Sister Maureen Welcomes Our New Archbishop

Victims, justice and the new archbishop

By Maureen Paul Turlish, Commentary for The National Catholic Reporter, September 8, 2011

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who headed the Denver archdiocese, was installed today as the 13th head of the Philadelphia archdiocese in a ceremony held at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul.

I welcome the archbishop to the city and church of my birth where I lived, studied and worked before entering the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and where I taught in parish grade schools and chaired departments in two archdiocesan high schools.

I love my church and I am deeply committed to its mission in the world.

Having said that does not lessen the pain and shame of knowing that many individual priests have violated untold numbers of innocent children in the five counties that make up the Philadelphia archdiocese. Together with church authorities who protected these errant priests, all was done in the name of God.

The facts are documented right there, in excruciating detail, in the Philadelphia grand jury reports of 2005 and 2011.

Protocols said to have been put in place and followed by the archdiocese after 2005 were exposed as mere window dressing and PR spin like the archdiocese’s cover story on Fr. Robert Brennan which Bishop Edward Cullen (an auxiliary bishop of the Philadelphia archdiocese before becoming bishop of Allentown in 1998) admitted in sworn deposition, “It’s not the truth.”

Many Catholics believed that church leadership was finally on the right track of accountability and transparency after the 2005 grand jury report only to find out in 2011 that their faith in the hierarchy was ill placed.

The church in Philadelphia never has been in more dire straits, and it has been in need of new leadership for a very long time.

Will Chaput be able to fill this leadership vacuum? I hope and pray that he will. However, the Philadelphia church has particular needs.

It needs a pastoral leader who believes in justice, the rights and protection of all; especially those who were so unable to protect themselves as children.

It needs a pastoral leader who is not afraid to recognize and admit to the existence of corrupted man-made structures which allowed the church’s sexual abuse nightmare to continue unchecked for so long.

It needs a pastoral leader willing to work with committed groups of Catholic laity who are themselves deeply concerned over the systemic and endemic evil that has plagued the church — despicable evils that, while committed by individuals, were enabled and covered up by complicit church hierarchs over many decades.

I welcome Chaput to the Philadelphia archdiocese but at the same time, I am deeply disturbed by a track record in Denver which is not all that one would wish for.

I am concerned about the use of Phase Line Strategies, a top public relations firm, which helped defeat long-needed legislation aimed at holding known sexual predators civilly accountable; predators who had already escaped criminal prosecution, irrespective of their race, color or religious affiliation.

I am concerned about the vicious opposition mounted against child abuse legislation supported by Colorado legislators including Gwyn Green who has said, “they [church leadership] read letters denouncing me from the pulpit … and what they said was totally untrue.”

Personal attacks on legislators by members of the hierarchy, local pastors or even by way of archdiocesan statements violate standards of both civility and propriety to say nothing of ethics and morality.

The bishops of the United States knew about the serious nature of sexual abuse in the early 1960s and they knew that priests were abusing children. A documented pattern of collusion, conspiracy and cover-up was the order of the day in dioceses both across the country as well as in Denver and Philadelphia.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was quoted on a CNN “NewsNight” segment from Philadelphia on April 26, 2002, as he answered a reporter’s question by saying, “We all are agreed that no priest guilty of even one act of sexual abuse of a minor will function in any ecclesial ministry or any capacity in our diocese.” I remember because I was interviewed and quoted in that same “NewsNight”.

One has only to read through the pages of both grand jury reports and the previously sealed depositions of top archdiocesan leaders to realize the veracity of the grand jury’s charges.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse have the right, like everyone else, to access justice in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They should be able to exercise those rights. Their cases have been dragging on too long.

However, their right to due process and to the justice afforded in the criminal courts was suborned to the protection of rogue priests until statutes of limitation had expired.

Pennsylvania House Bills 832 and 878, proposed by Representatives Louise Bishop and Michael McGeehan, address the above failures.

