What Are We?

by Kathy Kane

I attended the trial on Wednesday. It was one of the more uneventful days with a lengthy cross examination of a detective regarding documents related to Fr. Brennan. Instead, I’d like to share what happened during the break. “Had it” whose name is Kate, flew in to attend a few days of the trial. We went to lunch with Beth, a frequent commentor on C4C, Steve, a clergy abuse victim and Bob, a retired school teacher and former seminarian. Steve attends the trial every day and Bob has joined a few survivors and family members at the lunch break each day. It’s an interesting mix: Beth, who is a practicing Catholic very involved on a parish level; Kate who has struggled with practicing her faith in recent years;  a victim; and a former seminarian.

I wish everyone could have joined us because the conversations we had are the ones that need to happen on the parish level and probably never will. Steve shared that he was a former altar boy under Cardinal Krol and the honor he felt in that role as a child, and then later the sting of the rejection by the Church as a clergy abuse victim. When Bob was asked about the climate of St Charles Seminary in the 1960’s, he was very honest that he had a positive experience. He also spoke of his frustration when a problem seminarian he reported went on to be ordained. Beth who is seeking a pastoral response by the clergy to our victims, asked Steve if he would even want priests to join at the vigils with us. Kate shared her observations that a priest in court that morning, who was there to support Msgr. Lynn, seemed to literally turn his back in on Fr. Brennan.  I guess pastoral concern is a pick and choose option.

I told Steve and Bob what Susan and I hope to accomplish with the C4C site and that we felt that the side calling all priests pedophiles is no different than the side calling all victims liars. When two sides of opposing viewpoints do nothing but scream at each other, no children are protected and no victims are comforted. Bob, who I just met today, seems to be a thoughtful, prayerful type asked me if I was still Catholic. I started to answer with, “well my kids…well I am angry…,” and then simply looked at him and said “I don’t know.” He answered, “I understand.”

When we left lunch we had to say goodbye to Beth who had to get home to her kids. We hugged her goodbye and Steve turned and hugged me. I told him I wasn’t leaving, I was returning to court with them. He said “I know I just want to thank you for what you are doing.” It was the same message I received from an abuse survivor a few days ago. “Happy Birthday. Thank you for caring about me.” It breaks my heart into a million pieces each time something like that happens. People who have been so deeply wounded, thanking people for simply caring about them. Thank you Steve, for what you do to protect children, my children, all of our children.

I am sure if the Archdiocese reads the comments under Susan’s post about the parish-based initiatives, they might roll their eyes and think we will never be satisfied. I hope they realize the anger in the comments is the anger and betrayal they acknowledge exists. Sample sermons, sample statements will never sound or feel authentic to anyone, priests or congregants. What we need is a human, compassionate response. Each time Beth talks with a victim she is literally ministering to them, I have seen her do this time and time again. Each person takes a little bit of her with them when they leave – a comforting word, support. “I believe you, I am sorry.”  She has the freedom to do this without the fear of legalities and all the other strings attached to any response the Archdiocese offers.

I mentioned to a priest that I’m confused that Susan and mine’s relationship with the Archdiocese is perceived as adversarial when all we are trying to do is protect children and comfort victims. He said, “that is because you are doing things in a way  they can’t.”  I understand that now. I am not tasked with developing a program for 1.4 million Catholics or worrying about lawsuits, trials and suspended  priests. I can meet  in small groups with a variety of people like today at lunch, and have authentic sometimes difficult conversations. Those conversations always leave with a sense of healing…always. And those conversations find their roots in the Gospel, which had it always been followed, there were be no need to even be developing these new programs, sample sermons, and parish meetings.

The truth was always there in the Gospel, even though it was ignored in relation to children and victims, it was there. How do you recover from messing that up? I have no idea. Maybe these parish based initiatives will be helpful to some. Maybe without ever meeting victims and hearing their stories, people can go to a meeting or hear a sermon and can leave feeling that a massive wound is being healed. I can’t do that because unless I stand with the victims, the people who were truly harmed, betrayed and abandoned – then nothing would ever make me feel the basic tenets of our faith are being followed. And without that, then what are we?

