Penn State Scandal Puts Church Scandal In New Light

This is an excellent article. Click here to read: “Penn State sex case rivets public, fuels reforms,” by MaryClaire Dale, Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle, November 21, 2011

Excerpt: “There are far more numbers (of victims and abusers) in the priest-abuse scandal, and one might even think larger violations of trust,” said Frank Cervone, executive director of the Support Center for Child Advocates in Philadelphia. “Ironically, more people are upset (now).”

16 thoughts on “Penn State Scandal Puts Church Scandal In New Light

  1. Congratulations, Susan and Kathy. Associated Press is the most influential and respected news organization in the world. They are now reporting on the reforms to PA legislation you both have worked so hard for. In addition, Chaput appears in retreat and is calling for mandatory reporting. A very substantial victory, well earned.

  2. Susan and Kathy, your good work is paying dividends for all, not just Catholic children. I firmly believe that the RCC scandal has brought the issue of childhood sexual abuse out into the open. You both have had the courage to face it, name it, and demand that the protection of children be a priority, not only in the Archdiocese, but in all Catholic communities.

    Now that the crime of sexual abuse of children has been acknowledged in Penn State, it is not just aware Catholics who know how serious and pervasive a crime it is. Thank you for helping make us aware of the need to protect all our children from sexual abuse.

  3. Such an important part of the article,this quote from former DA Lynn Abraham The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, along with Chaput’s predecessors in Philadelphia, vigorously fought time extensions in the past.

    “The worst thing he can do is continue the policies of the previous administration,” Abraham said.

    1. Kathy, Lynn Abraham was right….”The worst thing he (current archbishop) can do is continue the policies of the previous administration”

      Sadly, when one reads the SF Chronicle article, though, you have the sense of ‘business as usual.’ The Chronicle cites the Archbishop as wanting prompt reporting of abuse, which I read as….no need to extend reporting requirements time line from age 30 to 50 years old as HB 878 and 832 are proposing. Just report NOW!

      And the Archbishop wants legislation that is ‘fair and just for all concerned’ an argument he used in Colorado to defeat bills like HB 878 and 832. The ‘all concerned’ could be the fiscal interests of the Church which seems unable to understand that rape and sodomy of innocent children takes primary priority over other ‘good works.’

      It’s sort of like if I am convicted of murder, and yet have been charitable in other ways, my charity outweighs my criminal actions and should get primary consideration. Not an argument that holds any water in criminal proceedings, except at the sentencing phase.

  4. Dear Kathy and Susan. thank you ever so much for the courage and the time to open this site for Catholics4change. You have really been raising consciousness for so many people. We are all awaiting the next step. Much like Advent, we now are in the mode of expectation
    It is sad that so many people just refuse to even consider that such an horrendous tragedy against so many children could happen in one of the most powerful religious communities in the world and that this plague was, also, finally exposed throughout the world and not isolated to the American church. Again, thank you so much.

    May I add a personal note. Today is the anniversary of the death of President Kennedy. I was stationed at St. Stephen, the Martyr church in WDC on Pennsylvania Ave, NW.. The president occasionally attended Mass there. The evening that his body was returned to the White House, the secret service came to our modern church ( 3 years old) and requested the kneelers and the mahogany candlesticks (6ft tall with candlles) which were placed around the coffin in the East Room. We, the priest of the rectory, were then asked to go to the White House and serve in vigil for the night watch. One can never forget such memories.

    Again, thank you and all the bloggers who are attempting to make this site a powerful challenge to the failure to act by the authorities in the Church. It is just so sad that Penn State had to be the catalyst for making this issue so much more apparent to the public.

