No Policy and No Accountability = No Trust

Another Long Lent

The abuse crisis resurfaces in Philadelphia

by Nicholas P. Cafardi, Commonweal Magazine, April 2011

Last month, three Philadelphia priests were indicted for sexual abuse, and their former vicar for clergy was charged with child endangerment. Perhaps more troubling, those indictments came after a grand jury found “substantial evidence of abuse” committed by at least thirty-seven other priests who remained in active ministry. In response, Cardinal Justin Rigali said that “there are no archdiocesan priests in ministry today who have an admitted or established allegation of sexual abuse of a minor against them.” Six days later the archbishop placed three of the thirty-seven on administrative leave. Three weeks after that, he suspended another twenty-one.

For Philadelphia Catholics, the shocking news was not altogether surprising. They recall a 2005 grand-jury report [PDF] that harshly criticized the archdiocese for its handling of sexually abusive priests. Still, nearly a decade after the scandal exploded in Boston, Catholics want to know: How could this happen again? Haven’t we been down this road before?

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“Until there are no more Bostons, no more Philadelphias, no more Chicagos, any talk of softening zero tolerance remains premature. Without that policy, we’d be asked simply to trust such bishops’ judgment. As any Philadelphia parent would ask, Why should we?”

3 thoughts on “No Policy and No Accountability = No Trust

  1. How do they the ‘rcc’ plan to address the VICTIMS who did NOT SURVIVE? What will it take for the PA LEgislator to finally realize that it is either the ‘enablers/perps or VICTIMS who will be protected ?

  2. I have heard more stories from fellow victims of “being passed around from priest-to-priest,” and my reaction is always the same – couldn’t any one of these guys step up to the plate and say, “No, this isn’t right. We can’t do this.” I have met men who were abused by priest, after priest, after priest, while on a vacation at one of these scumbags log cabins in the middle of nowhere, or a vacation home at the Jersey Shore. I have spoken to men who tell stories of being raped by one priest during the night, only to wake up in the morning being raped by anther priest. Is this the moral behavior of Catholic clergy?

    In the recent Grand Jury Report, 10 year-old “Billy” actually had the courage to tell a teacher of the abuse he was dealing with, and instead of this teacher calling the cops, Bernard Shero drove Billy to a playground and raped him in his car, and then made him walk home. I can only imagine what was on Billy’s mind as he was walking home that day. I know exactly what he was feeling, because I know what I was feeling while walking to and from school everyday.

    It’s so sad. You can learn how to deal with things and manage the tragedy of your own childhood, but when you read stories of kids facing similar circumstances that you yourself went through, it only amplifies the memories of my own abuse, then it’s something very difficult to deal with. My only priority in life has been trying to forget about the abuse I went through, whether it came at the price of drinking or smoking the memories away. I have traveled extensively throughout the continental U.S., thinking that if I drove myself out of Philadelphia or Jersey, then the memories of pain would subside and I could be happy with myself. Then, I thought if I got off the entire Eastern Seaboard, I would leave those shattered dreams and my broken childhood behind, while looking for a possibility of making a real life for myself. Always running away from my past, I went through every state, up into Canada, and down into Mexico, and the nightmares wouldn’t fade. I drank myself silly for days in cheap lowlife motel rooms. I’d have night terrors, where I’d wake up in the morning to a room totally destroyed and zero memory of being that destructive in the middle of the night, but I know there were a couple of people in the room; myself and my abuser.

    I’ve heard many older people wish they could go back to being a child. I would never wish that on myself. I just wish things were different. I wish I could go one day without being afraid anymore.

    “The only necessary for the triumph of evil is if good men do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

  3. Dear Rich, “Billy’s” and your horrific story about priest sexual abuse breaks my heart. I honestly wish you would/could speak in front of a few Sunday morning congregations. Make all the parishioners that have turned their backs squirm in their pews and make them want to run from the filth that you had to endure. I’m so proud of you- so very proud. The only ones that should be afraid from now on are the guilty….not you!!!!!!

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