Healing ForceBarbara Blaine

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While in junior high school in Toledo, Ohio, Blaine was sexually abused by her priest — for five years, starting when she was 12. After college — and obtaining a master’s degree in social work from Washington University in St. Louis, and a law degree from DePaul University — Blaine stayed in her faith, working as a lay missionary in Jamaica, working with Pax Christi (an international Catholic peace movement) in Chicago, and worked 10 years with the Catholic Worker, a social service agency. In her spare time, Blaine opened a homeless facility in a former Chicago convent, and worked as an assistant Cook County Public Guardian, which acts as the guardian of disabled adults, and as attorneys for abused and neglected children. After reading in the late 1980s that sexual abuse by priests was a widespread problem, Blaine came forward and formally accused her former priest, Chet Warren. When several other victims also came forward, Warren was defrocked. The Roman Catholic Church, however, didn’t back Blaine: maybe she had “misinterpreted” Warren’s “affection.” They also told her not to make a police report.

Blaine felt “raked over the coals,” so in response, in 1989, she founded the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. The non-profit’s mission is to protect those who are vulnerable to child sexual abuse, to heal those who have been wounded, and to prevent future abuse. The organization is needed: it has grown to more than 12,000 members in 56 countries, and not only serves Catholics, but also other denominations, such as Baptists, Eastern Orthodox, and Presbyterians, as well as non-religious groups such as Scouts. “Her relentless advocacy enabled millions to eventually accept a long unbelievable reality: that tens of thousands of priests raped and fondled hundreds of thousands of kids while bishops hid these heinous crimes,” said SNAP’s current managing director, Barbara Dorris. “Her contributions to a safer society would be hard to overstate.” Blaine retired from SNAP in early 2017 after 29 years at the helm, and was vacationing in Utah when she suffered an apparent ruptured aortic aneurysm, and died on September 24. She was 61.

From This is True for 1 October 2017