The day began with the Pennsylvania Senate pushing a vote on a civil Statute of Limitations window into the next term, but it ends with a sweeping Federal investigation of the Pennsylvania Catholic Church. There’s room for hope that justice will no longer be denied – only delayed.
With that in mind, Catholics4Change is participating in a free webinar this Monday, 7-8PM, that will provide survivors with more information on the civil court process and their options.
Brian Kent, a Philadelphia-based attorney, will explain the latest proposed legislation and the possibilities they present. He will outline the details and outcomes of two criminal trials and one civil trial involving Father Andrew McCormick.
Nicholas Joniec, a clergy abuse survivor, will share his experience pursuing justice in the courts.
Susan Matthews, of Catholics4Change, will introduce panelists and moderate the webinar attendee questions and answers portion.
The identity of webinar attendees will not be visible and names will not be shared before, during or after the webinar. Your privacy is important to us.
For more information, please click here to visit the registration page.
Dear Senators Scarnati, Corman and Costa,
As a kid, you might have been told you had a guardian angel who watched over and protected you? We were. It was fascinating to think there was an invisible presence keeping us from harm. Some kids even named their guardian angel and wondered if they’d meet them in heaven.
We’ve met our children’s angels. Their names are Vicky, Mark, Mike, Shaun, Julie Ann, Mary, John, Patty, Carolyn, Jim, Jeanne…. Every victim and survivor in Pennsylvania who has spoken out about their clergy abuse is helping to protect kids. They’ve sacrificed privacy and emotional wellness to warn future generations of Catholic families about predator priests. They’ve done everything in their limited power to ensure no child endures the horror they experienced. But it’s not enough.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been the subject of two Grand Jury reports (2005 and 2011), which lead to dozens of abusive priests being removed from ministry and some legal reforms. The PA Grand Jury Report has revealed so much more.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia touts their victims’ assistance program and child protection efforts. But the devil is in the details, literally.
- The PA Grand Jury Report points out what we already know, that child predator priests from all over the country are shipped to a Catholic facility in Pennsylvania located across the street from 1,000 Archdiocesan students.
- The Archdiocese has a set of standards for all church personnel who interact with children and young people but they don’t educate the kids and teens on the standards. How will they know what to report?
- The Archdiocese will not agree to implement policy agreeing to notify parents of a child when church personnel violate the standards.
- In Philadelphia, a victim can pick up a newspaper and read that Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, the head of Office of Child and Youth Protection/Victims Assistance has celebrated the funeral of a child predator priest.
- Parents at a parish find out that a priest being investigated for child sex abuse was left at the parish for almost a year while being investigated.
When Archdiocesan leadership promises they will report sexual abuse, that’s because it’s the law now. Anything less than law leaves it to their judgment, which has been proven to put children at risk.
Yes, their victims assistance program provides free therapy. Imagine if a car manufacturer knowingly sent cars with defective brakes out on the road and then offered free physical therapy for those injured as a result. Would that be enough? We’ve witnessed victims, and family members of deceased victims, ignored and even hassled.
This institution takes more guidance from attorneys than the Gospel. We say this as Catholic moms, both the product of Catholic schools, who sent our kids to the same. Lucky to have only been betrayed, we trust in God and in our legal system. We don’t believe the bishops. Neither should you.
Window legislation benefits all Pennsylvanians. Civil suits can expose even more abuse and cover ups. A copy of memo, made prior to it being shredded, listing the names of 35 abusive priests was introduced during a criminal trial in Philadelphia. One priest from the list was still in ministry at the time. Archdiocesan leadership knew, but did nothing until his name was revealed in a court room. Children are the safer for it. Civil suits will offer the same opportunity for discovery.
The victims, survivors and their family members have been heroic in their efforts to protect our children. They deserve justice and they deserve to be released from the clutches of the Church, whose reach extends to our commonwealth’s capitol. And what about abuse survivors who aren’t Catholic? The bishops and Catholic Conference lobbying efforts block justice for those abused by a uncle, coach or neighbor.
