A Papal Request for Forgiveness Begs Clarification


from his blog “Off My Knees: Standing up for myself and other victims of sexual abuse by clergy,” April 14, 2014

“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” – Socrates

An article on the Vatican Radio’s Website  reported on  a request from Pope Francis for forgiveness for the priests who committed sexual crimes against children.  During his prepared remarks to members of BICE [International Catholic Child Bureau] whom he received on 11 April 2014 in an  in audience at the Vatican, he deviated from the prepared text.  That deviation for his text was captured in the  English translation of  the Pontiff’s prepared statement provided by Vatican Radio:

…. I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children…

Before I start this conversation I am being mindful of my fellow survivors and their families, some are no longer here because of the damage caused by predator priests. We have been subjected to endless promises of reform and lies about accountability. This is important to me as  survivor of rape by a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. At the risk of appearing to be hopeful enough that these questions will somehow come to the attention of Pope Francis, I will address my questions to him directly.

Your Holiness, I have some questions I must ask so that I can understand the meaning and intent in your words. Holy Father, from who are you asking forgiveness?  An honest question, I promise you. I am convinced of your sincerity when you say you “feel the compelled to personally take on all the evil.” If you do so, why do you qualify your statement by saying that the number of predator priests are “quite a few” in number but not when compared to the total number of priests? Your Holiness, you start off by marginalizing the depth of the crisis. Why should I trust what you go on to say next?

Are you asking survivors/victims for forgiveness? Are you asking your Church? Are you asking us to forgive those who committed such heinous acts of depravity that destroyed our trust, our faith and injured our beings? Or are you asking us to forgive those that hid and protected these monsters? Are you asking us to forgive those, both religious and laity who have expended the treasure of the church to support evil and attack us, as if we were the cause of the crimes committed against us. They  painted us as monsters or opportunists looking for an easy pay out. Are you asking for forgiveness for the marginalization of our suffering, the suffering of our families, the lost potential of our shattered lives?  Are you asking for forgiveness for the irreparable damage  and damnation of those who chose not to right a wrong but to isolate and vilify the survivors?  Are you asking forgiveness for those who put the comfort of the church ahead of the safety of children?

Holy Father, it does not matter if there are a relatively small number of predator priest relative to the total number priests in the church. It does matter that many of your Bishops chose to mitigate risk and protect predators instead of maximizing justice and protecting children. You say the church is aware of the damage and that you cannot take one step back. Until you take one step forward, your Church will remain aware but ineffective and uncaring. Until you take action to cut the cancer of protection for predators from the ranks of your bishops your Church will not be stronger.

You speak of sanctions. You want to take action to deal with the problem. Your Holiness, with great respect I ask you, what are you willing to do? My Catholic education instructs me that forgiveness is earned through acts of contrition. The words are hollow if they do not come with action, with change and with the will to live a life that is true to the values and faith that you profess.

Words are important.  Words have meaning. Holy Father, please show me that your words are sincere and that you will finally take the action necessary to protect children and vulnerable adults. Unless there is an accounting, unless the truth is more important than the comfort of those that have protected predator priests, your words will be lost on the wind.

Show me your commitment, your actions, the meaning in your words.

Detective James Dougherty Honored for Work On Philly’s Clergy Sex Abuse Cases

During the Philadelphia Coalition for Victim Advocacy lunch on April 11, awards were given to those who go above and beyond for victims of crime. Detective James Dougherty won the Barbara McPherson Award/Police Personnel Award.

Here’s an excerpt from the program book: “…He worked with compassion and diligence on the clergy abuse cases resulting in many victims revealing their victimization. The prosecutors in these trials stated that in their opinion, the convictions of the offenders would have been impossible without the contributions of Det. Dougherty.

