Breaking the Silence

by Nancy Buck, guest blogger

Written after the Grand Jury Report Release in Jan. 2011.

> We heard the news; we read the carefully crafted damage control statements. We
> gritted our teeth and drew taut our lips. We dropped silent tears for children
> so young, so scarred, so betrayed. Some of us renewed our warnings to our
> children.  This week we met at CYO games, in church vestibules, bus stops, and
> school activities.  Through it all we sounded a murmur of disapproval;
> sometimes refusing to write that offertory check or vowing not to attend
> church, feeling helpless to do anything else.  But until we raise our voices,
> like a practiced choir in a communal cry of “ENOUGH!” then we have failed the
> victims of clergy abuse, just as surely as our church officials have.  So why
> then are we so silent?
> Like many faithful in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, I attended church this
> past weekend skeptical, disappointed and curious as to how the leaders could
> respond.  As it turned out, some addressed their congregations with petitions
> for prayers, or at one, a substitute priest addressed the church, as their
> pastor stands accused of a crime.  Still others, like the church I attended in
> Exton, remained silent, but for the reference to a terse statement from
> Cardinal Rigali, left in piles in the vestibule.  Granted, many innocent
> clergy grapple with their own response, and many faithful may be fearful of
> “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”; but to remain silent is to give
> credence to the way the hierarchy of the church continues to handle these
> cases—shielded from view of society and its own congregations, a puzzling
> response, in view of a basic Catholic catechism.
> The church, we are told from first lessons, is the PEOPLE—the body of
> believers.  As such it is our duty to call for reform, demand a voice, protect
> our children and join with other voices of concern, like those of the
> Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), who stood on the wintry
> sidewalks of the City of Brotherly Love with only twenty-five strong, while we
> kneeled in the warmth of the churches by the hundreds, unaware of their
> painful plight.

Catholics join in the thousands in support of children whose
> voices are silenced by abortions; yet for these victims of abuse, our church
> community musters merely silent prayer. Through shame? Through embarrassment
> for our church?   How different it might be if we collectively stood by these
> children, now men and women, and joined hands in demanding reform, instead of
> relying on Seth Williams and a grand jury to be their only defenders.  The
> next time these victims brave the cold, from both Mother Nature and from
> within the church, we, lay and clergy alike, should march beside them.  The time has come
> to raise our voices, plan mass demonstrations, withhold funds, overturn the
> moneychangers in the temple and pass the word, “ENOUGH!”

3 thoughts on “Breaking the Silence

  1. Hi Nancy,

    I give you tremendous credit for displaying the courage to post these comments. Way to go.

    I give Susan tremendous credit for displaying the courage to share your comments. Way to go.

    Support on the front lines is exactly what the victims/survivors need from those of us who were not directly affected by these crimes.

    It is my hope that you have provided the impetus for others who feel similarly to act.

    I was out there in the cold with the victims Susan, and I was struck by the lack of respect afforded to them by some of the churchgoers

    I try to understand that, to some extent, they have never had to think for themselves, as the church dictated what to beleive, what to think, and how to act. I do understand that it is undoubtedly a shock for them to see picketers outside of their beloved church.

    I would ask them to simply, take a breath, and consider that these folks are catholics themselves who would rather be somewhere else entirely, but for the lack of justice, and cover-up of crimes, they feel compelled to act.

    Hopefully, your courageous words will resonate with committed catholics, and result in more support for these groups.

    While there were many examples of polite people accepting leaflets, and some offering quiet words of support, many were indifferent, and some, in fact, rude to the victims.

    I will spare you all the indignity of some of the comments that I heard, suffice to say that they were not words of support. One victim had Polish coins thrown at him by an eldery woman.

    I couldn’t make that up could I?

    The point is that the viewpoint is dysfunctional. The victims have no culpability at all, the grand jurors said as much. The ire needs to be directed where it belongs, namely on the crimes, and the subsequent, and current cover-up.

    One aspect of the picketers motivation, regardless of the group they represent is the simple fact that we are painfully aware that there are other victims out there.

    If a priest is credibly accused, there is a serious concern, and likelihood, that there are undeclared victims where that priest may have been.

    The initial responsibility for all of us is to learn as much as possible about this horrible situation.

    One can learn a great deal in a short period of time by visting the website.

    Some additional websites, that I am aware of are the, which Nancy refers to, and victim assistance websites such as, and

    At the very least, become apprised of the details of the three grand jury reports, and raise awareness in the parishes where offenders may have worked. Converse openly so as to create an atmosphere of acceptance for victims who may need encouragement to come forward.

    It takes great courage to join in this fight, and I hope that the disparate groups involved can work together for the sake of current victims, and victims, who sadly, may be being created currently.

    In my opinion, the victims deserve credit for coming out, the VOTF folks deserve credit for banging the drum about corruption in the church, and for exerting pressure on the PA legislators, the victim assistance folks deserve credit for being there for the victims for all of these years, and the rest of us at the very least need not be a passing parade.

    If you all can motivate your people to join the fight you may be able to provide the tipping point in this whole mess.

    Either way I give you credit for sayin so, I’m sure that the victims appreciate it. After all, they have been dealing with this for many years, and for most of that time they apparently thought that they were alone, and that no one cared.

    In the way of an anecdote I will offer one last sentiment. As I handed one elderly woman a pamphlet outside of mass recently, I told her that we were there supporting the victims.

    She took the paper, leaned over and whispered in a hushed tone, “Me too”.

    How about it? You too?

  2. Yesterday at the rally I spoke with a woman whose life was tragically altered when her father took his life many years ago. Her father was a victim of clergy sex abuse at a time when there were no support groups,no protests,no belief in accusations. He suffered in silence . She lost her father when she was 7 years old.
    I was amazed at the grace this woman expressed when she thanked us for being at the rally. She said so often it is the survivors and survivor’s families that are present, She was thankful that people like us were now showing up.She said this with no bitterness, that we have been absent up until now.
    I don’t know if I could have been as gracious if the roles were reversed. Well we are here now,maybe it took us awhile,but we are here.

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