Accountability for the crimes and sins of the present and future does not absolve anyone from the responsibility for the crimes and mortal sins of the past.

“Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God,” (Mark 10:14).

If we don’t help the poor, the disenfranchised, the innocent victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation who were unable to defend themselves, then we are indeed going to hell.

Without justice for all there is justice for none.

[Sr. Maureen Paul Turlish is a member of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition and the Justice4PAKids Coalition. She was invited by Rep. Michael McGeehan to speak to the bills introduced in Harrisburg on March 1, 2011. She also testified before the Senate and House Judiciary committees in support of Delaware’s 2007 Child Victims’ Law.]

25 thoughts on “Sister Maureen Welcomes Our New Archbishop

  1. Sr Maureen is someone that both Susan and I have gotten to know over the past few months. We have attended protests,meetings and conference calls with Sr Maureen. She is an example of someone I think of when I wonder if it is possible to be a practicing Catholic while at the same time holding the Church accountable and working outside of the Church for the real change that needs to occur – the laws.
    I would never challenge Sr. Maureen on why she is still committed to her religious vocation. If someone were to see Sr. Maureen and not know all she has done on behalf of victims over the past years,they would probably just lump her into the same category of all the other religious who have been so grossly apathetic in this crisis.
    We have been fortunate at C4C to connect with some people who are practicing Catholics and have opened their wallets to fund some of our efforts. Some people have somehow balanced there desire to stay in the Church with the need to become involved. The problem which is the HUGE problem is that the Sr Maureen’s in the Church are so few, and many of the laity still go on as if nothing has happened.

  2. Whatever measure of respect I had for Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams prior to today just went down the toilet. While watching Channel 3 news, the cameras showed Seth Williams welcoming and hugging Archbishop Chaput in front of a congregation at the Cathedral. This is what we’re up against! Our law is fratanizing with the criminals. I wonder, does Seth Williams also hug the co-conspiratoring wives who knew their husbands were raping their daughters and did nothing about it? Does he shake hands with co-conspirators of murder, bank robbery, drug distribution?

    What a sham! The D.A. in Philadelphia is just another long line of politicians who care nothing about those of us abused yesterday, the protection of children today and tomorrow, because he’s just another Kool Aid drinking Catholic. Good luck trying to get some justice in Pennsylvania! I hope they all live long lives so they can see the damage their choices have resulted in. Boo-hoo to Seth Williams!

  3. Thank you again, Sister Maureen. Hopefully, Bishop Chaput will know that he is the leader of an AD that is wounded and watching, watching his every move.

    What I would like to know is–really–how we are going to help our Church become the spiritual organization it was meant to be? How are we going to encourage our reluctant brothers and sisters to demand change from their pastors and their bishops.

    I truly believe if the majority of the members of a parish submitted a petition to their pastor requesting, for example, a married priest–even if he is an Anglican or Episcopalian convert–but MARRIED. People need to ask and let the pastors know that they, too, are wounded and watching.

    1. Pope Benedict to Anglicans: Come Home to Rome
      By Scott P. Richert, Guide October 20, 2009

      October 20, 2009, will go down in history as a turning point in Catholic-Anglican relations. This morning, at 11 A.M. Rome time (5 A.M. EDT), the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced new procedures through which entire congregations of Anglicans can be reunited to the Catholic Church.

      Late on Monday, October 19, after the CDF press conference was announced by the Vatican, rumors began to swirl. Most commentators thought that the announcement would involve the Traditional Anglican Communion, a group which represents 400,000 Anglicans in 40 countries worldwide, which had approached the CDF two years ago, requesting “full, corporate, and sacramental union” with the Catholic Church.