37 thoughts on “What Are We?

  1. Susan: This commentary is so profound. It is a struggle for all of us to deal with this, but you have put it in a context we can all relate to.

  2. How can any of us, the faithful, heal when you have Cistone, Cullen, Senior and Jagodzinski still active in the AD…I have no respect for any of these “weak” men who are more concerned about their next appointment than the children we entrusted them to protect and nourish…There are so many bad apples the basket needs to be fed to the pigs….Has anyone even questioned why these four priests got a “hall pass” in the first place??

    1. Kathy….great post…knew I would like it.

      But a couple questions, about this part: ”

      “I mentioned to a priest that I’m confused that Susan and mine’s relationship with the Archdiocese is perceived as adversarial when all we are trying to do is protect children and comfort victims.

      He said, “that is because you are doing things in a way  they can’t.”

       I understand that now. I am not tasked with developing a program for 1.4 million Catholics or worrying about lawsuits, trials and suspended  priests.

      I can meet  in small groups witha variety of people like today at lunch, and have authentic sometimes difficult conversations. Those conversations always leave with a sense of healing…always”

      MY Response.

      ‘He said, “that is because you are doing things in a way they (the AD) can’t.

      I guess my question is WHY CAN’T THE AD set up a series of ‘listening’ sessions, preferably run by Martin, or someone with his background and training, to LISTEN to groups of laity, groups of survivors, and other folks, relative to the abuse situation.

      And I’m suggesting non defensive meetings where the AD has a chance to get honest input from participants, relative to abuse issues and perhaps, other matters. And the AD is not in the ‘programming mode, but rather the LISTENING mode.

      It’s risky, because the AD may hear things they don’t want to hear, but it is respectful of the participants and might well provide some direction to the AD in these very difficult matters. Forinstance, there might well be support for the AD embracing the 2011 Grand Jury recommendations.

      It is true that the AD has many other management tasks. But some genuine input from laity and survivors might well help the AD in the choices and decisions that they make relative to THOSE tasks.

      Just a thought, but social science has come a long way in developing such input groups that could fairly represent the composition and FEELINGS of the ‘faithful’. Business uses these techniques, why not the AD?

      1. Joan,
        Excellent idea. When I brought up some things I noticed with faith formation AD they seemed surprised by some things I said maybe alittle shocked……and not all I said was negative just how I saw things and what I heard from our survivors.. I also had a call back from victims assistance to put my 2 cents in and as a follow up and at the end of the conversation the lady said thankyou for the input and that she wishes more people at a parish level were more concerned about our victims and what is going on in the church right now.

      2. Joan,

        I don’t see the AD “listening groups” being effective for many folks until certain factors are, first, in place:

        1. The AD must admit guilt.
        2. It must provide justice to the victims in the form of a two-year window opening up the Statue of Limitations.
        3. It must support SOL reform and child protection legislation.

        These cover the justice side of things.

        Once they are accomplished, they legitimize and authenticate efforts at mercy (i.e. “listening groups”).

      3. Hadit…it’s probably hopelessly naive of me…but if the AD was to engage in REAL ‘listening’ groups…perhaps some of your preconditions might evolve.

        Family says I am a huge optimist….

      4. Hadit,
        Interacting with victims and families of victims makes me feel they need and deserve justice, truth, accountablity, amends, etc all the more…..I believe this will be true for others.

      5. beth,

        I know I’ve said it before, and I apologize for repeating it again, but justice issues must be resolved before attempts at mercy are made. Otherwise, mercy attempts are nothing short of cruel, indeed, they are new assaults that re-victimization victims.

        What does if feel like when a person or institution says, “here is my mercy (my sorrow and compassion)” without FIRST saying, “I am guilty of a sin, crime or transgression. Because of it, and in order equalize the unequal perpetrator/enabler/victim grounds we stand on, here is a fair and equitable compensation (i.e. money). And I will do this (reformative measures) to ensure you that the sin, crime or transgression will never happen again.”

        Without justice, first, attempts at mercy are inauthentic, hurtful, anger-inducing, and cruel trickery.

