Activist Sr. Maureen Turlish Dies

You’re a bold and brazen article. Back in the day, an Irish nun might shame a defiant student with this derogatory phrase. Today, I honor a nun with it. Sister Maureen Paul Turlish was a bold and brazen article for all the right reasons. The Sister of Notre de Namur was a rebel with a cause. She tirelessly advocated for victims of clergy sex abuse and the misled faithful.

Sr. Maureen died on July 18th in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In remembering her today, Kathy and I couldn’t help but laugh. Sr. Maureen was hilarious. Not what one expects when dealing with the horrific and tragic. Her humor was dark, honest and clever. It honored the victims. She was a pistol aimed at clericalism.

Sr. Maureen helped found the National Survivor Advocates Coalition and served on the board of directors for the Delaware Association for Children of Alcoholics and on the steering committee for Philadelphia’s Voice of the Faithful and Catholic WhistleBlowers.

CHANGING LAWS & LIVES

A member of the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, she spoke before the Senate and House Judiciary Committees in support of the 2007 Delaware Child Victims Law which removed all statutes of limitation covering the sexual abuse of children and provided a two-year civil window which remains open for previously time-barred cases. She wanted the same for Pennsylvanians and spoke in Harrisburg.

Her articles on the subject appeared in secular and religious publications and she spoke at national conferences. Sister Maureen was frequently interviewed on radio and tv.

Sr. Maureen leaves a legacy of changed lives, including my own. I know that C4C followers will carry on the fight to protect children and the Church.

Click to read her editorial on the Diocese of Altoona-Johnston. We are sure to learn more if/when the PA Grand Jury Report is released.  “It’s time for diocese to put victims first,” The Tribune-Democrat, March 21, 2017

 

“Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I, and you are you. Whatever we were to each other that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone, wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.

Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was,
let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was; there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.

All is well.”

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Archdiocese Settles Abuse Lawsuit with Largest Reported Payout

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia settled a claim of sex abuse brought by the family of Sean McIlmail, a 26-year-old former student at Resurrection of Our Lord parish in Northeast Philadelphia. Shortly before he was to testify in a criminal case against Father Robert L. Brennan, the former altar boy died of a heroin overdose in 2013. McIlmail said the now-defrocked priest molested him for four years – beginning at age 11.

According to the family, it’s the largest payout made by the Philadelphia Archdiocese. While the amount is secret, it won’t cover the cost of McIlmail’s life. It might only serve as a potent reminder and motivator for meaningful changes in policy and practice.

Click here to read “In largest reported payout yet, Philadelphia Archdiocese settles abuse case,” by Craig R. McCoy, The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 25, 2018

Excerpt:

“In the 2005 grand jury report, city prosecutors painted Brennan as a repeat offender who kept striking anew as the church shuttled him from parish to parish, lying to parishioners about his stays in a church-run treatment facility in Chester County. The parishes were told that Brennan was “on retreat” or sick with Lyme disease.

In all, Brennan abused more than 20 youngsters in four parishes, including Resurrection, according to the grand jury report.  Brennan, 80, was removed from active ministry soon after the report was released and defrocked last year. He has been living in Maryland for several years.”

Editor’s Note:

Legal challenges continue to delay the release of a Grand Jury Report conducted by the PA Attorney General’s Office. Their investigation details abuse and alleged cover-ups in several other Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses. State laws continue to work against victims and child protection.

 

 

 

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‘Dark Secret’ Documentary Now On Amazon

Dark Secret, a documentary about the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s clergy sex abuse coverup, is now available on Amazon.  It’s released just in time for the newest Grand Jury Report that will detail more coverups in several other Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses.

It previously aired on PBS and I’m honored to have been interviewed for it. Documentarian Anne MacGregor worked tirelessly to bring the facts forward. It serves as yet another call to action for Catholics, the PA legislature and voters. Please watch and share with anyone who has or cares about children.

The hidden story of one of the worst criminal cover-ups in America’s history: The victims – hundreds of children whose lives were destroyed. The perpetrators – Catholic clergy protected by their church. The inside story of what happened when Philadelphia’s District Attorney heard that there was a list of 35 priests guilty of child sexual abuse and asked why they weren’t brought to justice. – Amazon

Click here to order. Prime members can watch for free.

– Susan Matthews

Update – End Doesn’t Justify Means

by Susan Matthews

A lawyer who privately came forward was not able to help a survivor, whose story you read about in the previous post. The survivor now wants his name made public.

David Eyes was a child when he was abused by Father Robert L. Brennan. He spent too much of his adult life embroiled in a grand jury investigation. The grueling emotional process cut fresh wounds into his already scarred psyche. Suicide attempts and subsequent hospitalization made it clear that self preservation meant stepping away from it all. It was the right decision for him and his family. David is working, married and surviving.

But now, his hard-won and tenuous stability is threatened. Lawyers prosecuting a civil case against the Philadelphia archdiocese on behalf of another victim asked him to testify. David explained why he couldn’t – how it might cost him his life. They responded with a subpoena.

Cornered and forced to ensure something horrific as child, David is once again cornered and being forced to do something terrifying as an adult. The subpoena compels him to appear in court on Monday, May 7 or he’ll be held in contempt – which carries the possibility of arrest and fines. Yet, the price he’ll pay for testifying is far worse. So he and his family have decided he won’t comply with the subpoena.

David is refusing on behalf of all survivors. No one should be re-victimized, he says.

Civil and criminal cases have been the best means of gaining public awareness, preventing abuse and offering an opportunity for justice. But the end does not justify the means when a survivor is forced to testify.

End Doesn’t Justify the Means

by Susan Matthews

Abused by a priest as a kid, Thomas (not his real name) spent too much of his adult life embroiled in a grand jury investigation. The grueling emotional process cut fresh wounds into his already scarred psyche. Suicide attempts and subsequent hospitalization made it clear that self preservation meant stepping away from it all. It was the right decision for him and his family. Thomas is working, married and surviving.

But now, his hard-won and tenuous stability is threatened. Lawyers prosecuting a civil case against the Philadelphia archdiocese on behalf of another victim asked him to testify. Thomas explained why he couldn’t – how it might cost him his life. They responded with a subpoena.

Cornered and forced to do something horrific as child, Thomas is once again cornered and being forced to do something terrifying as an adult. The subpoena compels him to appear in court or he’ll be held in contempt and fined. Yet, the price he’ll pay for testifying is far worse.

Civil and criminal cases have been the best means of gaining public awareness, preventing abuse and offering an opportunity for justice. But the end does not justify the means when a survivor is re-victimized.

What options does Thomas have in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas? Are there any lawyers willing to offer pro bono advice on fighting the subpoena?

UPDATE: A lawyer has reached out and is helping Thomas. Thank you for the outpouring of support and advice. Thomas and his family are deeply appreciative for all of you.