Clergy Sex Abuse Not On Pope’s Official Philadelphia Agenda

As a child, I was among the million Catholics lining the parkway for Pope John Paul’s visit in 1979. My father propped me up on a mailbox. The sea of people was a sight to behold – one huge Catholic family. That memory is marred by what I now know as an adult about our institutional Church. It had very little regard for that “family” in so many instances around the globe and here.

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, the official itinerary for the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia on September 25 and 26th does not include clergy sex abuse. What topic could be more timely or appropriate to the World Meeting of Families? What is the short-term plan for the 1,446,508 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia whose trust has been betrayed by the institutional Church and whose children were put at risk in parishes and schools?

The Vatican Commission and Tribunal may be workable long-term solutions, but Pope Francis could give practical meaning to his pastoral message of love and mercy by offering triage here at ground zero.

Three Grand Jury Reports (2003, 2005 and 2011) revealed case after case of allegations of clergy sex abuse covered up by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under three Cardinals (Krol, Bevilacqua and Rigali). Abuse and cover ups occurred in several other US dioceses and globally.

This isn’t a problem in the distant past. Our Archdiocesan children were potentially put at risk here as recently as 2013. Father John Paul was allowed to remain pastor of Our Lady of Calvary for over a year while under investigation. Eventually several people came forward with allegations and he has since chosen voluntary laicization. The Statute of Limitations prevents further criminal or civil action. He is able to live anywhere he’d like without monitoring.

To add injury to injury, The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference continues to lobby against the safety interests all children and against justice for the victims of all child sex abuse (not just clergy) in the Commonwealth. The Church seeks refuge from financial and criminal responsibility under the current Statute of Limitations knowing that it allows child sex abusers to remain unidentified in our communities.

Divorce, marriage, abortion, homosexuality, poverty — all these issues and many more are so important. But as a Catholic mother, none of these things matter if my child isn’t safe. A Church that doesn’t honor and protect its children will one day be empty. It’s worth a conversation or at least a mention during this visit. Don’t you think?

23 thoughts on “Clergy Sex Abuse Not On Pope’s Official Philadelphia Agenda

  1. Besides the fact that this seems to be a non-issue on the agenda, Msgr Lynn seems to have been conveniently re-located from the prison the Pope is visiting. If there is anyone on the planet, Francis should meet with it is the one person who is at the epicenter of the crisis. How about gathering all the bishops who were known to be complicit, prostrating themselves at the cathedral as an outward sign of repentance, and perhaps renewal !

  2. I think you are absolutely right, Susan. Thank you for your courageous and apt call for “papal triage”.

    Monsignor Lynn’s family recently reportedly blamed the Philly cardinals (Bevilaqua and Rigali) for his criminal behavior. The pope still treats Rigali as an honored member of his hierarchy. And Bevilacqua’s video deposition by Philly prosecutors, as far as I know, remains sealed. Why?

    Pope Francis, like Archbishop Chaput and Cardinals Rigali and Bevilacqua before him, once again is treating the Catholics of Philadelphia as “dumb sheep”.

    It is, in my view as someone who has followed the Philly abuse cover up scandal closely for several years, a true disgrace — for the pope to glide over the scandal and for Philly Catholics to accept such papal disrespect quietly!

    Philly Catholics are not medieval peasants !!

    As is made clear in the superb new book, “Whistle”, about Fr. Tom Doyle, Philly’s priest child abuse scandal went back to at least Cardinal Krol, right up until now, it appears.

    Please see for “Whistle”:

  3. Why am I not angry ? Is it because I did not expect anything better or is because I am in a better place now and do not need any pope, archbishop, cardinal or priest to acknowledge what has happened to me and others ? I think its both. I will however not go away, I will not be ashamed of what happened to me and will discuss my abuse with anyone who will listen. If I/we were chosen by God to prevent another child from being hurt then my question of “why” has been answered and I feel honored I have been chosen by God.

    The only thing we must ask ourselves is when the catholic church wants to talk about clergy abuse within a few months with the release of the movie “Spotlight” do we turn our backs ? I say no. First, because we are without a doubt better then them, and I would never turn a deaf ear to someone who is willing to protect our children.

    1. Dennis, thank you for your post. I DO expect better from the hierarchy but through the Maria Goretti Network/MGN, a Catholic support group for ALL victims of abuse, I’ve come to terms w/what happened. like you I don’t need anything from the Pope, Cardinals or Bishops. It’s nice to get it but I don’t expect it. Also, like you, I refuse to go away or remain silent. Love motivates a champion, not anger. We must continue to work for better treatment and new ways of helping survivors of abuse whether it happened in the Church or out of it. The Church talks a lot about sex trafficking but not enough about domestic violence. Those of us who have been hurt by the Church should show the men running that Church how they can better respond to ALL survivors of abuse no matter what form or type of abuse it was. Bless you Dennis!