        While I’d like to be optimistic like Joan regarding the Church coming around with the justice issues, realistically, I don’t see that happening. But because they are critical to mercy initiatives, priests who genuinely want to participate in, and be effective at, them will have to clearly and emphatically vocalize their disdain for the Church’s failure to provide the justice component, and actively advocate for it. In doing so, priests will enable victims to develop faith and trust in them, their sorrow, and their compassion. Clearly, priests can no longer remain silent.

      6. Hadit, your justice before mercy motif is totally reasonable at the institutional level….and I agree with you.

        And the ‘odds’ are not high that the AD would be willing to engage in anything but preprepared agendas. But I did want to raise the issue as a possibility.

        What I hope might happen is that at the parish level, such ‘listening groups’ or some variation on that theme might emerge. It is there, at the parish that genuine dialogue could call for ‘justice’.

        And also, one hopes that the larger PA community may be supportive of those legal interventions that provide justice.

  3. Nancy ..it’s Kathy. The above were my thoughts on the day I attended the trial and the lunch gathering. I also just wanted to add when I said these conversations are rooted in the Gospel, I don’t mean it is a bunch of people quoting the Bible or anything of that nature. It is when we speak of compassion,mercy and justice,those are the messages we all have heard from the Gospel all of these years and seems crystal clear as to what needs to happen for there to be any hope.

  4. What are you? What do you do when your faith is tested, and what do the leaders of your religion do?

    • Do you side with the pedophile priests or the victims?
    • Do you side with money or morals?
    • Do you seek the truth or seek excuses?
    • Do you side with truth or some exaggerated stretching of the truth that you convinced yourself can’t be proven to be a lie?
    • Do you do What Jesus Would Do or What Satan Would Do?
    • Do you use the excuse that the Catholic church does mostly good things, so being the world’s largest pedophile protection program is ok, and do you therefore say that Jerry Sandusky was a good guy because he also did a lot of charity work?
    • Do you think God is so stupid He can’t tell what side you chose and how it impacted others?

    The interesting thing is that this generation has no excuse. No one is put to death or tortured for doing the right thing in this case. There are downsides for following true faith:

    • your priest may get angry at you (but of course, he isn’t following the word of God)
    • your other congregation members may get angry at you (but of course, he isn’t following the word of God)
    • Cardinal Dolan and Bill Donahue and Pope Benedict and the other primary voices of the Catholic church may not like you

    There is no question that the Catholic church IS the world’s largest pedophile protection program. They lied about it consistently, and Philly has more proof than anyone. God’s most innocent were devastated by their calculated, coordinated evil. Don’t tell me it wasn’t intentional. That’s just a Catholic excuse. Tell God.

    Your religion says a lot about what you are, and if you are Catholic, you aren’t Christian, and God can tell.

    1. Then how do you respond to the victims who are still practicing Catholics? Because I have met more than few people this year who while victimized still practice their faith. Each victim follows the path that is right for them. Some will never come forward,others seek justice,some will never set foot in a Church,other still practice their faith,
      My thought is we need to respond to all victims no matter where they are at this point, but there are still victims within the Church community.

      1. I don’t understand them, and have never gotten a good explanation from them. I don’t understand how people could follow leaders of a religion if the leaders don’t even practice the basic tenets of the religion.

        I grew up with the full dose of Catholicism, in 12 years of school, so I heard it all. I was literally brainwashed. I heard “the one holy, and apostolic church”, until decades later, when I realized that Christ started “the one holy, and apostolic church”, and the Catholic church fragmented away from that church, making significant changes:

        – the Catholic church changed the 10 commandments to minimize the idea of idolatry, since they had a Pope who should be obeyed even over Christ or God
        – the Catholic church INVENTED confession, honoring the first half of John 20:23 and ignoring the second half
        – creating canon law, which overrides the commandments to protect priests and the church

        If you look at it intelligently, you can tell this isn’t God’s church, and God is proving that everyday, and testing the faith of the world. In the most hideous crime of innocent child rape, would you follow pedophiles, liars, and greedy rich men, or would you follow God?

