Another Bulletin Insert and Still No Answers or Action on Grand Jury Recommendations

Two parish bulletin inserts have been published. Neither bulletin insert offers answers to our questions for Cardinal Rigali. Neither bulletin insert says the Archdiocese will be implementing the remaining recommendations of the Grand Jury report. It seems to be just more of the same. Will there be another Grand Jury Report before we get a bulletin insert with what we requested? It’s looking that way.

Here is the section of the Grand Jury report on recommendations:

“The jurors assume, as well, the task of proposing institutional and legal reforms – to address systematic flaws exemplified by this case, and to reduce the likelihood that similar crimes will recur. 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. The fund administrator would have to develop a process to determine eligibility.
•    Revise the Review Board process so that credibly accused priests are removed from ministry.
This recommendation is simple: The Archdiocese must revise its review process to assure that the church hierarchy credits and acts on credible allegations. The cases we reviewed reveal a process that reaches the wrong result in the vast majority of cases. Victim assistance coordinator Louise Hagner told the Grand Jury that, out of all the victims she has interviewed, there have been only two whose credibility she even questioned. Yet Bishop Senior rattled off a whole list of priests the Review Board has cleared for continued ministry by finding allegations against them unsubstantiated.

We do not know if the members of the Archdiocesan Review Board are not objective, or if someone has instructed them that the standard of proof is absolute certainty, or if they are considering factors that have nothing to do with whether or not a priest committed the offense alleged. Whatever the reason, their decisions appear devoid of common sense. The Review Board currently betrays victims who muster the courage to come forward with allegations. It approves retention in the ministry of serial child molesters. No Archdiocesan official should be accepting the board’s recommendations.

We do not think the problem lies with the investigators. We read the investigation interviews, and would reach different conclusions from the Review Board based on the same evidence. The Grand Jury urges Archdiocese officials to review their process for deciding when to remove priests from ministry.

Indeed, the evidentiary standard for personnel decisions involving allegations of sexual abuse of minors cannot be the same as guilt beyond a reasonable doubt associated with convictions in a criminal court. Barring clear indication that an allegation has been fabricated, an accused priest ought to be, at the very least, provisionally separated from children. And Archdiocese officials need to act to protect minors upon receipt of evidence that a priest has acted inappropriately around children, even if the allegations do not specify genital sex.

We implore Cardinal Rigali and his staff to review all of the old allegations against currently active priests, and to remove from ministry all of the priests with credible allegations against them. By the Archdiocese’s own account, at least 37 priests remain in ministry despite reports that they have engaged in improper behavior with minors. That should not be acceptable to anyone. (THIS HAS SINCE CHANGED)

•    Conduct the review process in a more open and transparent manner. If the Archdiocese wants to change the public’s perception and regain the trust of
parishioners, it should be more honest and open with the public. We saw situations in which the Archdiocese told the public that it cannot conduct an investigation because it did not know the identity of a victim. Yet we saw in their documents that they did.

We believe the Archdiocese should make public its files on sexual abuse allegations, including any “secret archive files.” This should be done in a way to protect the privacy of the victim. At the very least, parishioners deserve to know whenever an allegation of abuse is made against their priest. If the priest is cleared following an investigation, the reasons, along with the evidence, should be shared with the parish.

•    Use independent treatment facilities to evaluate and treat priests accused of sexually abusing minors.
The psychologists and therapists the Archdiocese have historically used to evaluate priests and victims have not performed independent assessments nor were the assessments properly documented in the priest’s file. We strongly recommend that the Archdiocese engage an independent organization – such as The Joseph J. Peters Institute (JJPI) – to perform psychological evaluations of persons desiring to enter the priesthood to screen out pedophiles; to provide annual evaluations for mental fitness to serve as a priest; and to provide therapy to priests who are credibly accused of sexual abuse or violations of appropriate boundaries.”

