Written by OWLFAN
This past week has been a whirlwind for survivors such as myself with the news that House Bill 1947, which passed in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in April, would be going to the Senate for hearings in June. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has begun circling the wagons in anticipation of this bill passing. Last Tuesday, Archbishop Chaput and other archdiocesan officials and “consultants” (aka attorneys), gathered for two meetings at St. Helena parish in Blue Bell – ironically, my registered parish!
According to an article by Matthew Gambino on CatholicPhilly.com, “speakers at the meetings described the dire financial impact upon Catholic parishes, schools and institutions that would likely result from an expected flood of civil lawsuits should the bill be approved by the Senate and signed by the governor.”
In coming weeks, parishioners will receive “information about how the legislation might affect them, as well as the parishes, schools, and charitable works they love and support based on what has happened in other states” according to Ken Gavin, spokesman for the archdiocese.
As a survivor, I wanted to give my take on these meetings, the archdiocese response, and the feelings that it has stirred up in me.
First, it is true that the archdiocese and Victims’ Assistance has helped me obtain therapy, doctors and medications. They pay for all of these visits. A rough calculation, if I should continue this course of action, until the age of 75, they will spend over $250,000 on my case alone. Not one person is disputing the facts that the Archdiocese is helping victims in this way.
What is infuriating to me is their response to this proposed legislation and the anticipated message that will be sent to Catholics across the archdiocese. I had the opportunity to meet with several archdiocesan officials during the investigation of my case. One on one – they say all the right things. “I’m sorry.” “Nobody should go what you went through.” “We want to hear you – want your help.”
Publically, it is a completely different tact. Articles and statements are written with innuendo of survivors wanting to bankrupt the church – take it down. Just read again the statement from Mr. Gavin – bold for emphasis - “… the legislation might affect them, as well as the parishes, schools, and charitable works they love and support …”. Add to the equation the likelihood of long trials, detailed discovery and the possibility of more scandals being revealed, and you can understand the angst.
So imagine me, sitting in Sunday Mass (already a difficult task for me), and listening to how if this law passes, parishes may close, programs for special education and the poor will not be able to be funded, the Catholic School system, founded in Philadelphia by St. John Neumann, being shut down.
If Ford Motor made an automobile that, due to defects in the manufacturing process, caused the wheels to fly off when reaching speeds of 50MPH, would anyone care that victims would sue because they were injured or killed? No – it would be justified. Would anyone care if these suits caused plants to shut down and jobs to be lost? Absolutely but, unfortunately in life, for every cause there is an affect. For every action, there is a reaction.
As I was writing this, I was reading from a book for a 12-Step Program that I attend. I was reading Step 10 – “Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it”. Perhaps I should send the book down to 222. Sure, I know they can’t be happy with this legislation. But, a more proper – more appropriate response to survivors would be this – “Yes, we are alarmed by the potential financial impact that HB1947 will have on the Catholic Church in Philadelphia but we acknowledge that crimes were committed against children in the past and we may have to suffer the consequences. We are confident that, going forward, measures are in place that will insure these crimes will never happen again. In the interim, we will continue to support victims and accept responsibility for the past.”
So be prepared for the PR onslaught from your pulpit in the next few weeks. For those of blind faith that don’t want to acknowledge the role of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in this scandal, there will be tears and outrage when the PR machine starts churning out the message of victims wanting to bankrupt the Catholic Church – only in it for themselves – driven by greed and money.
And then look over at me, sitting next to you – and there will also be tears. For what my Church did to me – and continues to do to me – for I did nothing wrong.