Catholics4Change Response to Msgr. Conway’s Request

By Kathy Kane, Special Blogger for C4C

I want to share my thoughts on Msgr. Conway and his request for us to defer our visit. I know the back story on the plan to attend the 10:45 Mass at Mary, Mother of the Redeemer. It was very simple and suggested by two frequent site visitors. People merely wanted to attend Mass at Msgr. Conway’s parish as a way to show support for the letter he wrote Cardinal Rigali requesting a visit. The ribbons were to be a visual sign for anyone wishing to support the protection of children.

It is interesting to see how sometimes things get blown out of proportion or misinterpreted. The plan was to attend the 10:45 Mass. We did not want to interfere with the parish events planned for later that day. It was simply a group of people attending Mass. I have seen this plan referred to as a protest. People were simply going to attend Mass. I have seen it referred to as possibly being disruptive or counter productive. People were simply going to attend Mass. The confusing part was about C4C handing out leaflets. We do not even have leaflets. It was simply a group of people attending Mass.

In this current climate, people are desperate for a hero to emerge. Someone who is going to step up and speak out for the protection of ALL the children in the Archdiocese. I know we are all used to functioning on a parish-by-parish basis. We need to address this problem together.

I have recently met with parishioners from various parishes in Chester County. Since that meeting a few weeks ago, other parishes are now starting to form groups. You will see on the C4C site in the next few weeks, information about forming parish groups and the common goals of these various parish meetings.

With the criminal trials in the next few months and the decisions about the suspended priests, we are all going to need each other to get through this. Let’s us all try to remember the main goal is protecting the children. When different issues pop up that take away from that goal, it isn’t helping anyone.

Editorial note from Susan Matthews:

Catholics4Change invites committees and organizations to submit information that might help people organize their efforts for the protection of children. We will also be preparing informational documents that can be downloaded, copied and distributed. Catholics4Change’s primary mission is to create a forum where a variety of thoughts and ideas can be freely exchanged. We believe a more informed laity will help protect children and our Church.

35 thoughts on “Catholics4Change Response to Msgr. Conway’s Request

  1. This is in response to the request for information which will help children –
    one way would be to insist the the AD disclose whether those “mandatory” provisions of its Protecting God’s Children program, adopted in accordance w/ the Dallas Charter, are enforced. What was true in my diocese, when I was administering it similar program, is that, for priests, what was advertised as “mandatory” was actually, & knowingly so, “voluntary”, such that I could not remain in my administrative role (as a volunteer) b/c the program lacked integrity. The SCYP, the USCCB itself, and the National Review Board all know this and are complicit in the lie.

  2. I dropped a note in our collection basket a few weeks ago asking our pastor to address this problem and also requested a forum for parishioners to ask questions regarding the scandal in the phila archdiocese. so far, have not heard a word from the pulpit but I am not surprised. I didn’t really expect to have this addressed.

  3. There will be no hero emerging either from the episcopacy or from the ordinary “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” members of the clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and it is naive to even consider such a possibility.

    What did the Reverend John P. McNamee, pastor emeritus of St. Malachy Church in Philadelphia say in his 02/22/2011 commentry piece, “A docile tradition protects the church,” in the Philadelphia Inquirer? Here are the two relavant paragraphs:

    “And then there’s Chicago. Always more outsoken than other Catholic communities, Chicago has its own theological journal and an independent priests’ council. Years ago, a new Chicago archbishop was publicly rebuking local pastors for minor infractions during his pastoral visits, until 300 of the city’s priests wrote an open letter complaining about his micromanagement. Three hundred!

    In Philadelphia, not three of us priests would lodge such a complaint. And our council of Priests is completely subordinate to local church authorities. What began in our seminary days as clerical obedience has become a fearful, mute submissiveness.”

    Those who were planning to attend the 10:45 Mass at Mary, Mother of the Redeemer should attend and should sit together.

    Wear those ribbons as “a visual sign for anyone wishing to support the protection of children,” proudly.

    Sister Maureen

    1. I find the dynamic among priests in Philadelphia interesting and upsetting. I’ve been told that it’s rooted in our history as a diocese, but that is no excuse. I will wear my ribbon at another soon-to-be-planned event with any C4C site visitors who would like to join me. But I no longer want my presence at MMR to be construed as support for Msgr. Conway. And it would be – by the press and congregants. While the letter was a hopeful start, he seems to lack the conviction to take his statements beyond his particular parish. Some have even questioned his motives. The fact that he wouldn’t personally return my phone call adds to that. Sadly, the archdiocese will continue to give us many opportunities to convene.

