Many may be visiting our site for the first time today. Thank you and welcome. Please visit the About page to find the mission of this site. We also urge every Catholic to read the 2011 Grand Jury Report.
How You Can Help:
In PA, there is no statute of limitations on murder. Yet, there is one for child sex abuse. It is SOUL MURDER. Help change legislation. It’s been done in other states. Why not here?
House Bills 878 and 832 must go through the Pennsylvania Judiciary Committee before they go to the whole House for debate. Please contact members of the Judiciary Committee and your own state representative. These bills would protect ALL abused children – not just those related to clergy abuse. Contact information for the Committee and your state legislator can be found on our Resources Page.
Add Your Voice:
Catholics4Change urges Cardinal Rigali to protect children and renew the Church in Philadelphia by following all the recommendations of the 2011 Grand Jury report. They are:
• 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.”
• Fund a victim assistance program that is independent of the Archdiocese and its lawyers. (This is now under “consideration.” No timeline or commitment has been made.)
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.
• Revise the Review Board process so that credibly accused priests are removed from ministry. (This has been revamped since the report. However, history makes it hard to trust. The Philadelphia Archdiocese has not been forthcoming or transparent in the past – Read the Review Board Chair’s criticism.)
• 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 Been Done.)
Here is the legislation recommended by the Grand Jury report that we would like Cardinal Rigali to publicly support. Currently, the public affairs arm of every Diocese in the state is actively opposed to this legislation.
The Grand Jury Recommends 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…
• 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.
• 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.” (Please See Kathy Kane’s post.)
Please leave your comments. We want to hear from everyone.