.

This strength-based approach is challenging traditional psychotherapists to employ a more balanced approach, such as focusing not just on the past also behaviorally on present and imaginatively on the future or hopes of each victim. With this newer approach, therapists are also challenged to see the patient as not only or not “just” a victim but also as a survivor with evident resilience and strengths on which to build.

An article I wrote for a human-trafficking newsletter offers a basic summary, with citations you can follow if you wish to know more. You may see the link to the Catholic and Christian view of the human person; I sure did.

Trauma-Informed Carei

FOLLOW UP TO MY PRESENTATION: Responding to a question following my presentation regarding how one might provide or point to trauma-informed training for therapists, I highly recommend this group and apologize for not remembering them off the top of my head, because Spirit Fire considers them a partner of choice.>> The Trauma Recovery Associates is a Catholic psychotherapy and training group. Spirit Fire will partner with TRA when incorporating trained therapists able to offer a trauma-informed program for Catholics. TRA has been offering their unique training to parishes and dioceses since 2002, since Dallas, to advance trauma-informed psychological practices and ministry which is informed about psychological trauma. TRA was founded by Fr. Ken Schmidt of St. Catherine of Siena in Portage, Michigan, and continues to operate today. Fr. Ken may be reached at Fr Ken at StCatherineSiena dot org.

The Way for Men and The Way for Women are guided retreats in Atlanta, Georgia, is offered by the Archdiocese and both developed and led by Sue Stubbs, MS, NCC, Director of the Victims Assistance Office in the Archdiocese of Atlanta. I presented its program to our readership in The Healing Voices Magazine in an article titled, “The Way.”  Its brevity and spiritual program is carefully defined to minimize any regression or change of triggers setting off painful experiences for attendees, and it is poised to offer care to anyone who experiences any unexpected pain or grief. That said, this retreat solves the problem which about half survivors with whom I speak describe–not wanting to break their anonymity in their own locality.

Do’s And Don’ts for Pastoral Care < Pass it on.

For other suggestions about trauma-informed training for a Catholic setting which ministers to survivors of abuse, including clergy abuse, and/or for retreats or programs please feel free to contact me any time.

Counseling vs. Catholic Spiritual Direction

As discussed, keeping a clear distinction between counseling and spiritual direction is critical for all involved, both have important roles but are not substitutes for each other in any way. Three resources to help clarify that distinction for anyone interested in offering spiritual guidance for survivors of abuse or others harmed by abuse in our Church follow.

The first work, a workbook I co-authored with my collaborator, has a brief how-to at the start and is organized by topics common in therapy; it also is the only work I can find that cautions against spiritual “direction” and encourages a gentler and less-directed “guidance.”

Veronica’s Veil: Spiritual Companionship for Adult Survivors of Child Abuse – A Christ-centered Approach, by Teresa (Pitt Green) Hartnett and Rev. Lewis S. Fiorelli, O.S.F.S.

“The Difference Between Counseling and Spiritual Direction”, by Allison Ricciardi. February 12, 2014.

“Spiritual Direction vs. Counseling,” by Teresa Blythe., posted August 31, 2012.


Forgiveness is a terribly difficult process–a step that happens well into the process of healing. Among many things spiritual directors and guides understand is how to wait for the Spirit to guide a survivor or other traumatized person to explore ways it might be possible to forgive.

The famous the Forgiveness Project, which has influenced many people, including Catholics, to forgive, but it has decidedly international overtones so that it can also seem distant, even inaccessible. Yet, the website is a great place for people to look and perhaps find what they seek.

Here are some other options.

When/if someone is ready to explore forgiveness, The Healing Voices Magazine has articles describing different approaches to forgiveness, written by Catholic spiritual directors (priests) and survivors.

God Meant It For Good, by R. T.  Kendall, follows the story of Joseph with his coat of many colors, from betrayal by those closest to him, to imprisonment and enslavement as one might experience being a stranger in a strange land while still wounded by abuse, to the astounding freedom Joseph finds in his healing bond with God–so much so that forgiveness flows out of him.

Job’s Forgiveness in 42:10 is a good article which is fairly (and unfortunately) (but at least brief) heady Catholic exegesis about the Book of Job–and how his forgiveness of those who abandoned him, even judged him, came about. The section of this piece that refers to Chapter 42 where Job comes to pray for his friends is something I share with survivors who are steeped in their Catholic faith. Others would be turned off by the distinct Scholastic “feel” of the read.

Veronica’s Veil, mentioned below, has a variety of references to forgiveness, with the idea that there are many kinds and many approaches.

Mental Illness and Spiritual Companionship

On my YouTube channel, I have collected a few different types of Forgiveness Meditations videos which people may find helpful.

Wrestling with Our Inner Angels: Faith, Mental Illness and the Journey to Wholeness, by Nancy Kehoe, RSCJ, PhD, is a nun in the Religious Order of the Sacred Heart. Her organization is called Expanding Connections.  I mentioned Nancy Kehoe during the presentation, referring to the psychologist who worked with the mentally ill and raised the issue of audio hallucination vs. the experienced response in prayer.

Nancy Kehoe wrote this book based on her therapeutic work with mentally ill people and the role of faith in their treatment and their lives. In portraying the patients’ connections with God and with prayer, the author makes a compelling case for ministry informed about trauma and related issues–and supports the idea of the work of victim assistant coordinators, survivor ministers and trauma-informed spiritual guides.

The experience of the mentally ill and those needing professional mental health care in the Church is explored in a powerful conference about the Church and Mental Illness, co-hosted by Saddleback Church and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles several years ago. The entire conference is online, but I suggest one focused on Spiritual Pastoring for the Mentally Wounded and Ill.

On my YouTube channel, you’ll find a series of webinars of the detail behind my talk today, covering many aspects of offering pastoral care to survivors of abuse, as well as a collection of wonderful videos by  others about managing their own mental illness and living faith.


Please feel free to connect–or to encourage survivors or others, such a those offering pastoral care, to connect–with me on social media. My threads combine posts for spiritual healing, creativity and digital communications, and human trafficking issues.


Teresa at SpiritFire dot Live  

Deacon Steven DeMartino may be reached at wellnesssupport at archny dot org.