One example of his talent and compassion for the victim and for justice is exemplified in a case in which the victim died. At the vicitm’s funeral his therapist stated the following. “There is one more person who had a very strong effect on Sean’s life. This person is someone who Sean came to rely on and trust when he feared abandonment by others. “Jim Dougherty, in the short period of time when you were in Sean’s life, you had a tremendous impact. You also had want Sean desired, a purpose. He would tell me you had a unique talent and a special gift to give to others. You were meant to be the person that you are, at this time, in this place.”



Pope Pledges to Penalize Clergy Who Harm Children

Click here to read: “Pope Francis asks forgiveness for priests who sexually abused children,” by Daniel Burke and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN, April 11, 2014

Excerpt: “The church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed.” – Pope Francis

Law Enforcement and Victims Make It Safer for Kids – Not Kansas City Diocese

The same story everywhere….

Click here to read, “As a Kansas City detective is honored in the Shawn Ratigan case, the diocese is castigated,” by Judy L. Thomas, The Kansas City Star, April 9, 2014

Excerpt: “When it becomes clear at the outset of the investigation that the entire hierarchy of a centuries-old religious denomination does not seem willing to recognize that the children depicted in the images are, in fact, victims of child exploitation, nor seem very willing to help establish the identity of the children depicted, and instead are spending millions of dollars on legal counsel in an ill-advised effort to avoid having the priest and bishop accept legal responsibility for their crimes, then you know, as an investigator, that your work is cut out for you,” said Deputy U.S. Attorney Gene Porter.

Join C4C in Justice4PAKids 5K or Mile Walk

Join Kathy and myself on May 3rd at this second annual event organized by Justice4PAKids, a non-profit that raises awareness and provides education on protecting children from sexual abuse. It’s a choice of 5K or a 1 mile walk managed by Chester County Running Store. It’s a great way to meet each other. Ask for a blue ribbon on race day to signify your affiliation with Catholics4Change. For information and registration, please visit: https://www.signup2raceusa.com/ccrs/justice4pakids/


How Would You Compare Pope Francis and Archbishop Chaput?

Click here to read: “On the same page with Francis?,” by Will Bunch, The Philadelphia Daily News, April 4, 2013


Indeed, the raw feelings caused by the abuse scandal has some local Catholics saying that Chaput could still be even more humble.

One group calling itself Catholics4Change questioned the cost of the recent donation-funded trip in which Chaput and top Pennsylvania pols went to Rome, as well as the archbishop’s failure to meet with their protesters outside the Center City cathedral on a recent Sunday.

The group’s leader, Susan Matthews, said that despite his recent remarks on inclusion, she believes that Chaput is still “all about a smaller church, a more pure church.”



I just want to clear up that I never said that the “protestor’s” were “ours.” The group consisted of victims. While they may protest the actions of the Church, I think it’s very important that these people are referred to as victims of the Church. That’s why Archbishop Chaput should have personally greeted them. Also, Catholics4Change is a online forum not a group. I’m humbled by the relationships that have been formed here, but I don’t lay claim to them. Nor, do I claim to be a leader – I’m just a blog publisher. Each and every one of you is a leader in this cause.

Many Bishops Need to Work on Penance and Apologies

Click here to read, “The Fight to Reveal Abuses by Catholic Priests,” by Clyde Haberman, The New York Times, March 30, 2014

Excerpt: The conditional nature of the apology, a style favored by innumerable politicians caught with hands in the till, was not lost on many listeners. Nor was the cardinal’s use of “mistakes” to describe a pattern routinely described by district attorneys as a cover-up. As if that were not enough, the reluctant penitent turned thoroughly unrepentant a decade later. By then retired, he withdrew his apology.

Delegation’s Roman Holiday Raises Questions and Brings Back No Answer

Click here to read, “Local Group Questions The Need for Delegation’s Trip to Rome,” by Mark Abrams, KYW Newsradio, March 31, 2014

Excerpt: “There’s a lot of questions about the cost. There’s a lot of questions about was it necessary for this? Is this a publicity stunt to distract us away from the clergy sex abuse scandal? Is this a publicity stunt to distract us away from the financial difficulties?” Matthews says even though the trip was paid by funds raised by a separate non-profit organization set up for the World Families meeting, it doesn’t fit the example Pope Francis is trying to set for the church.