      1. Since the priest we want to support does not want our support………why don’t we just start meetinge Every other week at churches that have victims in the grand jury report and wear as much blue as possible we would get many local churches involved and create constant awareness as well as maybe showing up in the cathedral a couples times a month wearing blue.

  4. Kathy, you expressed excellent points! I want to applaud your goals and your methods. I am totally on board with you on this. I feel that our primary goal is to protect our children. This can easily be derailed by those who would divide us from our goals. Emotions are raw– and I feel enraged after reading the stories of heinous stories of sexual abuse. However, rage and anger left unchecked lead us only to infighting and name calling. Rather, we need to continually keep the facts in the forefront and MOST importantly, we must put forth viable plans that can be presented to parents and the Archdiocese to stem any further abuse. A clergy-lay commission should be instituted to internally investigate complaints of abuse. The same commission ought to have freedom to follow up on any recommendations or any complaints. Just a thought. Pax, Jim

  5. Susan, you have made a very good point about support for Msgr. Conway. Perhaps his motives were not what we had hoped. Happily, our blogging on this subject, and our keeping the important issue of child protection before the eyes of the public, will encourage all of us to realize where the true power of the Church is. The leaders of real reform will probably not be ordained ministers.

  6. Just to let you know, I e-mailed Mr. Logan, attorney who authored/sent letter from MMR.

    Mr. Logan:

    I just wanted to reach out and send a note of support for you and the members of your parish community in North Wales.

    My wife and I have been married for 36 years with 4 children and our faith is so very important to us and to all of our children. What has transpired since the release of the first Grand Jury Report in Sept. 2005 is just more of the same evil, criminality and hypocrisy that was portrayed in that first report. This newest GJR shows just how manipulative and hateful our archdiocesan leaders were when it came to the victims’ assistance program and fooling victims into believing that the archdiocese really cared for them.

    This is just a portion of the document I sent to Mr. Logan at his e-mail address (located on the web).

    I have not received a response as yet from Mr. Logan…..I will share it if one is received.

  7. FYI, This is a post I wrote earlier on regarding Conways’ public statements. It appeared in one of the North Penn papers:

    March 31, 2011

    If what John T. Conway, the pastor at Mary, Mother of the Redeemer Catholic Church is saying is true, he should “feel completely duped,” as he put it and as “angry as hell,” but shouldn’t he be directing his anger at those who “duped” him?

    It seems rather disingenuous that it has taken Conway six years to respond to his parishioners after having been named so prominently in the 2005 PGJR on the AOP. How “duped” or “angry” can he be?

    For God’s sake, Sicoli didn’t get along with “his pastoral associates” and he wouldn’t delegate authority so he was dumped on Holy Spirit Church in South Philly as their pastor and all Conway can say is, “I felt like we had done a pretty good thing.”

    “A pretty good thing?” What a disgraceful admission. This is a clerical case study in mediocrity!

    Conway should be crawling into a hole and pulling it in after himself.

    John, what have you been doing for the last six years? Writing articles in newspapers demanding accountability and transparency in the RCC?

    Publicly demanding that Cardinal Rigali turn over ALL FILES AND RECORDS TO THE DA and holding former cardinal archbishops accountability for their failures?

    Why aren’t you, Pastor John T. Conway, organizing 85 or more of your fellows and publicly demanding that the cardinal step down as the priests of the Archdiocese of Boston did?

    “Good Priests?” “Priests of Integrity?”

    Forget all that claptrap.


    I can’t hear you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
    Victims’ Advocate

    1. Here’s the facts from the meeting. I know these are the facts because I was there:

      Msgr Conway called the meeting because he was googled by some parishioners wanting to know the priests involved in the second grand jury. His name came up in the first grand jury report when googled.

      He was named in the first grand jury report without his knowledge. He was never called before the grand jury nor questioned.

      As a result of the google search, people jumped to conclusions and some nasty rumors were being spread about him, and assumptions were made that he knowingly facilitated placing pedophile priests in their assignments. Obviously, this was something that needed to be addressed and not swept under the carpet and he did what a pastor should do. He did what the cardinal has not yet done and yet he is being excoriated.

