St. Thomas Parish Meeting Leads to Determined Fight


By Kris Strid, Guest Blogger

I attended an opportunity for prayer and dialogue concerning the sexual abuse scandal at our parish St. Thomas of Villanova last week. The meeting was initiated and run by the Parish Council. The format was perfect for honest dialogue. Our Pastor and assistant sat in the back and listened.

I was touched and proud of my parish council and fellow parishioners who spoke freely and openly about their anger, dismay, betrayal and experiences. After a reading and mediation from the Bible (Lamentations) we broke into discussion groups. Then, moderated by a Villanova professor, we openly talked about what was on the minds of members in each group.

People were most angered by the cover-up, the fact that it has taken so many years with nothing done since the first grand jury report, and the abuse of power by the hierarchy.  Many of us knew people who had been abused and most all had read the grand jury reports─ A must do for any catholic who cares about children and their church. Many wanted to know where the good guys where. Why haven’t the good priests spoken out like a group in Chicago of 300 who signed a document against the abusers and cover-ups.

Most all were looking for an apology and the removal of Cardinal Rigali.  We also talked about the Statute of Limitations issue and were in agreement that it needs to be changed in PA.

One man, who had a son who was abused at a local parish was very vocal. He talked about how the victim, his son, became the victim of the archdiocese and their lawyers.  I was amazed he was still  going to church. Another women, whose family has been deeply hurt by the abuse  spoke eloquently and fairly. She was raised in a very Catholic family and she said she was ready to leave the church but then decided “I’ll be damned if I will let them drive me away ─I need to fight for what is right.” She said most victims were not looking for money but healing, reconciliation and justice. She spoke about the methods of restorative justice used in Rwanda after the genocides ─  accusations by victims and apologies by perpetrators face to face in a public forum. This united a country.

We broke again into small groups to talk about what we should do as a group to initiate change and again told them to the whole group. There were lots of ideas from drafting a letter to the Cardinal asking him to step down, and joining forces with other parishes who are forming groups. We wanted the church to publicly state that abuse victims should report to the police not the church. Maybe put of a billboard asking the church to admit guilt. Many talked about withholding their contributions to the archdiocese. ( I put my check in the collection basket with a note attached saying that none of my contribution is to go to the archdiocese.)  There are a number of people who do that and their donations are put aside for Parish use only, not included or considered with the general collection of which eight percent goes to the archdiocese.

We ended with the determination to keep up the fight and desire not to abandon our church ─ to keep the faith ─ change the church.

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25 Responses to “St. Thomas Parish Meeting Leads to Determined Fight”

  1. We would love to join forces with St. Thomas parish!!

    So glad to hear about your very productive meeting!!

  2. Some of the “good priests” may be in complicated positions as the public reaction grows. The 1st Grand Jury report (2001 jury, 2003 report) mentioned “non-offenders” in a Finding:

    (p.8): “Finding 10. Many non-offender priests have remained silent in the face of clear evidence that a brother priest is sexually molesting a minor, and in some cases have actually covered up the abuse. The Archbishop and his appointed administrative managers foster this silence in order to avoid scandal in the Church and do not encourage priests to report suspected abusers.”
    http://www.bishop-accountability.org/reports/2003_09_25_First_Philadelphia_Grand_Jury_Report.pdf

    To the extent this has continued, more than officials and abusers have carried out the coverup.

    • Our Pastoral Council has drafted a letter detailing the meeting we had on May 3rd about the sexual abuse crisis. (I have outlined the meeting above in my blog.) They sent the letter to all parishoners and plan to send a copy to the archdiocese. We were all invited to sign it, if we wish,after Mass this weekend, before it is sent to the archdiocese. There seemed to after Mass to sign.

  3. The progress made at the St. Thomas Parish Meeting is exactly what the Faithful need. One prays that other parish councils take up the cause. It is time to unite with the wounded–even if we would deny the possiblity of it ever happening in OUR parish.