    1. Father Wintermeyer, Thank you for your comments on this site. In our advocacy work we have joined with many groups of people who are involved in the efforts of protecting children. Most recently we have been joined by both parents and Rabbi’s within the Jewish community. At both press conferences in Harrisburg there were Rabbi’s in attendance. The first time a rabbi from New York,this last time a rabbi from the Harrisburg area. Both of these rabbi’s introduced themselves to our group and spoke of the problem of sexual abuse within their community.Their honesty and passion about children was refreshing.
      I recently have been included in emails within the Jewish community. The other day I received an email that was sent to 40 rabbi’s…and me. The email told the story of Lot and used the references to speak about the children of today It was a very long email I will just share a portion. Rabbi Rosenberg, utilizing the ancient rabbinic maxim that these Biblical stories are eternal lessons for posterity (Maase Avos Siman L’banim) explains that in our generation many people are acting like Lot when it comes to their children. They are allowing them to be raped, sodomized and sexually molested in order to protect others. They are concerned more with protecting the social fabric (which has become more and more like Sodom). They want to protect adults from “false allegations”. They want to protect the innocent family members of the molesters from having their breadwinner incarcerated. They want to protect the financial integrity of the Torah institutions that harbor molesters from being sued. They want to protect the reputations of big rabbis who have been guilty of covering up child sexual abuse for years. They want to protect the image of Orthodox Judaism by pretending that we are better than everyone else and don’t have any child molesters in our midst. They want to protect their own families from the social stigma of a complete perversion of the “mesirah” laws against handing another Jew over to secular law enforcement (which were written at a time when the Jews lived under antisemitic rule). They want to protect the victims from being “outed” and seen as “damaged goods” unworthy of shidduchim (marriage opportunities). They want to protect their friends, neighbors and relatives who ARE the molesters, from being punished for their crimes.

      And they sacrifice the innocence and the physical emotional and spiritual safety and security of their own children. This is the legacy of Lot, not of Abraham. This is the legacy that leads to inter-generational incest and abuse, and eventually to the development of a cruel and wicked people.

      Let us change. Let us return to the kind ways of the Jewish people and of the Torah. Let us champion the safety of our children, and hold those who harm them to account and bring them to justice. Our future as a people is totally dependent on it. Parents, by standing up and demanding better from your rabbis, and by protecting your children from these communal forces, you are creating a legacy of justice, a legacy of morality, a legacy of safety and security, a legacy of love for your children and all the children of the Jewish people, from now until the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our days.

      1. This is the type of honesty that people within the Church are waiting for. For their clergy to call it what it is ,no excuses. Fr Wintermyer ,do you think we have a chance of seeing this type of honesty from groups of clergy, rather than just some individual priests who speak up from time to time?

      2. Thanks to both Kathy and Fr W!

        Abuse Tracker notes that new members have been appointed to the diocesan Review Bd. Any comments?

      3. It does occur to me that however competent the new diocesan Review Board members are….they are still limited in their ‘review’ by the info the AD gives or does NOT give them regarding possible abusers!

      4. Review boards are hand-picked. They are chosen by hierarchy. We already know they will be company people because what bishop is going to hand-pick a person who challenges the status quo? The circle of people they choose from are people who rub elbows with the rcc. It won’t matter whose face is on the review board…it’s a warm body selected by the bishop.

        Similar to Education Commission panels in catholic schools. Ultimately, the priest makes the final decisions and can trump any recommendation or suggestion made by the Commission (or Review Board).

        Review Board=Ineffective.

  5. Susan and Kathy. In two days we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Thank you for your time, effort, bravery, diligence, and hope during these days of confusion and fear for so many of us. This site has touched so many people, and at the very least has created an honest dialogue for the first time. I pray that this time next year, we will be in a very different place, and that our children will be protected by the laws of our State…….finally. If our church will not protect our children, then good people everywhere must stand up and be heard until the powers that be listen. God bless you, and all of the victims.