“This isn’t a pope of politicians and wealthy delegates. This a pope of the people and he’s made that clear,” Matthews says she and others would love to see the pope come here. But a more austere approach for a local church still in crisis would have been better.

LETTER TO POPE From Donna Marie, C4C reader:

In light of the current delegation lobbying in Rome to convince Pope Francis to visit Philadelphia, I would like to submit my own letter to his Eminence, Il Papa.

Dear Pope Francis, The Catholic Church is in trouble. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is in real trouble. Our mayor, Governor, and Archbishop Chaput are encouraging you to visit our City of Brotherly Love at a time when love seems far removed from the church. No doubt, your presence will provide an economic windfall for my city, as a million people are expected to attend; and you are admired by so many. I liken the ongoing dismissal of the victims abused by the very men who are here to represent the teaching of Jesus to a fractured family. If I may: “Once upon a time, a respected, loved, and trusted Grandfather was left to mind his adoring grandchild. Grandpapa did the unthinkable, and sexually abused the child. When discovered by the shocked and heartbroken parents, Grandpapa made every excuse in the book to explain his abhorrent behavior. The parents were torn. After all, their family was the pillar of society. Everyone knew and respected Grandpapa. What were the parents to do? Where they to throw everything away that was good for this one, albeit heinous, indiscretion? Comforting their child, the parents explained that Grandpapa would never again be left alone with him. Grandpapa would still, of course, be a member of the family. The child would see him at all family functions. Instead, Grandpapa would now be minding the child’s cousin over at his aunt and uncle’s house. Everything will be fine, and no one else has to know. To soothe their child’s nightmares and depression, the parents suggested that he begin praying to God every day to find it in his heart to forgive Grandpapa. After all, to ere is human, and to forgive divine, right? This will always be our family secret, they told the child.” Pope Francis, please repair the damage in your “home”, the church, before you visit mine. Only then will it be a trip worth taking. Nelson Mandela once said: “Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”




One Concerned Catholic’s Take on the Healing Mass


I am at a loss for words after I meet one of our survivors and/or attend a vigil. The most recent vigil/protest outside the cathedral was no different. I always leave these events, if you can even call them that, changed – as if in peaceful mourning or as if I had just visited a very sacred place.

I had planned on attending the special mass for our clergy abuse survivors just to hear first hand what Archbishop Chaput had to say but when I heard many of our survivors were invited but not included in the planning process I changed my mind. I thought it was best to attend but be present outside in support of all those survivors that were unable or in good conscience could not go inside.

As a practicing catholic I was a little torn about not going in to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. Many times I have gone to adoration and wept before Jesus praying for our survivors by name and I believe he heard my prayers. But I knew Jesus wanted me outside on the sidewalk when Vicky, one of our survivors who has become a good friend, emailed and asked if I would come stand with her and support her as she stood outside the cathedral.

The events that unfolded on the sidewalk were very touching. I met family members of the man who was supposed to testify against Fr. Brennan. He is no longer with us but his family will forever keep his memory alive. I also met the mother of one of Fr. McCormick’s victims. One thing I have noticed is that a few of the victims families I have meet recently have members that have jobs in law enforcement. It brought home to me the fact that clergy sexual abuse can happen to anyone’s child.

Several months ago Vicky gave me crucifix that she no longer needed. I had put that in my pocket to take it to this vigil. Many times I have reflected on the symbolism behind her giving me that cross. We as a church have failed to show our survivors Jesus, but I have discovered in the past few years that the suffering Jesus is truly present in each one of our survivors. In many ways our survivors have saved my faith and given me hope. Their brutal honesty, compassion, courage and abilty to still have a sense of humor despite what they have been thru gives witness to something greater than this earthly world we live in.