  4. “This isn’t a problem in the distant past.”– And it still continues to this day. Bishops are still getting away with covering up sex crimes, and as long as no bishop is either punished, jailed, demoted, fired, or defrocked, kids are still not safe within the system. Sadly It’s becoming very clear that Pope Francis is not going to take that stand and do the right thing.

    The best way to get this sex abuse of children stopped, is to abolish the statute of limitations.

  5. The beauty of Christianity is found in the perfection and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. My faith is strong because I’ve been taught to have a personal relationship with Jesus even though I encountered dysfunctional clergy and religious while in Catholic schools. They were not the focus of my faith. Theses men and women sometimes catapulted and other times impeded my faith journey, but nothing can corrupt the beauty and joy found in the living God and the Catholic faith.

    All of humanity, including the clergy, are imperfect and capable of sin. Though I’m not a Francis fanatic, he asks each of us to approach missionary discipleship differently. I will be attending the papal mass in DC. Francis invites all people: sinners, disenfranchised, marginalized back to church in the hopes of changing hearts and minds through the teachings of the Gospel. Once hearts and minds are changed people will be moved to modify or lessen their sinful behavior and strive to follow the Lord and his teachings because they will find it more rewarding to live according to God’s will and not their own. I believe his focus is to show mercy rather than condemnation. I believe that may be why he is not addressing the sex abuse issue during his trip to the U.S.

    1. Paula, I agree our faith should be placed in God rather than imperfect men and women. However, I still have expectations regarding the treatment of the faithful by Church leadership. I and many other entrusted our children to their care in parishes and schools. I forgive the illness and I can even forgive the cover up but that does not mean we turn away. Jesus drove the money lenders from the Temple. I’m guessing He would drive out those who harm children and those who cover it up. Some hearts and minds don’t want to be changed. There is evil in the world. Social justice and living the Gospel requires faith in action in sddition to prayer and faith. We must insist that our imperfect Church leadership takes an active role in protecting children not just from abortion but fron child abuse. Lobby for all laws that protect children. This isn’t about condemnation it’s about prevention. I have no business or interest in judging. I want to live up to my responsibility as a Catholic and a mother. Mercy and justice are not mutally exclusive. In fact, they require each other.

      1. “Mercy and justice are not mutally exclusive. In fact, they require each other.’ Exactly Susan . I don’t think mercy protects children..that is why we have prisons for criminals and confession for sinners.

  6. I think it’s really great you have this blog! Ps. Fr Paul was my religion teacher at McDevitt.

    I agree that people who hurt children should be held accountable and punished. I just don’t think Francis will bring it up during his trip. He was also silent on the horrors of the PP videos in the US but recognized the need to forgive women who had an abortion. He goes about things in a different way than I would. But I definitely hear you. I was expressing how I go about keeping my faith when pastors, clergy and religious leaders
    let me down with inaction or unresponsiveness.

    1. Thanks so much for participating. It’s the variety of perspectives that gives value to this blog. I’m glad you felt comfortable sharing and hope you’ll continue to do so. Enjoy the Mass in DC. I know a few people heading there in addition to Philadelphia.

  7. Here is a little history provided by Bishops Accountability. Let’s start with Cardinal Bergoglio good friend Rev. Julio Cesar Grassi, member of the Salesians of Don Bosco. Rev. Grassi founded a charity that operates homes for street children. He is arrested on 10/24/2002 for the alleged abuse of at least 5 boys. Convicted June,2009 of sexual abuse of a 13 year old boy named Gabriel. Then Cardinal Bergoglio {Pope Francis} secretly authorized a leading criminal defense lawyer to produce a multi-volume study aimed at discrediting Gabriel and two other boys who brought charges. Grassi remained free until 9/2013! He was then ordered By the top supreme court to begin his 15 year sentence. The 3 boys who had brought charges against Grassi were 9, 13 and 17!
    Cardinal Bergoglio was Argentine TOP executive from 1992 until 2013! During this time frame tens of thousands of victims worldwide reported their sexual abuse to the Catholic Church. More than 100 Buenos Aires archdiocesan priests have offended children. They were ALL known to Cardinal Bergoglio. He choose to not meet with any of these victims!
    Anyone who thinks that this pope will do anything for the suffering victims of priest sexual abuse, lives in a fools paradise. I have blogged here for many years and each time I write that this institution will never do the right thing as long as arrogant men are in charge, where money and power is their idol!