        If victims are still practicing Catholics, and they get out of their brainwashed phase, maybe they would see it more clearly. Regardless, I’ve always thought all victims go to heaven.

      2. I think reading Vicky’s post below and James post on the question to survivors will be helpful. And I think David also mentioned the variety of paths of victims. There is no one right answer for every person.

      1. Its just typical of Catholic priests:

        – fight the girl scouts
        – fight the nuns
        – fight the gays
        – fight contraception, and women who don’t want to bring new children in the world, especially in countries where the children will starve to death, because the Catholic church sure won’t feed them
        – fight the victims of your thousands and thousands of child sex abusing punks
        – fight to save your pedophile priests

        and most importantly, above all, fight to keep church money, which, by their actions, is the first commandment.

  5. Thank you for sharing this Kathy. You are a voice for so many who are struggling to make sense of things that do not make sense. You give others permission to be confused, questioning, wondering.

    When you said this, “I can’t do that because unless I stand with the victims, the people who were truly harmed, betrayed and abandoned – then nothing would ever make me feel the basic tenets of our faith are being followed.” it brought tears…because somewhere in all the words, press conferences, concerns for pew Catholics, trials, and defense teams, many in the Catholic faith have forgotten who the true victims are.

    I would have loved to had lunch with all of you!

    1. survivors wife, I look at it sometimes in the context of 9/11. When that happened I felt horrified,scared and all the other emotions that so many Americans felt. But I was not on the planes or in the buildings,nor were my loved ones. The response we saw to the victims and families of 9/11 was one of compassion,we all saw the planes hit the buildings,the people running in the streets,it happened. We would never identify ourselves as a victim of 9/11,the people and families who were the victims were right before our eyes on TV interviews, their pictures in magazines..THEY were the victims. So I could still have my feelings of being scared and upset, but in no way would think someone needed to make it better for me,I was safe in my home with my family,I was okay. I saw a speech that a 9/11 family member gave at the 10th anniversary and she said amidst all of the horror,the beauty of other humans shown through,she said “people really do pick you up when you fall” We have not done that with our victims. So much is needed,especially justice, but so is basic compassion. I mention the response of two survivors in my post because it shows their grace,not mine.

  6. My perception of what it means to be “faithful” has totally evolved as I, hopefully, have grown. One saying really grates on me: “What would Jesus do?” All we need to do is ask: “What DID Jesus do?” Jesus sat with the sinners, (even the worst of them), He also confronted them, with devastating results. I was so entrenched in the catholic faith, from the time I was born, that I was actually blind to what true faith and spirituality really are. Again, not to sound sappy, but all of us are truly on a journey toward truth. Sometimes that truth is really painful. Sometimes the fingers point toward, sometimes the fingers point inward. Both are necessary.
    One thing remains constant: This is such a valuable forum for growth and change. The dialogue is what will help us through all of this. I only ever grew from pain and from the gracious help of others who cared. Kathy, Susan, and so many of you who have shared so willingly of yourselves, Thank You…for helping me grow beyond my self-imposed or self-perceived limits. All of you are truly doing exactly “What Jesus did.”

  7. The way, I believe, the Lord would have all of us see all this is to see it the way HE SEES IT. Summed up, God sees humanity as children of Adam, and as such all are sinners. Not just the Catholic Church, but any denomination is the same as the world— sinners, and in need of being saved God’s way. Problem starts with the various denoms or churches convincing the sinners that they need to do such and such to escape God’s wrath on sinners; but God says something different. God says only believe that my Son, Christ died and rose to take care of your sin problem. God says if you believe that, you will be saved. Everyone, abusers, victims, advocates, —- everyone needs this gospel.

  8. Canon law. Catholic laws. Man-made rules. Do as I say, not as I do……God gave us the 10 Comandments to live by. Jesus died for us and rose again for us. He knows all, no matter what, there is a judgement line we all will stand in….I believe the victims…..and know that He will always hold you in the Palm of His Hand.