Here is the legislation recommended by the Grand Jury report that we would like Cardinal Rigali to publicly support.

“We recommend that the Legislature:

•    Enact a two-year window to allow child sexual abuse victims to have their cases heard.
We recommend that the Pennsylvania legislature suspend for two years the civil statute of limitations on sexual abuse claims. Such a “window of opportunity,” appropriately limited to two years, would allow adults who were victims of sexual crimes as children to have their cases heard in a court of law. The statute of limitations in force when many of these victims were abused required that any civil litigation begin within two years of the time of the abuse. Thus, a 10-year-old rape victim had until he was 12 years old to file suit against his abuser.

It is well established that most victims of childhood sexual abuse do not come forward with allegations for many years, or even decades, after they were molested or raped. For this reason, the civil statute of limitations in recent years has been extended. However, as a result of the law’s past inadequacy, sexual predators who prey on children continue to be shielded from exposure.
The vast majority of complaints received by the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s victim assistance program, in fact, have fallen beyond the statute of limitations. Without a window in which their cases can be heard, victims must depend on the Archdiocese hierarchy’s willingness to validate their allegations, acknowledge their suffering, and compensate them for expenses incurred, such as for psychological counseling or drug treatment.

A two-year window in the statute of limitations might offer the best hope these victims have of finding justice. More than that, the possibility of civil liability would increase church officials’ incentive to make meaningful reforms and institutionalize intolerance of child abuse.

•    Abolish the statute of limitation for sexual offenses against minors. We were able to recommend charges against Avery, Brennan, Engelhardt, Shero, and Lynn only because the Pennsylvania Legislature extended the criminal statute of limitations in 2002, and again in 2006. However, we reviewed the files of several other priests accused of sexual assaults on minors who still cannot be charged because their victims were unable to come forward until the statute had expired. We see no reason that sexual predators should benefit because they choose vulnerable young victims who are unable to come forward for many years.

•    Amend reporting law so that mandated reporters are required to report sexual abuse of a child even though the victim is over 18 at the time of the report.
The Archdiocese, we learned, already reports to law enforcement any sexual offense committed on a child – even if the victim is an adult at the time of the report. We believe that all mandated reporters should be required to do the same thing. In addition, the amendment we are suggesting would end the Archdiocese’s practice of asking victims – of any age – if they would like to prohibit the Archdiocese from reporting their abuse to law enforcement.

•    Demand improved protection for children. Because of the appropriate and constitutionally mandated separation of church and state, Pennsylvania lawmakers would have limited leverage in attempting to influence religious institutions’ policies. Nevertheless, the state has an interest in the safety of students who attend parochial schools well as public schools. The Legislature should consider reduced funding to schools, public or private, that fail to create a safe environment for their children.

We understand that the Philadelphia Archdiocese has a “Safe Environment Program” in place. But the lapses we observed in the hiring and supervising of Bernard Shero indicate that better practices are necessary to protect children in parish schools.”

7 thoughts on “Another Bulletin Insert and Still No Answers or Action on Grand Jury Recommendations

  1. The Archdiocese is experienced in knowing that the vast majority of Catholics will view the insert’s message as the Archdiocese’s honest attempt to resolve its clergy sex abuse problem and to communicate with all publicly. The more inserts, the more proactive the Archdiocese is becoming will be the conclusion reached by most.

    In addition, the priests and pastors will not publicly criticize the Cardinal or others in the archdiocese. This loyalty is ingrained in the clerical culture.

    The illusion keeps playing out very deliberately.

    Thank you, Susan, and others voicing a clear message opposing this deception. Hopefully our continued ability to bring our message forward will fall on more ears and in more hearts, maybe even the Cardinal.

    1. It is amazing how many catholics and non-catholics don’t read for themseleves and get the facts while at the same time the Church is discouraging us from finding out the truth. I have talked to quite a few educated people that “just assumed the church was implementing the grand jury reccomendations”……blind trust the “church will do the right thing” is how this abuse and mismanagement is allowed to continue.

