Progress in Harrisburg Proves Hopeful

Click here to read, “Newall: A long overdue quest for healing and justice,” by Mike Newall, Columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer,, May 11, 2016

This bill could help so many…


“Like James Spoerl, who was 44 and lived in Northeast Philadelphia. He suffered through years of depression and addiction stemming from abuse he suffered at the hands of a priest as a 9-year-old altar boy at St. Cecilia Parish.

The statute of limitations had expired when James stepped forward in 2002. It was too late for a civil suit. His mother, Catherine, became her son’s advocate, struggling with the archdiocese, she says, to get him the proper therapy and addiction treatment he needed….

….My son did not live long enough to see a change,” she said of the bill that would eliminate the statute of limitations. “But I hope that others who are waiting to be heard are soon granted this right. No human being should be denied this right.”

21 thoughts on “Progress in Harrisburg Proves Hopeful

  1. Mike Newall has done a wonderful job in keeping this story before our eyes and consciences. We did not know that Brian McDonnell had died. His case alone should make this archdiocese so ashamed. How many victims have suffered so severely.
    Finally, after the horror stories of Altoona-Johnstown, the legislature in Harrisburgh suddenly was awakened to the shame and despicableness of hierarchs who tried to hide the shame of sexual abuse.
    Let us hope Tha Mike will continue to add his expertise to this SPOTLIGHT in Philadelphia.

  2. The “tremendous opposition” is primarily bishops.

    They are, for the most part, what Francis describes as pharisaical, doctors of the law, who complicate with their laws and rubrics what is really simple. Jesus was clear about who will and will not enter into the kingdom. I have a priest friend who wrote and sent to Charles Chaput a short story entitled “Bevilacqua in Hell.” Tony B will have lots of fellow bishops for company if the standard established by Jesus holds.

    “Then the ruler will say to those on his left, ‘Out of my sight, you accursed ones! Into that everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and the fallen angels. I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink…” (Matthew 25: 41-46)

    I would add:

    I was a child, sexually abused by a priest, and you..

    Doubted, investigated, and shamed me,
    To protect the institution from scandal,
    To preserve your power.

    Told a priest that it was I who seduced him,
    To comfort the brother, perpetrator, yet forever alter Christus,
    To insure adherence to the omerta code and his loyalty to the institution.

    Hired lawyers and lobbyists,
    To protect your financial assets,
    To maintain Church as institution while driving away millions from the true Church, the people of God.

    Put security guards at 222,
    To protect yourself,
    From meeting me and acknowledging the truth.

    Feigned offers of victim assistance, sometimes sisters
    To support the work of your lawyers
    To find evidence against me.

    Complained about being persecuted and losing religious liberty,
    To deflect attention away from the message of mercy from Francis,
    To remind us that we are bad and restore ruling though fear.

    Want to stop the sex-power abuse crisis? Destroy clericalism. Philadelphia Francis has lots of opposition among bishops, including Charles Chaput, even if he pretends otherwise. While the problem is sexual abuse, the problem under the problem is abuse of power.

  3. Just saw that Francis is proposing a commission to study the ordination of women to the diaconate. Women among RC Clergy? OMG… what a difference this will make.

    1. “… what a difference this will make.”

      Which is exactly why there will be no women.

      Where is the tribunal promised by Francis to hold bishops accountable for their wrongdoing and cover up? No tribunal. Why? “… what a difference this will make.”

  4. I am a person in long term recovery from the disease of addiction, depression and ptsd, I’m also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse by John Schmeer (prayer and penance, removed from ministry) and Frank Trauger (defrocked). I know the exact shoes my fellow survivors walked in, step by step.
    I have personally talked with every legislator in the overly legislated State of PA. HB1947 with Rozzi amendment, as passed by the house overwhelmingly, is a good bill. It may not have everything, but for this legislative body it is a giant leap. I believe it is a building block. I would encourage everyone to contact Sen. Stewart Greenleaf and request this bill to move through judiciary quickly and smoothly, possibly consider Rafferty proposal if he gets it together to extend time in civil suits. In the meantime, remember survivors in your prayers. The healing process is a journey. For many, it becomes a final resting place. Pass this bill, do something for at the very least, for some to seek justice.