      He called the meeting to set the record straight and explain what his involvement was. He was vehement about being duped and kept in the dark regarding the files of the priests that he was responsible for assigning. It was very evident who he felt had duped him and that is why he was so angry.

      If he had know Sicoli’s background, he would never had agreed to any placement. He made that comment prior to knowing Sicoli’s record, which he did not have access to.

      Msgr. Conway has been pastor at MMR only for the past nine months so there is no way he could have responded to his parishioners six years ago. He is not being disingenuous.

      Msgr. Conway may not be assuming the role everyone else seems to want him to step into but you tell me what other pastor publicly called out the cardinal? And if he was called down to 222 for a little chat, it couldn’t have silenced him because a silenced priest will not organize a committee (and yes, it probably was formed last week) to plan how MMR will move forward or deal with this situation.

      If that letter didn’t show courage and speaking out, then what does?

      1. Thanks Rosanne,you bring up some interesting points. It seems that Monsignor’s anger (rightfully so) was about feeling duped by his higher ups. What I am still waiting for is a clergy member who will express his anger about children continuing to be put at risk up until about one month ago,before the priests were suspended.
        Where is the anger from clergy members concerning the children? Will we ever see that?I don’t think we will.

      2. Roseanne,
        Thank you so much for posting the information of what you saw and heard at the parish meeting with Msgr. Conway. It is helpful to put together the facts of a situation in order to see the big picture. Unfortunately when anyone come public with a plan of attack, like Msgr. Conway did, there are many who mean well, but want to move things along as they see it ought to be done. When it doesn’t go that way, the person who planned the attack is villified or made to look weak. Change MUST occur, and although we cannot wait, the history of any change will bear out the fact that change does take time. Let us consider this like a war. There are many prongs of attack. Each one has the effect of wearing down the opposition. Clearly, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church is the opposition in this case. There will be many groups who choose their own way to effect change to prevent sexual abuse, and others who will effect healing for those who have been abused. Consider also the very real fact that there are 1 billion Catholics worldwide and 66 million of us in the United States. Many of us were raised inthe Church and very well inculcated into the faith (including its rules and signs of respect). I do not need to tell you how effective that is on a parishioner! We need to support all those who have plans that will promote change. There will be many who try and fail, but hopefully more of us will try and succeed. We must learn to see all human beings as the creation of God and as gods. In this resepect, we are truly all equals: lay, priests, bishops, cardinals, popes. I leave you with wonderful words my sainted mother said to me early in formative years: “Listen, Jim, if it were for the priests, I wouldn’t be a Catholic. I am Catholic because of the beliefs the Catholic Church holds about God and Jesus.” Amen Saint Sara!

      3. SO,IN OTHER WORDS MSGR.CONWAY SPOKE OUT BECAUSE HE FELT DUPED, NOT BECAUSE CHILDREN FOR YEARS HAVE BEEN RAPED BY PRIESTS. DON’T TELL ME THAT MOST PRIESTS DID NOT KNOW AWHAT WAS GOING ON FOR YEARS AND DON’T TELL ME THAT CATHOLIC PRIESTS DIDN’T KNOW WHAT WAS GOING ON IN THEIR PARISHES AND THEY CHOOSE TO PROTECT THEMSELVES! I appeared before the grand jury and the detectives when they looked in my yearbook pointed out several priests that had harmed children. Even parish workers in the rectory and people living in a neighborhood where some of the priests had summer homes at the shore took children and raped them, knew and looked the other way.Conway is protecting himself what else is new.

  8. How very disappointing. When I heard of Msgr. Conway’s very public letter, I held out hope that maybe his priority really was protecting the children. Sadly, I believe now that, though I think he cares about the children, his priority is self-preservation. When will they stop disappointing us? I suppose if punishment by the law becomes a reality, real, genuine steps might be made to change. But, that’s still a disappointing reality….. because in a perfect world they would make changes because they care most about the children, not themselves.

  9. I think there are three themes of response that I am seeking…

    1) accountability and justice for the victims and families of the abuse crisis who have suffered for far too long;
    2) a majorly revised system of protecting children and reporting abuse and boundary issues;
    3) a purposeful and diocesan-wide forum for all those in the diocese to process this crisis in their faith lives. This forum must include the laity, deacons, priests, etc., as we are all affected when our Church’s foundation is crumbling.

    There are many wounds as a result of the crisis. How those wounds are cared for may take multiple measures.