Who is lobbying on behalf of our kids? It’s the victims, those who were raped and molested as children. It’s tragic and beautiful that they are the ones on the front lines. We wish we could offer the words that express the empathy, gratitude and respect they deserve. But you can offer those words in new legislation.
Please extend an opportunity for civil justice, an opportunity to expose child predators and the institutions that hide them, and an opportunity to better protect all Pennsylvania children.
Kathy Kane & Susan Matthews
WRITE & EMAIL YOUR LETTERS TODAY
Please share your thoughts with these senators and your own:
This week is the final time the Pennsylvania Senate will be voting before the two-year session ends in November. So much is at stake for victims and children.
Excerpts from: As Pa. Senate session winds down, last-minute push would allow two-year window for clergy abuse victims, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 14, 2018
Senator Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, has declined interview requests and “his office circulated a counter-proposal calling for the creation of a ‘tribunal’ of judges appointed by the state’s appellate courts that would, in turn, select an administrator to manage a compensation fund. Mr. Scarnati’s proposal also would create some sort of public registry that would allow victims to petition courts to have an abuser’s name added to it.
The proposal was swiftly opposed by victims and their advocates, many of whom characterize it as a bailout for the Catholic Church and the insurance industry. Both have argued that it could lead to devastating financial blows.
‘We don’t need more bureaucracy,’ said York-area advocate Kristen Pfautz Woolley, who was abused as a child. ‘We need a two-year window for survivors to use the existing court system to obtain justice.’
Ms. Woolley said her abuser was not a priest, but a man her family trusted. She said for many victims, compensation has little to do with achieving justice.
‘I want to face my abuser in court,” she said. “I want to make sure that he never harms another child.’
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, declined a media request made last week through his spokeswoman.
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said he believed there was support in his caucus for the measure, but he didn’t have a specific vote count.
‘I think there are a number of members in our caucus who would like a two-year window, but I don’t believe that that is where our colleagues in the Senate Republican caucus are at,’ Mr. Costa said.”
by Susan Matthews
Last week, Pennsylvania bishops issued a joint statement outlining a myopic and self-serving plan for compensating past victims of clergy child sex abuse.
In a PhillyCatholic.com editorial on the statement, Archbishop Chaput seemingly boasts about how the archdiocesan victim’s assistance program “has quietly served hundreds of abuse victims and their families for more than 15 years and underwritten their therapy and care in an amount totaling more than $18 million.”
Grand Juries = Grand Gestures
First, let’s state the obvious. None of it would have been necessary if the hierarchy hadn’t allowed priests to continue abusing children while covering it up for DECADES.
Why did it take another Grand Jury report for the bishops to make this grand gesture? Is that commitment or public relations? I think it’s the latter combined with a strategic lobbying effort. One PhillyCatholic.com reader, Anita, writes in the comments section, “So now the bishops are pledging ‘new’ aid….if the statute of limitations issue was not on PA’s radar screen would these ‘new’ funds have been available?”
If this gesture were at all sincere, these resources would be available even if the statute of limitations were to be temporarily lifted for civil cases. But they aren’t.
Crystal Clear Agenda (For Once)
“We’re committed to dedicating substantially more resources to the task of helping survivors, unless destructive, retroactive statute of limitations legislation makes that impossible.”
Note the word – “unless.” Chaput explains “destructive” by warning that parishes may go bankrupt. Are any of bishops concerned about moral bankruptcy? They’ve become pros at mitigating financial risk and placing the burden on those in the pews.
For insight, check out: The Bishop’s Alter Ego: Enterprise Liability and the Catholic Priest Sex Abuse Scandal, Journal of Catholic Legal Studies
Ignores Justice for ALL Victims
The bishops’ compensation plan doesn’t take into account ALL victims of child sex abuse. What about those abused by an uncle or a coach? Shouldn’t they be entitled to pursue compensation through a civil case? The bishops’ plan doesn’t even apply to victims abused by Catholic order priests – only diocesan clergy. Semantics. They’ll let Franciscans or Oblates teach in archdiocesan schools and celebrate Mass at parishes, but they won’t take responsibility for them. Retroactive statute of limitations legislation would apply to everyone.
