My first visit to Liverpool afforded me enough time to visit the two cathedrals. I liked “Paddy’s Wigwam” much more than I expected to. I can imagine that on a day with the sun streaming through the coloured windows, it would be particularly beautiful. The Anglican Cathedral is a more traditional design and a magnificent building of immense proportions.
The Walker Art Gallery houses a wonderful collection, including some famous Pre-Raphaelite paintings and other gems such as William Frederick Yeames’s picture of a Royalist child being interrogated by a soldier, And When Did You Last See Your Father? A young boy dressed in sky-blue silk stands alone in the centre of the canvas in a circle of light, dwarfed by a hostile, helmeted soldier who menaces him with an upraised arm but who, along with his cohort, is sunk in shadow.
The pathos of the scene connected somewhat with the purpose of my trip, which was to address the Newman Society on the subject of child abuse, and specifically the work of spiritual and psychological healing for abuse survivors modelled on a programme called Grief to Grace.
I am happy to give such talks because trying to advertise such a programme, let alone get practical or financial support for it, is an uphill struggle. I never give such a talk without discovering that there is someone in the audience directly affected by the issues, someone who is grateful to hear that trauma of abuse explains why previously good, God-fearing and loving people find their lives fall apart in the wake of it.
On this occasion a woman stands up to speak, her voice breaking with emotion. She tells how between the ages of seven and nine her son was an altar server and was abused by a priest. She is angry with the Church not just because it happened, but because in the wake of it happening she says she met a climate of hostility within the Church for disclosing it. Her son went off the rails in the years following, becoming a drug addict. She hasn’t seen him for months.
“It would have been nice,” she says with dignity, “if just once, someone from the diocese or the parish had called to ask how he was. This programme needs to be in every diocese in every country.”
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