When the news people asked to take pictures, a few people were concerned about the ramifications of their names being made public but they gave their names anyway so their pictures could be printed. Just one of the many ways our survivors take risks and sacrifice for others. Isn’t that what real love does – lay down their life for another?

The photographer at one point mentioned that many people don’t seem to realize that woman were also abused and then he mention he had a 12 yr old daughter. Fom his expression you could tell he wanted the best for his daughter and for her to be safe from all harm. I think that is every parent’s wish and why it is so important that laws are changed and children protected.

The security guards seemed a little curious about why we were there and if we would cause any trouble. I even had one ask if everything was going ok, etc. I introduced myself and said everything was good and that I was a practicing catholic and a member of my parishes pastors council there to support my friend Vicky, who was a survivor. I got into a very interesting discussion about why the laws need to change and how law changes were not just to collect money or attack the church but to expose present day predators and keep kids safe today. We talked about accountability and how in his church a member had to step down because he had an affair. He said that If that person had really understood why he had to do so, he would have not made a fuss upon leaving. If he had understood what he was preaching and wasn’t in it just for the prestige he would understand the need for consequences.

The crowd of survivors and advocates was diverse. There was a politician present who also was a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. Sr. Maureen was there as usual and we all joked she was more dependable than the mailman because she always showed up to vigils snow, sleet, rain or shine. Some people going into and coming out of the Mass for clergy sexual abuse survivors didn’t seem interested in stopping to speak to actual abuse survivors which seemed rather ironic. For the most part, the people coming out of the Mass were very kind.

One person who stuck out in my mind was a young man who seemed like he was in his 20s. A discussion broke out that started to get a little heated. The young man seemed a little defensive and stated that the church had made some mistakes and that it was cleaning up its act. The family of one of the survivors who is no longer with us got upset with a few of his comments. Later in the conversation it came out that he was from another Archdiocese and he was discerning whether or not to become a priest. He noted that for such a large diocese the churches where empty and I told him that more recently this was the result of the ongoing clergy abuse scandal and release of the 2 grand jury reports. I asked him if he had read them himself and that I use to think the way he did and that I thought I understood clergy sexual abuse. It was not until I read them, and Archbishop Bevilacqua’s testimony and met with our survivors that I truly began to understand. He started to lower his defenses and said after hearing what our survivors had to say, he felt a little shell shocked and was interested in learning more and would do some research online. I told him if he searched for the truth, he would find it. And although my faith has been rocked to its core, I cling to Jesus.

After the vigil Vicky, Rich and I set out for dinner and some conversation.That was quite an adventure. We had some really good conversations. Rich seemed like he was in a really good place in his life right now and we talked about the dumb Catholics, myself included, who really had no idea what clergy abuse and its affect on children was all about. When Catholics4Change first started, Rich said we ticked him off and how he felt he needed to be brutally honest to get through to us. I thanked him and Vicky for all the education and insight they provided for us. Rich also mentioned he might write a blog about how he felt unsupported by Catholics for so many years and that now that has started to change for him. Rich I don’t want to steal the wind from under your sails, and I am not as gifted a writer as you, so please write that blog. Every time you write, you educate us and encourage other survivors to find their voice. I think in the end that’s what Catholics4Change has taught me. When you are brave enough to reach out to others and keep an open heart – nothing stays the same.

Former Altar Boy Fights for Better Sex Abuse Laws

Click here to read, “Alleged victim targets accused pedophile priest 30 years later,” by Jason Sickles, Yahoo News, March 28, 2014


“…the Philadelphia Archdiocese conspired to shield Brzyski and 62 other priests who had molested hundreds of children over three decades. The hierarchy “excused and enabled the abuse” by burying reports and “covering up the conduct…to outlast any statutes of limitation.”

Because the time to file criminal charges had lapsed, neither Brzyski nor the other priests were ever charged.

Delaney, who had shared his abuse in graphic detail with the grand jury, rain into the same roadblock in civil court. His lawsuit was thrown out because at age 34 he was 14 years beyond the cutoff.


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