    I am still wrestling with the fact that many Catholics – and Catholic leaders -believe that to challenge the diocesan leadership is “anti-Catholic” or “Catholic-bashing”. I am perplexed by what seems to be a knee-jerk reaction. What is encouraging is that more and more “pew-Catholics” with long histories of Catholic faith are coming forward through C4C and other groups. I don’t think those Catholic-bashing labels fit quite so nicely.

    I wonder what the tipping point will be for us?

  10. Sister Maureen:

    Your analysis is accurate and, by this stage of the game, many of us can see the authenticity (or lack thereof) of certain incidents that are played out in the media.

    What is on our side, Sister Maureen, are the pending criminal cases (hoepfully more in the future) and the ever-increasing number of civil cases filed and to be filed (certainly a deluge just around the corner) against the archdiocese and members of its leadership.

    This is critical in that it will increase and intensify the internal unrest, turmoil and distrust, and individuals will soon face the toughest of questions – do I stay silent and save my leaders or speak up and out and save my own skin. In my law enforcement experience, such a predicament happens on a daily basis when groups of individuals are engaged in criminal activity and one or several are charged and face stiff penalties, including jail time.

    It may take awhile, and it probably will not come voluntarily or in the way we would like it, i.e., clergy and archdiocesan personnel speaking up and taking a stand for our children and against their criminal associates. For sure there will be individuals, when faced with such negative consequences, who will not be able to stop talking and telling all they know about the criminal conduct they and/or others they know are responsible for. Those individuals will leap at the opportunity to waive their Miranda rights!

  11. Sr. you are a “voice in the wilderness”. I was just struck by the fact that this site has had nearly 47,000 hits and there are about 300 comments on this site……..where are all the people that love Jesus, their neighbor and the Catholic Church? If they are coming here…….why are they silent? Why are they afraid? and then you wonder why this abuse continues in our church……people are present and don’t speak or act. Go before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and you will find the strength…… speak and act……instead of waiting for someone else to……

  12. Jesus identified himself as “the Truth”. Fr., Msgr., Bishop, please live the truth. Why were your ordained? Integrity demands crucifixation. Crucifixation will lead to Resurection. Resurection leads to “The Truth”. Fathers!!!!!!!!!!!! Please!!!!!It’s not that complicated.

  13. Remember, O gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me Amen……I feel like this site needs a prayer…….this is for all that are silent, all that are suffering and all of us that care and all that are on the verge of speaking up……..

  14. PJII + liberation Theology,9171,920117-1,00.html

    Fr. Roy Bourgeois

    Most of the men you are looking as heroes are gone. Have been supporting several seminaries that continue to supply you with the same Theology. Maybe we need to look at a few other heroes like Joan of Arc and Mary Magdalene both had their names slandered by the Catholic Church.

    1. It’s interesting you say that because alot of Saints have challenged the church to live what it teaches. I actually was thinking reading some of their stories would be very encouraging. I was thinking of Joan of Arc also. When this all came out again in the Grand Jury Report I was thinking we need some Saints now more than ever.

  15. I would like to see people who leave a comment on this site also mention what parish they are from. also, why not post your last name? Love the hymn ‘be not afraid, I walk before you always’

    1. Facebook, harassing phone calls at night, kids afraid to discuss problems they had at school. Sorry, my kids went through hell with my activities, not to mention the brain damage I have. I really shouldn’t be posting here, left Philly years ago. Had to get my kids away from the crap I was getting from Church, School and other areas. I am not going to have my nieces and nephews get the same treatment.

      Not to say your challenge is inappropriate, but I burned myself out at 40 with a severe medical condition and my small ones had to deal with the consequences.Still fighting on eco and other issues, but had little support when working with abuse, bullying and mental illness.

      Just letting others know that there is a price for speaking out and make sure your kids are protected.Such as using aol or yahoo email addresses to screen messages, monitoring facebook, and not giving out your phone number on a blog.

      May Christ be with you.

    2. Carol, thank you for your post. I am only here to make observations and suggestions as I see them. I am only one small voice here and my last name will mean nothing to anyone. So, you make a good and valid point. Be not afraid! For now I will just read the posts and leave the writing to those with a spine. I think I have not the courage to contribute further.

  16. Rosanne Zajko,

    Thank you for your very thoughtful response to my statement.

    I hope we will read a response in the words of the pastor of MMR, John Conway himself on this website as soon as possible.

