Our Issue With the Archdiocesan Victim Assistance Program

We commend Archbishop Carroll High School’s administration for how it handled yesterday’s crisis. Their letter to parents included FBI contact information. The brave student who came forward in regard to Fran Murphy did the best thing possible. He and his mother contacted civil authorities. However, the Archdiocese in its press release and on its Web site still continues to send a different message to other possible victims.

Victim assistance sounds like a positive offering. It is a much-needed service. However, the latest Grand Jury report found serious conflicts of interest with the Archdiocesan Victim’s Assistance program and made the following recommendations on page 117 of the Grand Jury Report. Here is what they said:

“In particular we recommend that the Philadelphia Archdiocese:
•    Fund a victim assistance program that is independent of the Archdiocese and its lawyers.
Our observations of two victims’ experiences with the Archdiocese’s victims assistance program are sufficient to convince us that the program needs to be completely overhauled and removed from the control of the Archdiocese. It is impossible for church employees to wholeheartedly serve the interests of the victims. As Mary Achilles, the consultant who tried to improve the victims assistance program, recognized, conflicts of interest are unavoidable. Victims of sexual abuse suffer today from the assistance coordinators’ split loyalties.
The Archdiocese should either refer victims to the already existing Pennsylvania Victims Compensation Assistance Program, and then reimburse the program for aid that it provides to people harmed by Archdiocese employees, or it should fund an independent nonprofit that would administer assistance to the victims. The important element would be complete separation between the people who administer the fund and the Archdiocese and its lawyers. Decisions about assistance would be based solely on the needs of the victims. Information about the victims, their mental health, and their treatment would not be shared with the Archdiocese….”

Until the program is removed from Archdiocesan supervision, the Church leadership isn’t making good on promises regarding the protection of children and victim justice.

21 thoughts on “Our Issue With the Archdiocesan Victim Assistance Program

  1. When Mary Achilles and all the other “advocates” get out of the way, accused priests can finally either be proven guilty or innocent. No more unsupervised stays at St. John Vianney for Treatment, no more “sentencing of a life of prayer and pennance” while, once again, unsupervised at Villa St. Joseph. AND…for the truly unmanageable…no more laicization! Where the Arch D merely writes them a check, sends them on their way out into society without so much as a glacebackward to make sure they have not found themselves in situations where more children could be at risk… If calls went straight to the authorities, they would be guilty and in prison, or innocent and back at their old job. This is all pretty black and white to me…

  2. The Archdiocese has hired what they call a “Delegate of Investigations” who is now identified as the point of contact to report any allegations concerning Archdiocesan employees or clergy members. However on the main page of the Archdiocese’s Office of Child and Youth Protection the following statement is still listed

    If you or someone you know have experienced an incident of sexual abuse
    by clergy, employee or volunteer of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,
    please contact the office of the Victim AssistanceCoordinators at:
    1-888-800-8780 – philavac@adphila.org

    The “Delegate” is supposed to be a completetley separate source from this office. Why is his direct number not given? If this family had contacted the Archdiocese rather than the police,who would they have been put in contact with?Why are they still identifying the Victim’s Assistance Group as the point of contact? If you read pages 74-109 of the 2011 Grand Jury report it is clear that the Victim’s Assistance group is not capable of dealing with allegations in the best interest of victims.
    It is clear that people need to contact civil authorities regarding any allegations or incidents involving child sex abuse or improper behavior with children. We are now all reading about the case of the coach from Archbishop Carroll because the family involved did the right thing,they contacted their local police.

    The Archdiocese should always state in their communications to the press and the schools/parishes that are affected the contact info for the local police,D.A.
    No more self policing or evaluating claims,that is what got us into this whole mess to begin with.

    1. Kathy, I could never understand how any program to help victims ‘could be completely independent’…as its staff would be paid by the AD?..I liked the Grand Jury’s suggestion about referring referring victims to the PA Victims compensation assistance program and the Diocese would then compensate the state run program for victims expenses.

      Keeps it clean and uncomplicated.

  3. Parents and other responsible adults, and, yes, even abused children should know that they MUST turn to the civil authorities should any instance of abuse, sexual or otherwise take place. This must be a given! Separation of church and state is most important in instances where abuse of any type might be a factor.
    Thank God that some group has finally opened the box of secrets that the Church has held its people in for so long. Betty Anne

    1. Kathy, can folks just refer themselves into the PA Victims Compensation Assistance Program and bypass the AD?

      1. See info about Victims Assistance Compensation Assistance program…sexual abuse is one of the qualifiers:

        Crime Victims Compensation Assistance Program
        If you have been the victim of a crime, you may be eligible for financial compensation from Pennsylvania’s Victims Compensation Assistance Program (VCAP) operated by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
        What types of crimes may be eligible for compensation?