    1. There is hope, and the Wisconsin Church just behaved in a way that makes one truly thankfu!
      November 23, 2011
      Statement by Peter Isely of Milwaukee, SNAP Midwest Director, 414.429.7259
      At the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison yesterday, Fr. James Connell, the Vice Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee made quiet history when he joined Senator Julie Lassa (24th Senate District, Stevens Point) and Representative Sandy Pasch (22nd Assembly District-Whitefish Bay), in urging the passage of the Wisconsin Child Victims Act.
      With Connell were victim/survivors of child sexual violence by clergy and other trusted adults, long time child protection advocates and organizations, and law enforcement. Every speaker echoed the now long established conclusion, based on criminological research and population studies, that most child victims do not report the crimes committed against them and if they do, it often takes years, if not decades.
      The newly introduced reform measure would lift the civil statute of limitations on child sex abuse and open a two year “grandfather clause” for those already victimized to bring their cases to court. The bill does not target any church, organization or school. There are no exemptions or special clauses in it. It simply allows anyone who was raped or sexually assaulted as a child to bring the offender, or those proven to have covered up the criminal activity of the offender, to civil justice.
      Victim/survivors of sexual abuse and a high ranking Catholic official standing shoulder to shoulder in support of the Child Victims Act, fought by Catholic bishops in several states, is an unusual enough scene. Of course, a bishop knows that when victims get their cases heard in court, just like we are now seeing in the a Penn State scandal, the cover up of these crimes can reach into the highest rungs of his organization.
      But that is not what made Connell’s words so noteworthy. It was, rather, that Connell clearly and powerfully articulated how all Catholics can get behind legal reform of the child sex abuse statutes because Catholic law (“canon law”) itself fully supports and uses the basic legal principles upon which the Child Victims Act is constructed.
      It’s just that church officials are not applying these principles to their own acts of injustice.
      And the Child Victims Act, as Connell eloquently argued, is about justice: “Justice in the Catholic Church is a cardinal virtue. And Church leaders may not turn away from justice.”
      Connell should know what he is talking about. He is himself a canon lawyer, and a member of the archdiocesan review board charged with examining current sexual abuse reports against priests. “We have” he said, “within our own [Catholic legal] system statutes of limitations, and the catholic church has itself in recent years changed the laws of statutes of limitations”.
      Connell pointed out how the Vatican has extended legal time limits on child sex crimes by priests and, even more significantly, opened up their statutes to address past cases, even if the time limits of the current statute had expired. In other words, just what the Child Victims Act would do: extend or eliminate the legal time limits for victims to file child sex abuse cases and open up the current statute to address past cases.
      Connell’s concerns are not simply as a church official, canon lawyer, and someone who has to rule on sex abuse cases in his own archdiocese. It is also because he has been a pastor of two Sheboygan, Wisconsin parishes over the past twelve years, and each parish has had a child sex predator once assigned there by the archdiocese: “The pain is deep with my parishioners, and as I have gotten to know them, know their stories, it has touched my heart deeply”.
      In closing his remarks from the Senate Parlor, Connell spoke words that victims and their families have been long been waiting to hear from priests and church officials:
      “I would encourage the bishops in the state of Wisconsin and the entire catholic community here in the state to follow the example of our own church law and to change the laws as necessary to actually serve the needs of justice, in this case, serving the needs of those who are victims of clergy sexual abuse. So, I do support this legislation and I ask the entire community, the catholic community, and our bishops to join in this support.”
      SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our Wisconsin website is 

      1. This is encouraging. I hope that more catholic leadership will not be afraid to speak out as the climate is changing and those that speakout I feel will be gaiining the support of the laity.

  6. Vice Chancellor Father James O Connell of the Milwaukee Archdiocese standing in the State Capitol, Madison, with victims advocates, victims, and legislators sponsoring the Wisconsin Child Protection Act, ( a no nonsense bill that would lift the civil statute of limitations on child sex abuse and open a two year window for all abused to bring the offender AND those proven to have covered up the criminal activity of the offender to justice,) called on Wisconsin bishops and Catholics to support the legislation on Nov 23.


    WHY can a Wisconsin AD official do this and NOT a Philadelphia or other PA diocesan officials do the same?

    If its right in Wisconsin, surely it is right in PA?

    AND throughout the nation?

    In closing his remarks from the Senate Parlor, Connell spoke words that victims and their families have been long been waiting to hear from priests and church officials:
    “I would encourage the bishops in the state of Wisconsin and the entire catholic community here in the state to follow the example of our own church law and to change the laws as necessary to actually serve the needs of justice, in this case, serving the needs of those who are victims of clergy sexual abuse. So, I do support this legislation and I ask the entire community, the catholic community, and our bishops to join in this support.”

  7. Peter Isely said, when reporting Father Connoll’s statement of support in Madison Wisconsin for the Wisconsin Child Protection Act, that ‘quiet history was made’…..when a diocesan official publicly supported the Act.

    I think Father James Connoll deserves a major ‘thank you’ …..would very much appreciate his e mail address….so as to thank him!

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