  17. Consider these facts: Msgr. Conway was named in the 2005 Grand Jury report in reference to his part in the case of Father David Sicoli. The report says that Msgr. Conway, then the vicar for Philadelphia south, knew that there were 2 boys living in the rectory with Father Sicoli. Six years later, Msgr. Conway makes the public announcement that he’s mad as hell that he was mentioned, and that as vicar, he was duped because he was not given any background history about the priests he was working with. Please note that he did not deny knowing that there were kids residing in this rectory. There was a lot of concern about that at the time from another priest who was resident, from the principal of West Catholic high school and from a counselor working with the kids. This is all in the 2005 Grand Jury Report, you should read it. It was 2 years before the archdiocese made
    Father Sicoli resign.

  18. My family and I have had first-hand experience with the Archdiocese of Phila. A few years back, we took a stand against the use of the “F” word with our kids in a girl’s catholic high school. We went to school principal, president, dean, theology teachers, head of activities, athletic director, head of secondary education at AD, bishop Cistone, bishop Burbidge – and quickly found out that we were the “enemy”. We talked to everyone we met about our story and people began to send letters to the archdiocese. Needless to say, they weren’t happy. Very long story short, my husband and I asked God’s direction through prayer and fasting and next thing we knew God placed us on the 11 o’clock news with Doug Shimel to tell our story. It just fell into our laps. We knew it was God. It was a scary thing to do for us and our daughter, but we knew God was in the mix. We were delivered a threat of a lawsuit if we didn’t shut up and our children were cruelly persecuted in school. The Archdiocese posted a comment on that news program that our claims had “no merit” – where have we heard THAT before! The cover-up of the wrong-doing and the persecution of my family was an eye-opener for us.

    We recently attended the SNAP meeting at the Crown Plaza Hotel. We attended because we are faithful catholics who care very much about the HORROR the victim’s have had to endure. We are outraged at what has happened to them. Reading the Grand Jury Report was beyond disgusting. After sitting at that meeting and listening to actual survivors – the “REAL PEOPLE” telling their story – my husband and I can NEVER be the same! Our hearts are broken for them! And we are beyond angry at the disgusting and criminal cover-up of the AD – though we are not surprised. We can’t even begin to imagine what life must be like for those of you who have suffered from this demonic abuse.

    I am also from St. Jerome’s parish – the “epicenter”, if you will, of the recent Grand Jury report. We are with you 100% and are speaking out at any opportunity put before us. God bless you all – especially the survivors! We pray for you always.

    1. Jane, Thank you for your very kind words. I struggle everyday to make ends meet and to live this life in a way that the Divine intends for me. I have been in therapy for a number of years and I thank God that i have a compassionate and intelligent therapist. I am on SSDi because the abuse that lasted a total of 28 years has done its damage. I am a survivor today and am proud that I can put the toxic shame on the priests that raped me. please write to the 2 representatives that want a 2 year window and no statute of limitations on sexual abuse so just maybe I might see some justice.

  19. Jane Kosiek,

    The intimidation, harassment, threats, shunning, etc. will continue. Most are somewhat more subtle.

    If there is bullying at school, remember, such actions by other studentts or encouragement or toleration of the same by school officials is now illegal. Report it. Document it.

    Do the same with harassing phone calls. Call your service provider and report it even if you cannot find the number by dialing *69. Your telephone provider can find out that information and report it to the police.

    Keep the faith, be strong, be brave.

    Sister Maureen

    1. Hi Sister Maureen — Thank you for your comments, but I think I need to clarify my experience. This happened over 6 years ago. Our daughters are out of school now. They played basketball for their catholic high school and it was their coach (our tuition money was funding her check) who was using the “F” word with the players. As parents, we spoke out against this vile language being used on our kids in a “catholic” school.

      The hardships suffered by our girls in school were at the hands of the administration. I wrote on C4C because we understand first-hand what it’s like to speak out against wrong-doing and then be intimidated and threatened by the Archdiocese. The “shepherds” we turned to for moral action quickly began to look more like the mafia.

      But as it turns out, two young women saw our story on the news, and watched us speaking about the language and behavior of coaches, and they came forward naming their coach who was from a different catholic high school, who they said had sexually abused them at a party. That also was on the news. He was put on leave and then let go, but because of the statute of limitations he was not charged. Much more to our story, but maybe for another time.

      We appreciate the way you speak out on behalf of those abused and against the diabolical actions of the archdiocese. We are grateful for this website.

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