    1. Schmeer was my freshman science teacher at Roman (1967). Engaged in what are now called “boundary violations” with me when I was 14, invasive interrogation about sexual activity when he pulled me out of class into the hallway in a spot where we were hidden from anyone’s view. Note, I did not approach him for guidance counseling or confession; he was my teacher. I remember this as if it were yesterday. In more recent years, when a classmate accused him of rape, I offered to testify in any trial and provided the names of 40 or 50 Roman Catholic students who would tell about their direct experience with him. Since Schmeer is in the Darby Penitentiary I often wonder if I should contact him before he dies if for no reason other than to express outrage.

      1. Spot on Martin. His grooming technique, confession prompts about masturbation, sexual growth has not changed one iota. He was in residence at St Titus my home and taught at Kenrick. I and several other boys went multiple times to a shore house he co owned with Fr. Ernest Durante who left the priesthood . Thank you for the fellowshi.

  5. I apologize that when I put my response earlier, I somehow left my name off. I need to publicly make known thar I am a retired catholic priest who totally supports the victims and am appalled by the failure of the leadership of the church to take responsibility for the failure of conscience in this horrendous crime of such widespread sexual abuse.
    Too many victims have suffered enough.
    Rev. John Wintermyer, ret. Catholic priest, WDC

  6. I feel bad for so many that will clearly be left behind by the supposed progress of this bill should it progress. Why divide those who have histories of childhood sexual abuse by allowing those before age 50 access to the justice system and not those 50 and older? Those who have suffered the longest deserve their day in court as much as the younger person. Every survivor had their right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness severely impinged upon when they were sexually abused in their youth. Improving SOL laws for some and not others serves to separate out certain survivors, re-isolate them and, in essence, re-victimize those least deserving of such prejudicial, apathetic treatment once again.

    1. Jeanne,
      Have you had any experiences with the Pennsylvania State legislature? I hear and fully understand your concerns. My abusers are 71 and 80, I was abused in 1980-82.
      Many survivors , and clearly the State House of Representatives who passed this 180-20 some, feel strongly about moving forward with HB1947. Pennsylvani is infamous on shelving bills until they dissolve.

    2. Jeanne: I appreciate your concern for those of us who have passed the age of fifty and will not get their day in court .Some times life is unfair. To those of us who were molested by Catholic priests life has never seemed fair. But I support any legislation that will give justice to anybody that suffered from this abuse. There will be amendments offered and other bills put forward but as someone who is now sixty seven and suffered abuse fifty five years ago, anything to give justice to anyone who has gone what I have the last fifty five years I support. Before I die, I would like to see the Archdiocese of Philadelphia try to defend what it has done to innocent children.

      1. Jim, I hear exactly what your saying. Your statement is strong and sends a powerful supporting message. You sacrificed your suffering and for that, as a fellow survivor, I am grateful.

        1. Mike and Jim – this comment string has begun to illustrate some of the issues with any legislation that is not inclusive of all survivors regardless of age. The idea of sacrificing one’s well being for sake of others is an old institutional adage, often employed by organizations like the Catholic Church to justify the active disregard for those that in this case have been afffected the longest. I don’t think it was meant the same here but the effect is similar. People will be divided. Some will offer and be praised for going along with the sacrifice What will be the case for those who don’t ? Keep in mind that the sacrifice we speak of is not just about justice for the victim/survivor but also about protection of current children’s’ lives. The sex Offender remains protected by the limited SOL as well. There should be no division by age among survivors, no contrived sacrafice for the good of the movement and no predator assisted by limited SOL.