      But today’s announcement goes well beyond the TAC. William Cardinal Levada, the prefect of the CDF, and Archbishop Augustine Di Noia, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, announced that Pope Benedict has signed an Apostolic Constitution (which has not yet been released) that will allow the TAC and other disaffected Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church as discrete bodies:

      In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony.
      As John Allen of the National Catholic Register explains, “personal ordinariates” are

      similar to the structures created throughout the world to provide pastoral care for members of the military and their families. The structures are, in effect, non-territorial dioceses, provided over by a bishop and with their own priests and seminarians.
      While the Catholic Church does not recognize the validity of Anglican Holy Orders, the new structure will allow married Anglican clergy to receive Holy Orders after formal conversion, and thus to serve as Roman Catholic priests. As John Allen notes, in keeping with both Catholic and Orthodox tradition, “they may not be ordained as bishops.”

      This new canonical structure will be open to all in the Anglican Communion (currently 77 million strong), including the Episcopal Church in the United States (approximately 2.2 million). The TAC will likely be the first to take advantage of the Apostolic Constitution, but more will undoubtedly follow. The Anglican Communion has been increasingly divided since the consecration of Gene Robinson, a open and practicing homosexual, as bishop in 2003, not to mention early controversies over the priestly and episcopal ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex couples.

  4. Again, married priests would only make the problem worse. More children are abused by married men, their own biological fathers. Liz makes a pointless statement like so many other uneducated people. Do some research!

    I don’t really mean to attack you, Liz, but I have not read one logical or intelligent response of yours. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. You are blind.

    1. Yes Rich I agree with the married part. My husband’s abuser was married. Pedophiles go where they have easy assess to kids. They are cowards. Use their power to dominate children. I don’t think it gets more evil than that. Catholics have to see how they have allowed their church to be easy assess for pedophiles………there is alot of self examination and soul searching that needs to be done after the church is cleaned up and the pedophiles are out and in jail and away from kids.

  5. By the way, Beth, thanks for asking about my back. It was one of the reasons that I couldn’t make the protest in Philly today. I crushed a disc in my lower back and fractured my tailbone in two places. I’ve had 2 epidurals but they were unsuccessful. Now the doctors are talking about surgery. I’m also dealing with Post-Concussion Syndrome. Oh well… it could be worse. I could be a kid all over again. Nothing worse than that. 😉

    1. Yeah I was sick myself and watch it on the news. I was thinking you would be there except for your back. How about accupunture? I hear it works for some. The body takes a while to heal. I remember you saying how bad your fall was. How long do they think the Post-concussion syndrome will last? Does the Dr. allow you to do any back excercises to strengthen your back rehab or anything? Sometimes surgery in necessary. I will say a prayer your back heals or you get the necessary treatment to feel better soon.

  6. I have always enjoyed the company of Sister Maureen. She is probably the only member of the Church who I would go out of my way for and support. I thank Sister Maureen for her support of myself and every victim of clergy sexual abuse. In an era where the Church lacks leadership, Sister Maureen has exemplified the true meaning of guidance and direction. If only a nun could be elected Pope, I’m certain the Church would be on the right path.

    Sister Maureen does everything she can and I couldn’t imagine such a battle without her support. She’s the general and she won’t retreat. Thanks to Sister Maureen for doing her share and more to protect children and to expose the crimes of yesterday. If there’s an afterlife, I’m sure Sister Maureen will be Queen.

  7. Can you send me you email, Beth? I’d rather communicate there and to hang everything out here, if you’d like anyway.

    1. Sorry about that. I realized after I posted that blog I asked you alot personal health questions.I understand.

  8. Thank you Sister Maureen, there is nothing more refreshing than reading someone’s thoughts that come straight from the heart, mind and soul. What a pleasure to read the truth.

  9. From an article this morning about the installation
    “The musicians – who spent the pre-Installation hours playing in front of the cathedral to counter protesters who were carrying photos of children allegedly abused by priests

    1. Kathy,
      When I read that statement in article this morning, I hung my head in despair. While I’d like to hope that comment was an unfounded, intentionally inflammatory remark, written by the journalist to hurt and piss off survivors, I cannot rule out the possibility that someone in this AD actually decided to hire these musicians with that exact intention in mind. I’d like to see some response from Chaput himself about that comment.
      Glad to see you made sure it got posted here to C4C.