        Burglary, robbery, theft, theft by deception, identity theft, homicide, assault, physical and sexual abuse, and certain motor vehicle crimes, such as driving under the influence are examples.
        What benefits do older crime victims most often use? 
        Replacement of cash that has been stolen or defrauded from the victim.
        Payment of hospital bills, doctor and or dentist bills, physical therapy charges, medications, and ambulance bills.
        Payment to repair or the replacement of eyeglasses or other corrective lenses, hearing aids, canes, walkers, and dental devices either stolen or damaged as a result of the crime.
        Payment for home nursing care (including personal hygiene) and services provided by someone who replaces services the victim normally provided himself/herself, but cannot due to the crime.
        Where can you get more information and assistance?
        Your county district attorney’s victim/witness program.
        Victim assistance programs in your community.
        Your local Area Agencies on Aging or a local Senior Center.
        Call Pennsylvania’s Victims Compensation Assistance Program toll-free at 800-233-2339.
        On the Internet, visit http://www.pccd.state.pa.us, and click on the “Victims” tab.

  4. Al is the new guy taking over this same job from Mary Achilles. When I asked Mary if he was obligated to forward ALL allegations to the authorities or merely decide WHICH allegations warranted a call to the authorities, my question was dismissed.

    1. When questioning the gentleman whom had taken over the position, as the key point person, to either forward to authorities or otherwise, … the question was dismissed, that is in itself, enough reason, why they CANNOT, OR SHOULD NOT BE “SELF POLICEING”, FOR THE BETTERMENTS’ SAKE OF VICTIMS.

  5. Call the police with allegations, not the Archdiocese. They have demonstrated that they are incapable of managing investigations of this nature and it really is not their job. It’s the job of local law enforcement.

  6. I just wanted to bring attention to the “Mandated Reporting Brochure” that is on the diocesan Policies & Procedures page of the Office for Child and Youth Protection, http://archphila.org/protection/DocArchive/Policies/pap_main.htm. This link was also provided in the letter sent home to parents from Archbishop Carroll.

    It is clear in this brochure that those in charge of a Church institution must immediately report suspected child abuse to the 24-hour Pennsylvania Child Abuse Hotline (the number is provided in large font). If the suspected abuser is a
    member of the clergy or is a church official,employee or volunteer, the reporter is instructed to please also contact the Archdiocesan Office for Children and Youth Protection at 1-888-800-8780.

    If the person in charge of the institution is the suspected abuser, you must make the
    report yourself.

    This is a good brochure. It contains good action steps for reporting suspected abuse. I wonder who it is being distributed to, and how if these procedures are including in on-going training for clergy, teachers, and volunteers.

    1. Laura,I came across that on the site also.I keep wondering,if this family called the Archdiocese rather than the police what action would have been taken? Would they consider this actual child abuse, boundary issues,inappropriate behavior? We have seen time and time again how this institution polices itself into inaction.

  7. I agreewith Molly. Call the police not the archdiocese. Not only are they incapable of managing investigations of this nature such actions do not, in any way, shape or form, fit into the mission of the Roman Catholic Church.

    The audio of the panel on Larry Kane’s “Voice of Reason” Comcast show is streamed at:


    then go down to: “Church Sex Abuse” April 8, 2011

    Siser Maureen

      1. Hi Janet, I’ll try to get you the answer but I need a little more info. Do you mean the review board that existed before Gina Maisto Smith was brought in? Recommendations on what?

      2. Ms. Shenberger refers to recent recommendations from the Review Board that have been given to the Cardinal in the interview on KYW with Larry King on April 8.

  8. I agree with Susan matthews about being independant of the victims assistance archdiocese of phila. I am on mental and emotional disability due to my sexual abuse starting at 14 and perscriptions where YOU the taxpaper is paying for my disability and perscriptions NOT the archdiocese! I struggle every day to try and meet my bills while my perpatraitors are living quite well with no problems because they are protected by the church. This is one of the reasons I implore all who are writing these comments to PLEASE write Representatives McGeehan and Louise Bishop. Rep. Louise Bishop 1991 North 63rd Street, Philadelphia, Pa 19151 and Rep. Michael McGeehan, 7201 Frankford Avenue, Phila. Pa 19135

  9. I’m starting to believe that the Victims Assistance Dept may be the ONLY option people with allegations outside of the Statute of Limitations may have…RIGHT NOW.

    If the allegations are beyond the SOL, as Mary Achilles so eloquently put it, “the DA can’t be bothered with them”.

    OK, so if that’s the case…eliminate statutes, in spite of the millions Rigalli is spending to fight it.

    We need to get behind that if we want to accomplish anything else!

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