          1. Jeann: politics is all about doing what is possible. Legislation is never perfect .The fact that we can disagree over this piece of legislation is not a bad thing. Before the Grand Jury report from Johnstown/ Altoona this legislation was dead in the water.Evidently the fact that kids from the Philadelphia area were being molested was not enough to get this legislature to act. It took the fact that kids were being molested in the Western part of the State and that one Bishop used a scorecard to determine what the payout would be for those molested. Recently I lived in South Central Pennsylvania for around fourteen years. The anti Philadelphia bias expoused by politicians and even everyday citizens is absolutely disgusting. But it is real. The opportunity to pass legislation is now. If we squabble over who is covered and who is not, the opportunity will most likely pass. Nobody knows what will result from this legislation .If we look at other states, hundreds if not thousands of victims who have not come forward will now do so .Every one of these victims will impart more information about their abuse and the suffering that they endured as a result of the abuse. Not too long ago, I had the same opinion that you do, one for all and all for one.I changed my mind. The priest that abused me, died around the same time that I recovered memories of the abuse . So justice for me was pretty well gone a long time ago . But don’t give up hope for us old people. Where there is a will there is a way.

          2. I’m not sure equal rights and access to justice for all is the same as “all for one … ” thinking. Yes, the legislative process stinks but it is the law makers who need to be held accountable for that fact. Speaking truth to justice needs to be truthful and just for all voices affected.

  7. I understand over at 17th street Chaput is on a fact finding mission to find out the amount of money being spent on mental health, prescriptions and mileage reimbursement for victims of clergy abuse. I can only surmise at this point Chaput sees the writing on the wall and we must pray that it does not end only for those 50 and under but for all victims no matter what their age. I know for me once I passed the age of 50 nobody waved a magic wand and magically my memories of what I had to endure disappeared.

  8. Section 4. The amendment or addition of 42 Pa.C.S. §§
    5533(b)(2)(i), 5551(7) and 5552(b.1) and (c)(3) shall not be
    applied to revive an action which has been barred by an existing
    statute of limitations on the effective date of this section.

    Is this what will keep the moms in the article from getting justice. Because of the school aged children trying to deal with sexual assault- We are trying to sort out the possible rape that occurred and the victims that now are having their triggers set off I would like to know if this action/bill will affect previous rapes or only future rapes. These victims know there are several bills in that senate committee including SB 520 which may affect Megan’s Law registry that is made public.Though I spent years dealing with legal code, it is hard to stay current while young children are dealing with sexual violence – only part of what I put on facebook. Besides the above incident, we had a 3(disable) and a 10 year old report their rape.

    Vicky, had to use your language – where is the anger, where is the rage?

    Just remember that of the three priests sitting on the couch, all were confronted by my families, only one was mentioned in the delaware lawsuit. The other two – one arrested in Delaware the other is in prayer and penance. The charges for that one were dropped along withe hopes of a few possible victims. Sorry that all will not get justice, but at least those who listen are warned because of the strength of the survivors.

  9. Senator Stewart Greenleaf
    Senate Box 203012
    Harrisburg, PA 17120-3012
    Room: 19 East Wing
    (717) 787-6599
    FAX: (717) 783-7328
    Senator Stewart Greenleaf
    711 York Road
    Willow Grove, PA 19090
    (215) 657-7700
    FAX: (215) 657-1885

    Senator Daylin Leach
    Senate Box 203017
    Harrisburg, PA 17120-3017
    Room: 543 Main Capitol
    (717) 787-5544
    FAX: (717) 705-7741
    Senator Daylin Leach
    601 South Henderson Road
    Suite 208
    King of Prussia, PA 19406
    (610) 768-4200
    FAX: (610) 768-4204

    Senator John Rafferty Jr.
    Senate Box 203044
    Harrisburg, PA 17120-3044
    Room: 20 East Wing
    (717) 787-1398
    FAX: (717) 783-4587
    Senator John Rafferty Jr.
    3818 Germantown
    Collegeville, PA 19426
    (610) 831-8830
    FAX: (610) 831-8837

    Senator Joseph Scarnati III
    Senate Box 203025
    Harrisburg, PA 17120-3025
    Room: 292 Main Capitol
    (717) 787-7084
    FAX: (717) 772-2755

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