  4. Kris,

    Let me help you with the definition of a “determined fight”. The people of Libya are in a determined fight. I will pass along your idea that they should break into groups, and then determine that their plan of action should be to draft a letter to Gaddafi asking him to step down. If President Obama had written a strongly worded letter to Bin Laden, maybe we could have avoided the last ten years of waiting.

    Let me clarify – the crime here is child rape. Read the grand jury report. These children went to church, completely innocently, to learn about God and Christianity. Priests took advantage of this vulnerability and had anal sex with these boys at age 12, or in the case of Ruth, Fr Cudemo got her pregnant at age 12 and took her for an abortion.

    Your “People were most angered by the cover-up”? Your people are confused. You should be most angered by the crime if you have any heart or soul. You should then have sympathy for the victims, and try to do something for them.

    You should also be angry enough about the cover up that you are willing to kick down the church doors to remove anyone that was involved in the cover up. You should be protesting before every mass. You should tell them that you will never contribute again. (By the way, if they rape children, then lie about it, I think they might also disobey your note on your last donation, but maybe I’m being too harsh).

    We’re talking about child rape here. We;re talking about it on a colossal scale. And we’re talking about it in a church that told little children to come to a place where they would be safe and loved and taught the ways of the Lord in the house of God, and then they had rough, physical anal sex with them at 12 years old. Then they lied about it. Then they ignored the victims. So did you.

    God is watching, and He let all this happen. The only conclusion is that He wants you to clean out the church. Start by demanding the resignation of Rigali, and do it like the Libyans do. You’re so lucky. You won’t get shot at.

    Look at them to see what a “determined fight” is. It doesn’t include a couple of strongly worded notes.

    We’re talking about child rape here.

    • I’m not a fan of being run out. I’ll fight first. The Church is the people – not the hierarchy. I haven’t given up on the people yet. Yes, there is apathy. Yes, there is ignorance. But there are also wonderful, informed and loving people in those pews. I want to help mobilize them. I believe in them. Patrick, you have inspired me.

    • Patrick, You are completely correct in everything you write. Where is the outrage one asks over and over! We need a mechanism to centralize our righteous rage against criminals. This blog, I must say, is the closest I have come to realizing that there is hope for change in the RCC, that people are FINALLY getting really angry that criminals are running our Church.

      The young parents of children in the schools and parishes of the Philadelphia Archdiocese are my best hope up to this point; the lawyers who are supporting victims are another hope, and Amnesty International is another hope.

      We must keep in mind that apologies are ridiculous when CRIMINAL ACTS have been committed. Please, let those who deny or ignore begin to realize that this is a serious situation that is not going away. Please God, we will see real change in the near future. KEEP BLOGGING, KEEP WRITING, KEEP PRAYING, BELIEVE THAT WE CAN BE AN HONEST CHURCH…

  5. I am inspired by my fellow Catholics at St. Thomas! Thank you for your courage. I have been blogging for quite some time now on various Catholic blogs about the need for “Truth and Reconciliation”. Paying out large amounts of money to victims, will not heal their pain, but up to now, is the only recourse they have!. The Bishops should be the ones leading the effort to change the Statute of Limitations in each State! Then, Truth and Reconciliation Hearings must be set up in every Diocese. The Diocesan Review Boards are a great forum for making this happen. But the Review Boards need to have the power to remove a Bishop that has harbored child rapists! Otherwise, nothing will change. God Bless the Catholics of Philadelphia for leading the way for REAL change in our Church. Let’s take this movement Nationwide, then International. It is the only real hope for true healing in our Church.

  6. Patrick,
    I have no delusions that a letter to Rigali would accomplish anything. I am just reporting what went on in the meeting at our parish. If it were up to me all of the offenders and those who aided and abetted would be in jail. I am past apologies. I am angered by the crimes and have done something for the victims. If Rigali gets a cushy job in Rome I will be outraged. Too many priests who have crossed my path have been involved in this scandel.I have 12 grandchildren. That is why I am here reading and responding. I am a Catholic for change.