Doesn’t Protect Kids
This legislation also provides an important element of prevention. Not all of these alleged abusers are dead. One could be living next to your granddaughter or your nephew. They are in a community living in anonymity alongside children. The legal process allows for identification and public awareness.
Read “No One Is Monitoring Former Abusive Priests,” by the National Catholic Reporter
Yes, it’s disheartening that the diocesan coverups in Pennsylvania have put so much at risk. That’s why the Pope should create a betrayal compensation plan for parishes, Catholic social services and other ministries. I don’t blame the legal system. The blame lies squarely with the Church.
In the wake of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report on clergy child sex abuse, 900 survivors have called a hotline launched by the attorney general’s office.
PA Clergy Abuse Hotline: 888-538-8541
For many, that call was the first time they shared their abuse.
I vividly remember the first time our pediatrician went over good touch/bad touch with my toddler-aged daughter during a routine exam in 2000. It took me by surprise. The doctor explained it was part of her training and protocol. It was a simple protective measure that hadn’t occurred to me.
Growing up in the 80s, there wasn’t an ABC afterschool special titled, “The Day Father Mark Molested Me.” It wasn’t even a blip on my radar. I knew kids were abused, but I thought it was really rare and happened somewhere else.
It took the release of the 2011 Grand Jury Report about the clergy sex abuse in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to hit home – literally. I couldn’t understand why the world, or at least my part of the world, wasn’t more shaken.
Many of the survivors were my age and grew up within miles. After suffering in silence for years, they were telling loved ones and strangers that they’d lived a lie by omission – and by necessity.
There’s a fine line between self-preservation and self-destruction when it comes to surviving child sex abuse. The disbelief, rejection, stigma and additional trauma of disclosure has to be weighed against the hope for acceptance, support and healing.
It may finally be easier to choose the latter. I sense a cultural shift since the latest grand jury report, the Me Too movement and widespread media coverage of sex abuse.
According to therapists, when those who endure trauma share their story out loud, it helps them acknowledge it. Then healing can begin, but only if those listening really hear them.
It’s become loud and clear. Public awareness and support is growing. Maybe even more important, survivors know their numbers now. The percentage of the population is staggeringly high.
Neither Kathy or I are survivors, but the statistical odds tell us that someone we love is a survivor or will become one. Neither is an acceptable circumstance. Support and protect.
“The Vatican knew of a cover-up involving abusive priests, Pennsylvania AG says,” by Holly Yan, CNN, August 28, 2018
“Pope Francis Long Knew of Cardinal’s Abuse and Must Resign, Archbishop says,” by Jason Horowitz, The New York Times, August 26, 2018
Does anyone believe that the Pope didn’t know? Clearly many in Ireland believe he knew or stopped considering the Church altogether. Not surprising given the horrific abuses the faithful there suffered at the hands of the institutional Church.
“Pope Ends Visit To A Disillusioned Ireland, Where Church Authority Has Plunged,” by Frank Langfitt, NPR, August, 27, 2018
Speaking of disillusioned, Catholics In Action organized a gathering near the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul on Sunday, August 26. Advocates, victims and their families met to share outrage, support and prayer.
“Philly Catholic group calls for action outside the Cathedral Basilica,” by Antionette Lee, KYW.com, August 26, 2018
“Today, we call on the Catholic Bishops of the United States to prayerfully and genuinely consider submitting to Pope Francis their collective resignation as a public act of repentance and lamentation before God and God’s People.
We urge them to follow the example of Chile’s thirty-four bishops, who resigned collectively in May of this year after revelations of widespread sexual abuse and corruption were brought to light. Through prudent discernment, Pope Francis ultimately accepted three of these thirty-four resignations. It should be noted that the active bishop-to-Catholic ratio is almost the same in Chile and the United States, and that the geographical scope of the crisis in this country appears to surpass that of Chile. After years of suppressed truth, the unreserved decisiveness of the Chilean bishops’ resignations communicated to the faithful a message that Catholics in the United States have yet to hear, with an urgency we have yet to witness: We have caused this devastation. We have allowed it to persist. We submit ourselves to judgment in recompense for what we have done and failed to do….”