  9. Most victims are pre-conditioned for this unique trauma by their experience and education in the institutional Church. With very rare exceptions they have been devout believers with unquestioning loyalty to their Church. This loyalty extends to every level, from the local parish to the Vatican. It is a blind loyalty because these men and women are taught throughout their religious training that they MUST accept and believe whatever Church says or teaches without question. We have been taught that to doubt or question a cleric is to offend God and thus commit a sin. Victims often exclaim that the sexual abuse robbed them of God. This response can have a number of meanings. The priest is intimately associated with God. For some, the estrangement from priests means an estrangement from the Church and its sacraments which in turn means estrangement from God. Others believe that God has rejected them through the betrayal by the priest and still others report to me that they can no longer receive the sacraments that for them {which is the truth for me} would amount to re-visiting the pain and trauma. Though some abuse victims have been able to distinguish between the man who abused them and the wider Church, many cannot.. Some experience an unexplained emptiness because they are emotionally and spiritually unable to participate in the liturgies and other familiar rituals. Church, many cannot. Some experience an unexplained emptiness becspiritual

    1. Vicky thats so deep and so thoughtful thankyou for that response. You have given us so much to think about.

  10. Catholics on a whole are a passive group…Anyone who is following this trial should be screaming from the rooftops to get the statute of limitations changed so that the worst offenders, Cudemo, Gana, Sicoli, can be prosecuted for their crimes.

    1. Maureen, It think that’s just the problem. Not enough Catholics are following the trial. The few who are reading about the trial don’t know what to do with the info. They can find out at Justice4PAkids.com. We are working very hard to have those statutes removed. Maureen Martinez is a tireless champion of the cause.

    2. Maureen I agree they need to change to protect our children. Many on this site are working towards that end, I don’t think you can call the catholics on this site passive……..I wouldn’t….. especially mama bear Kathy:)

    3. Catholics are sheep. It takes a village to rape a child, and if 1% of the Philly Catholic congregation were true Christians, they’d be screaming for justice.

      Pitifully, they follow their Catholic leaders in

      – protection of money
      – apathy toward the protection of children
      – complete, shameful cowardice

      They spend their energy fighting gays, shoulder to shoulder with priests who decided at age 17 never to have sex with a woman. This village has a lot of village idiots.

      1. I know Boston right? I was just wondering because you are very passionate and involved you might make time to come down. Hadit flew in for a few days………

      2. You say it takes a village to rape a child,I don’t know if you realize how painful that statement is to someone reading this who may have had a loved one abused. Many parents and siblings did not know,many in the community did not know, the people with access to the secret archives sure they knew…but your everyday catholic was pretty much in the dark that their parish priest was a pedophile and a danger to children. Just tone it down because one of your recent comments very much upset someone who is a victim. Constant anger can be damaging to someone trying to find peace.

    4. Maureen, unfortunately Gana, Sicoli, Cudemo etc…will never be prosecuted because changes to the criminal statutes cannot be retroactive…so they skate. That is why the two year civil window statute legislation is so important ,to enable victims to at least bring civil claims so that perpetrators are named in court and an abuser at least now has a civil claim of sexual abuse associated with him/her.

  11. Continue from above, some experience an unexplained emptiness because they are emotionally and spiritually unable to participate in familiar rituals. The emptiness the victims feel is the void left from this loss. I hope this helps Patrick understand a little more of why some victims are deciding not to leave the church. As kathy stated, we are all on different stages of our journey to wholeness and always God is in charge, so there needs to be no judgement. This kind of abuse has so many layers. In my own recovery I am still after many years of therapy dealing with sexual abuse issues because like peeling an onion there are layers however i am nearing the core which is good news. Thank you all for believing the victims!!!

    1. Vicky, I relate to your comments a lot!

      And we are all on our own ‘journeys’ and they are as individual as we are.

      James 15 just did a beautiful piece on the blog Susan set up for victims and in it James mentioned Richard Rohr, as being helpful to him.

      James cited a Rohr link for daily meditation…and I am adding a Rohr link for his books, which I value very highly. http://www.cacradicalgrace.org/

    2. Thank you, as always Vicky. Your, and all the comments from the survivors mean a great deal to me. I wish all the victims, my most powerful positive thoughts through their arduous journey of healing. No child should have suffered in this heinous manner.
      Great to hear from James (Bob).

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