  10. As I listened to a clip of the new Archbishop’s “stump speech” last night, I realized he’s nothing than another run of the mill politician. He said something about it taking time to fix things? Really? Here – I’ll give it to you in a quick, easy solution – round up all the offenders, ship them off to a jail, and let the inmates have their way with them. Let them suffer the way they’ve caused suffering. And if Chaput really wanted to “fix” things – he’d go straight to Harrisburg and lobby to have the statute of limitations waived so these offenders can be punished in open court. But he won’t – he’s just another politician here that will accomplish nothing but closing parishes and sweeping the church’s dirt under the proverbial rug…

  11. Angela, could not say it better myself, I totally agree. If he wants the healing to begin, then start by putting the offenders where they belong. Also the thought of the DA kissing his “ring” (I’m using the term ring instead of what I want to post) makes me sick. I can’t believe the RCC still thinks time is on their side. How many more victims must go through this over and over again.

  12. Sister Maureen’s post is honest and heart felt. I applaud her diligence and strong faith to affect change during these dark days in the RCC. Not only in Philadelphia, but around the world. We are blessed to have her in our midst.

    I see Chaput’s installation in the archdiocese as a political post. People are swayed by charisma and looks. One needs only to look at the stern scowls of the two previous leaders to understand why a pleasant looking smiling confident man would be a breath of fresh air. A brief diversion. My personal opinion is that he is here to calm the masses, and then begin fund raising to make up for the empty baskets in church every sunday. After all, how will he possibly pay for a top public relations firm like Phase Line Strategies when they head off to Harrisburg to represent the church against the victims? I can only imagine how the victims felt seeing Seth Williams hugging Archbishop Chaput. Seriously? God help us! The RCC is a strong, powerful, rich political machine. I am holding my breath to see what happens next.

  13. Sister Maureen,

    I praise you for your attempt to enlighten; however, enlightenment starts with oneself and not with others.
    Chaput must acknowledge his own blindness!!! If one is not accepted, one then has reason to look at himself.
    If you’re not welcomed, shake the dust off and move on.
    Please continue helping the abused and sadly move on from the “abusers” who refuse to acknowledge their own “blindness”. May our Lord continue to guide you in His love.

  14. Sister Maureen is obviously welcomed here and that is fine. I, however, continue to have NO faith or trust in any religious. Where were they when “Johnnie ” had to go to the principal’s office for a “private” session with the pastor?? …over and over again… Those wearing habits had to know something and did nothing. I have only felt close and trusting of any religious twice in my entire life ( I’m in my 60’s) Sorry for the downer…… Slilife 60s)with any religious isSister and trusring of 2 nuns in my entire catholic life ” habits had to know what was going on had to know what was going on

  15. I respect your comments, Carol, but I have known Sister Maureen for quite awhile… over three years. In that time, I’ve also done well over 150 protests in the Tri-State area. You wouldn’t believe how many Sister Maureen does. Even in rain, sleet, snow, freezing temps or the hot and humid weather, Sister Maureen seems to show up to everything and more. I can assure you, you will not find another person on the planet who has fought longer and harder for justice for victims than Sister Maureen. She doesn’t just talk about it like most people. You can often see her doing it.

    As a victim of clergy sexual abuse myself, I have no time for the Catholic Church and all their BS. If you asked me over 3 years ago, if I would stand in unity with a nun, I would’ve said “HELL NO!” But what draws my attention to Sister Maureen is more that she ALWAYS stands in unity with us.

    Instead of thinking of her as a member of the Catholic Church, watch what she does and discover who she really is, and I promise you, you’ll be smacked in the face with the true heroic nature of Sister Maureen Paul Turlish.

  16. It’s people like this woman, which makes me hold onto some hope, and not give up on the faith entirely. Obviously, by her actions, her calling came from God (and her conscience), not just an institution. God bless her work.

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