  8. Of course Francis will bring up the sexual abuse crisis when he’s in the States or someone, or a member of the media, will conveniently bring it up for him. It will be brought up on a plane, back stage, or in a quick, off the cuff, moment… but noted, recorded, and disseminated by the media. He can’t leave here having said nothing on the issue. Indeed, he’ll leave here having said something on every conceivable issue applicable to the Church, Catholics, and mankind. His visit will be so well orchestrated and planned that no individual, group, or organization will be left to point a finger at his inattention to their concerns.

    Now doesn’t that make everyone feel better?

    Mercy. The new papal public relations fix.

  9. Mike McDonnell Survivor Archdiocese of Phila ( Laicized Francis X. Trauger-Prayer and Penance John P. Schmeer)

    -Most likely there will be little if any mention of Clergy abuse during the Pontiffs visit. The Vatican prefers spinning the issue by using Save a Catholic techniques. The recent addresses on abortion and divorce have created an illusion that St. Francis is reincarnated. Regarding SOL reform in Pennsylvania ; current law will most likely not change unless the Republicans change Assembly leadership and the Democrats assume control. I have spoken to thousands on this issue nothing changes if nothing changes. Today, I don’t volunteer to relive the horror as a victim/ survivor. Today I choose to move on, Ive done what I could to contribute and I will choose my battles. Seeing that the future protection of our children has strengthened with new laws is good to see. It is sad to see secular and non secular orginzati ons stiil have issues within, that will never change but new PA laws are tighter. Nothing changes if nothing changes, including people.

    1. Mike, I agree with all you have said EXCEPT the last point.

      Current Pennsylvania law are far from as tight as they should be.

      There should be no SOLs where the sexual abuse of children, young people or vulnerable adults is concerned. When that’s accomplished in PA other laws covering sexual abuse can be addressed.

      Hope all will read today’s Reuters article, circulate and post it –

      Sister Maureen Paul Turlish


      1. Sr. I should have made clear the areas of tougher laws in Pennsylvania I referred to. I agree on SOL removal and reform.

        23 pieces of legislation were recently enacted, changing how Pennsylvania responds to child abuse. These changes will significantly impact the reporting, investigation, assessment, prosecution and judicial handling of child abuse and neglect cases.

        The new laws will expand and further define mandatory reporters and the reporting process, increase penalties for those mandated to report suspected child abuse who fail to do so, and provide protections from employment discrimination for filing a good faith report of child abuse.

  10. Susan, I can totally relate. I was on the parkway with my family hoping to see a glimmer of the Pope so many years ago. My view of the Catholic church in many ways has changed. The bubble has been burst. As a child I would have thought of the Pope as a hero ,a perfect man, a messenger and leader from God. As an adult I realize he’s an imperfect man entrusted with a lot of responsibility. He can’t possibly deal with every issue hands on in every parish in every country. Its also magical thinking he would receive and answer every piece of mail sent to him. But as a child I would have believed he received my mail and the mail others especially our survivors and was coming here to Philadelphia to set things straight, “clean up the church”, rescue those in distress and protect the vulnerable but I know that’s not the case and its all rather sad. I have met and friended so many survivors and I have become rather jaded in the years since the Grand Jury reports were made public. The one thing that keeps going thru my mind is in the end its all about sacrifice. Are we truly able and willing to lay down our lives for our neighbor or not? I believe the catholic faith is the “One Truth Faith” and that makes it the most difficult faith to follow. What other faith asks us to die for another? The reality is many in the hierarchy can’t even live in poverty let alone be willing to die for another. Its ironic because the red many of them wear is supposed to represent the blood of the martyrs .The death the leadership I believe needs more than any other is to die to ones self in pride and til they get that the church will die a slow dead because our leaders aren’t willing to truly carry the cross for others namely our survivors. My wish is that the church looses everything materially and otherwise that is blocking them from being totally free to follow the Will of God as painful as that may be. I feel it is only when we truly lose everything that we find true freedom. Because upon losing everything we learn to surrender all things to God. In this surrender we find freedom from fear, freedom from worries and concerns and fears of what others may think of us. Stripped down to nothingness is where we find our soul and our humanity and the beauty of self sacrifice which is joy and freedom and inner peace despite our circumstances. Its a lesson that many times is only learned the hard way and to those who are open to understanding. It is exactly this blessing in disguise I wish for the Pope and those in leadership. Its also the blessing I am discovering in my own life as nothing is predictable, truly in my control or unchanging.

  11. A major factor in the “child sex abuse” scandal is how the church hierarchy has handled the matter. I strongly recommend that to see this in action read the book “THE BLACK WALL of SILENCE” a novel by Father Paul Morrissey. This excellent novel touches on many aspects of the “abuse” issue by following Father Zack as he deals with the abuse crisis by helping victims,his friendship with a bishop and his loyalty to the Catholic church.

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