  7. Kris,

    A woman with 12 grandchildren holding a sign before and after mass outside the biggest church in town would say volumes to the congregation, to God, and to your grandchildren. You would be listened to an audience that would not listen to me. You would bring more followers.

    You have to fight for what is right, not just write what is right. (Editor’s note: I just made that up, and now love that saying).

    • Patrick,I had the pleasure of meeting Kris at a protest.This grandmother of 12 is doing exactly what all the parents and grandparents in Philadelphia should be doing -standing up for the kids.Kris is a great role model for her grandchildren.

  8. PO’M
    Is that related to the Latin Right, just redefined by the Pope?

  9. At this point, the only way that I will begin to have trust again in the leaders of our Church is if we had a clean sweep and replacement of most of them and, since I know full well that that will never happen, I guess I never will. Any group of people who could either commit criminal acts against children OR carefully and deliberately cover them up is a group that I will always believe has its own interests at heart, not the people of their Church. It’s cult-like blind ambition. Sadly, its entirely new leadership or no trust for me.

  10. Jackie,

    Why not? Why not replace all the leaders? Citizens of other countries have overthrown leaders without the benefit of freedom.

    With freedom, with the power of the Internet, and the backing of the congregation in Philadelphia and everywhere else, Catholics could overthrow all of the priests and bishops that disgraced Catholicism – raping children, lying, and ignoring victims.

    In fact, if you don’t overthrow them, the current generation of teenage Catholics will be talked out of the Catholic church by their friends. If you do overthrow them, and make the new leaders of the church do the right thing, future generations will respect their Catholic parents and their Catholic church.

    You have no choice but to fight and overthrow them, and God made it easy for you. You can’t die, like people in other countries. You just have to fight against child rape and lying.

    It’s not that hard.

    • PATRICK, I AM A SURVIVOR OF 3 CATHOLIC PRIESTS ABUSE THAT SCANNED 27 YEARS. MY FIRST ABUSER, FATHER RICHARD DOLAN I WAS 13/2 YEARS OLD AND AFTER 2 OFFICE VISITS THREW ME OVER HIS DESK AND AS I WAS LOOKING AT THE CROSS HE SODOMIZED ME AND SAID I WAS RAPING GOD. FR. DOLAN NOW LIVES IN TENNESSEE WHICH HE HAD HIS OWN HOUSE BUILT AND ASSISTS AT HIS PARISH NOW AS A LAY PERSON AS HE LEFT THE CHURCH IN THE EARLY 80’S. HE IS PRESENTLY ON THE PHILA. ARCHDIOCESE WEBSITE BECAUSE I FOUND HIM 4 YEARS AGO AND CONFRONTED HIM AND IT IS ALL ON A DVD AND WITH THIS DVD THE REVIEW BOARD FOUND ME TO BE CREDIBLE. ALL I WANT IS FOR PEOPLE TO WRITE TO THE LEGISLATORS AND TELL THEM YOU WANT A 2 YEAR WINDOW SO I CAN HAVE MY DAY IN COURT BY A JURY OF MY PEERS AND PROTECT ALL CHILDREN WITH HAVING A LAW WITH NO STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS.
      EVERYTHING YOU WRITE IS ALWAYS ON TARGET AND IT IS YOUR DEEP UNDERSTANDING AND COMPASSION THAT CONTINUES TO GIVE ME HOPE.

      • Vicky,

        I am so sorry about what happened to you. If you haven’t been told 1000 times already, “it wasn’t your fault”. You did nothing wrong, and the world has wronged you. I am so sick that a 13 year old had to figure that out all by herself.

        I am so proud of the fact that you survived. One of my goals is that someday, Catholics act like actual Christians, and welcome you back like a war hero, like someone who has survived something that the rest of them would not have had the courage to survive, and that you get the respect and honor you deserve. You are so much stronger than any Philadelphia Catholic can understand.

