Catholic Bishops, look into the eyes of the future of the Church and step up.
That’s the message behind a campaign by two mothers in Philadelphia. That’s,where an excruciatingly detailed grand jury report has led for the first time to a criminal indictment of a high ranking church official for transferring known pedophile priests from one unsuspecting parish to the next.
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Monica Yant Kinney wrote Sunday about two outraged Philadelphia moms, Susan Matthews and Kathy Kane, are asking people to mail their archbishop pictures of their children, the face of the future, and then make radical change to bring in lay voices in the fight to clean up the clergy sex abuse mess.
“If I just sit in church and hand in my money,” Matthews said, “I’m an accomplice to these crimes.”
“My faith was handed to me like a present with a bow, but I feel like I’m handing my kids a battered box,” added Kane. “As a Catholic parent, I resent that.”
Long letters from outraged churchgoers, they agree, could be easily brushed aside with a form response from Philadelphia Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali. That’s why the photo campaign seems so brilliant. Who could ignore thousands of innocent faces — girls in Holy Communion dresses, boys playing baseball, babies being baptized?
If you need horror-by-horror details, the Inquirer’s coverage and links will give you the sad story:
Msgr. William Lynn, the pastor of St. Joseph Church in Downingtown, was put on administrative leave Friday, more than a week after he was charged with “purposely” shielding abusive priests and endangering children in the late 1990s, the Philadelphia Archdiocese announced Sunday.
With his arrest on Feb. 10, Lynn became the first Roman Catholic Church supervisor nationwide to be charged with covering up the sexual abuse of minors, authorities said.
It was the second time in less than six years that a grand jury castigated the archdiocese for its mishandling of sex-abuse cases. The new grand jury report flatly stated that the current leadership under Rigali has not lived up to its promise to protect children by weeding out predatory clergy, keeping as many as 41 priests “in ministry despite solid, credible allegations of abuse.”
Lynn will go to court and, as Religion News Service notes,
… Lynn faces up to 28 years in prison if convicted. The archdiocese will continue to pay his legal fees, even though the judge warned Lynn that his legal strategy may come to conflict with the church’s…
“Their interests may not align with yours,” Judge Cardwell Hughes told him Friday, “if you reach a point where the archdiocese says, ‘We don’t want you to do X because X exposes the archdiocese to liability, criminally or civilly, or X exposes the archdiocese to negative publicity.'”
And what does the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have to say about Philadelphia? Nothing.
As the Associated Press points out, the nation’s Catholic leaders have
… “renewed their 2002 pledge to oust predator priests, while stopping short of rebuking the Philadelphia archdiocese over allegations by a recent grand jury that it kept 37 dangerous priests on the job.
The AP called it a “mildly-worded statement” that vaguely alludes to “recent disclosures about the church’s response” to sex-abuse complaints.
Indeed, as the New York Times’ Laurie Goodstein points out, the rules established in 2002 and the annual audits since then completely missed the mess in Philadelphia:
Now the bishops are hearing parishioners, abuse victims and the church’s own child protection workers voicing a sense of betrayal.
Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan did come on stronger in his March 20th interview on 60 Minutes where he said,
“When you think what happened both that a man who proposes to act in the name of God would have abused an innocent young person and that some bishops in a way would have continenced that by reassigning abusers, nothing less than hideous. Nothing less than nauseating.”
But… not enough for any bishop except Cardinal Bernard Law, Archbishop of Boston, the epicenter of the scandal in 2002, to step aside in shame. There may be fewer than one in three of the men who were bishops then, still in office but, the mothers in Kinney’s story raise a challenge to them all.
But is the bishops group as a whole seems impervious to this?
A Catholic father tried this once before. Last year, Rod Dreher, then blogging at Beliefnet, wrote about Dave Spotanski, an official in the Belleville, Ill., diocese when Bishop Wilton Gregory headed the bishops’ group.
Spotanski wrote to Gregory a passionate letter about concern for his children ( The St. Louis Beacon made the text public last spring)and Gregory kept it with him as he steered the recalcitrant bishops to their 2002 pledge. Now, who will hold their feet to the fire? Will the photos do it?
THINK ABOUT IT: Have Catholic lay people — the vast majority served by good and faithful priests — wearied of the whole mess? Is this an issue for all parents, all Catholics, or just the victims? Could — or should — the USCCB step up to pressure members to resign?