  2. Yesterday I attended the Fri. vigil and as before victims and their family members thanked me for being there. I was struck by the pain in their eyes. One victim’s mother said her abused son has been in and out of institutions, has never had a family or house of his own and two generations in her family no longer go to church and that people don’t understand the impact abuse has on peoples lives and how many people are affected by one person being abused there is a ripple affect. My husband was not abused by a priest and so at least we had our faith to get us thru…….I said to this mom…….where can you go when you don’t even have your church to count on anymore? I am glad I went…I could feel their sadness and the need to be acknowledged and not forgotten……and it reminded me of the Spiritual Works of Mercy the Saint Joseph Sisters lovingly taught me in grade school……… To counsel the doubtful, To comfort the afflicted, To admonish the sinner(church leadership), To instruct the ignorant(this website to inform us) and it vaidated that yes this is the right and good thing we are doing……I still feel this mother’s pain even today and I am praying for her and her family. Please continue to be the “Face and Hands of Jesus” to these victims and their families they need us and so do future generations….

  3. Beth,

    I’m glad you saw the looks in their faces, and you still didn’t see what they really feel. Most Catholics are so heartless and think child rape is no big deal. The Cardinal and others reinforce this.

    Of course, if any one of them was anally raped by someone tomorrow, they would think about it every day for the rest of their life. However, if it happens to someone else’s child, that’s not a big enough deal to make them do anything about it.

    1. Actually Patrick I did see that in the response I got for coming it was like wow someone from this church actually gives a D-mn and to tell the truth it haunts me….. they need to tell their story …….all these people were walking by and only one woman stopped her car to ask how she can help……I came home from the vigil and wrote all my family and friends to support the Bills 878 and 832 and I am going to talk to my priests again…….its like the good samaritan and the priests and fellow catholics just keep walking by……..thankyou for verbalizing the truth once again Patrick you have great insights and say it like it is which is so lacking right now among catholics.

  4. Philadelphia Catholics are so confused, so passive, and so non-Christian.

    Let’s try a new approach – “What Would Jesus Do”. Here’s my guess:

    – He would be absolutely horrified that even one priest could have sex with any child, ever.

    – He’d cry when he saw the Grand Jury report

    – Jesus would clarify – “Don’t lie”. Pretty simple rule, but Catholic leaders now believe it’s ok to lie if the truth would get you in trouble, or if the truth might cost you money.

    – He would ask any and all victims to come forward. He’d gladly pay for their therapy, and He’d be so thankful that the church had big buildings they could sell to pay for it. He’d hold masses in a field somewhere, and convince people that God would prefer it that way.

    – He would get rid of Rigali and all of his colleagues immediately. He would despise the way Rigali used his position, then modified God’s rules, and took advantage of a congregation that seems to have no intelligence whatsoever.

    – He would scream at the priests and the congregation for completely mishandling the most disgusting crime imaginable. He’d make you realize how stupid and selfish you are.

    – He’d make the congregation get down on their knees every day to apologize to the victims for the inaction of the congregation to protect them and to help them even after the congregation KNEW that the victims were telling the truth.

    That’s my Jesus. Yours is different. Mine is more Christ-like. Yours is a better Corporate executive, is more dishonest, and protects money better. My Jesus wouldn’t fight the House legislation that protects church money. He’d be so happy to pay it to help God’s children. My Jesus is better than your Jesus.

    I’m not here to make friends. Jesus wouldn’t be either.

    Now you start telling me where I’m wrong, or go watch “Dancing with the stars” or whatever it is you’re doing instead of doing “What Jesus Would Do”.

    1. I agree with you the lack of awareness and concern is sickening…….most people think the problem will take care of itself or the courts will handle it…… the mean time who is protecting our children or helping to heal the victims it’s horrible….the lack of compassion and concern……

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