        You should be held in high esteem for surviving until now, and I feel so sorry for those that didn’t, that committed suicide or gave in to drinking, drugs, et cetera.

        Be strong. I can’t be down there physically, but I will be fighting with you shoulder to shoulder on this. I’m a social media and internet marketing expert, so I promise to work as hard as I can to teach the world how lucky we are that Vicky and others like her are as tough as they are.

        Stay tough. I would be proud to call you my friend.

      • Vicky, I met you at a rally a few months ago and was deeply touched by your story. I admire you immeasurably. You are brave, strong, smart and righteous. I am so thankful that you have had the emotional stability (though I can only imagine how difficult it has been) to go on and make a life for yourself, despite the crimes that were inflicted upon you and that you were forced to deny. No human being, much less a child, should have to endure such torture. An NO known perpetrator should be allowed to escape justice. God Bless you and your loved ones. I have and will continue to support the change in the statute and I pray that you have your day in court.

    • Patrick,
      I am in full agreement with you …that we laity have the numbers for an overthrow. The problem, I believe, is that WE, on this website, are in the minority. So many folks around me (many of them friends and some family) seem oblivious to the magnitude of it all. Many still seem to revere priests and the hierarchy to the point of denial. Even dear Karen, commenting here, did not walk out on a sickening sermon due to “respect.” I was no different up until this last Grand Jury Report, so I completely understand. But I walked out when Justin Rigali’s 1st letter (after the Grand Jury arrests) was read in Church….I was the only one. But I just HAD to leave. I don’t feel that I owe respect when I am hearing lies or hypocrisy from the pulpit. That’s not respecting US. But, again, I was the only one.

  11. I was a catholic for 47 years. Now, I am not sure that I am any more. I stopped going to mass a week before the latest group of priests were “suspended”. I had just sat through a homily by a priest at St. Isaac Jogues in Wayne. He spoke about forgiveness and how people want to be vindictive and get revenge. He was so ignorant he sited Hamurabi’s Code, “an eye for an eye” but attributed it to the Jews. As I sat there, I knew this was about the abuse of children by Catholic priests. I was so angry, I wanted to leave but I didn’t want to be disrespectful so I stayed until the end of mass. Later that week, that priest was removed from duty as one of the priest sited in the grand jury report. I was sick! I felt it while I sat there, I knew what he was saying was twisted and evil. The Catholic church has manipulated people for thousands of years. Priest, being better educated that the masses, played on peoples fears and in many ways enslaved them to rituals and mindless following. People are now educated and able to think for themselves…so the Catholic church is losing its power. I have prayed every day for guidance as to what to do,where to worship. I am going to another christian, non catholic church now and I enjoy it. I still have faith in God, I just don’t have faith in the church. The Church is supposed to be the people, not the institution…where did they lose that concept?

    • Karen,

      What was the priest’s name? These first hand accounts will help to show the Philadelphia congregation what they have been listening to.

      • The Rev. Steven J. Harris of St. Issac Jogues Catholic Church in Wayne, Pa.

      • In the spirit of fairness Patrick, this was my opinion, not fact. I can only describe my reaction, not the motivation of the speaker. I also know one of the other priests listed in the grand jury report, I worked with him as a teenager and I was shocked to see his name on the list. I sincerely hope that these men are not being “thrown under the bus” by the Arch Diocese. At this point, the level of mistrust is so deep, I don’t believe anything that is coming from them.

    • You made the right choice. Many stay because they don’t know where to turn; but, one doesn’t have to go anywhere- just start tasting God’s Word … [without the framework the Romanists place around it.]

  12. Please contact your state legislators, telling them that it is essential for the protection of children in Pennsylvania, that both House Bill 832 and House Bill 878 be passed.

    To find your PA state legislator go to:

    http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator/

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