The Garden of Forgiveness Project

 

PLEASE NOTE: The Garden of Forgiveness Project, as outlined below in a proposal presented by Instruments of Peace (IOP), was rejected in 2010 by friar Richard McManus, OFM, the guardian, at the time, of Old Mission Santa Barbara. His decision was summarily upheld by friar John Hardin, OFM, provincial minister of the Franciscan Province of St. Barbara in Oakland, California. Most disturbing to IOP was the manner in which the Garden was dismissed. After years of planning and preparation, no clear and credible explanation was ever offered for the rejection of the Garden of Forgiveness project. A formal notice announcing McManus' decision was never sent to IOP, and news of the Garden's rejection was received only after repeated inquiries by IOP board members. The board was left with no other choice but to conclude that McManus' decision ignored the merits of the proposal and any benefits to the community, and was based on his personal animus toward SafeNet and its co-founder, Paul Fericano. 

 

The idea and concept of The Garden of Forgiveness was, and remains, an integral part of the healing process for everyone impacted by clergy abuse--both in the Santa Barbara community and beyond. It includes survivors of St. Anthony's Seminary and the Santa Barbara Boys Choir, their family members, schoolmates, community and parish members, members of the clergy, and the offenders themselves. Moreover, the very name associated with the Garden has gone on to suggest an inclusive and welcoming space of safety, solitude, and serenity for anyone who has experienced trauma of any kind. For many, it has become a spiritual symbol of restorative healing and private reconciliation. 

The archival documents below contain the introduction, the original Garden of Forgiveness proposal, the beautiful conceptual landscape drawing by landscape architect Katie O'Reilly Rogers (1953-2020), and "The Story Behind the Garden," which were first drafted in the Summer of 2008 in Santa Barbara, California. 

 

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Healing the Wounds of Clergy Sexual Abuse: A Proposal

    Introduction

     In the face of overwhelming and grievious wrongs, no matter the cause, certain considerations for personal healing can often be abandoned or never mentioned at all. The option of discussing forgiveness, as one example, can sometimes be perceived as an act of treachery in the healing process.  

    In their groundbreaking book, The Courage to Heal, Ellen Bass and Laura Davis write that: "Forgiveness is a by-product of the [healing] process, not the final reward." Any misunderstanding of the purpose and process of forgiveness--a process itself that requires the willingness to forgive and not the need to do so--can limit our choices and cause us to discard valuable transformative tools. In doing so, we risk mistaking a great strength for a sign of weakness.

     The Garden of Forgiveness is a hopeful and ambitious project proposed and sponsored by SafeNet, a program of Instruments of Peace, a California non-profit. If successful, it will be the first garden of its kind inspired by survivors of clergy sexual abuse who made a willing choice to forgive their offenders and reconcile with the religious order that betrayed them.

     This project is a grassroots movement with a global view. Its focus is on helping others to heal. Its goal is to raise awareness of forgiveness while raising $4 - 6 million in donations. When final plans are approved, SafeNet will vigorously pursue an inclusive campaign to secure the financial support of many individuals and institutions, both secular and religious. Please join us. 

 

Learn more about The Garden of Forgiveness and how you can help.

 

To view and print a copy of The Garden of Forgiveness proposal  click here

To view a conceptual drawing of The Garden of Forgiveness  click here

To view and print a copy of "The Story Behind the Garden" click here

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