By Carol Galante
Dear Pennsylvania Senators:
I am writing to ask that you vote for Senate Bill 261.
I want to be clear that I do not hate the church but I hate the behavior of those in charge. I have been an active member of the Catholic Church in Philly (40 years) and worked as a director of parish religious education for children for nearly 20 years. The altar of my wedding (40 years ago), I now see as the altar of an accused priest whose identity was disclosed in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. My beautiful memory of that sanctuary has changed forever.
I have been following the church closely on this matter since the scandal broke. I was a theology student and worked with children through Church programs back then. Moral theology and social justice were the focus of my study and writings. When I read those papers now, I realize how my reaction has intensified over the years toward those who selfishly protect predator priests and deny the abuse to victims, survivors and their families.
Within the church it’s called sin, but in society it’s called crime. The pope needs to handle internal Church changes. Lawmakers need to handle this civilly.
I have many friends (lay and clergy) in the Catholic Church who want to reclaim our church. They were told to shut up, mind their own business and obey the bishops. Too MUCH of the bishops’ power is spilling over in our state and country.
A two-year window would support Catholic teaching within the principle of “restorative justice.” I wonder if the catholic lobbyists and even the bishops are aware of these teachings. It’s what our current moral theology teaches. Opening a two-year window would help heal and restore my church, survivors and society.
Across the US, all eyes are watching Pennsylvania to see what happens with this bill. We know where this is heading in our country with a federal investigation. There are continued revelations of clergy abuse and a systematic cover up. How is PA going to be perceived if this bill fails to go through? I have heard PA called the “pedophile state.”
My sibling’s question echoes. “How can you work in a church that abuses children.” I thought I could help change things from within, but I have learned that can’t be done now. It’s up to you. Our laws need to reflect our values and we need to care for children.
Let’s face it, if the bishops knew what was right to do for the people, it would have already been done. They listen to lawyers who encourage secrecy. Bishops don’t have to follow their own Charter for the Protection of Children.
I can’t expect all lawmakers to be know what makes this church tick, but I can expect that you can look at this as a bill and know that it would protect children and families.
We need our legal system and our politicians to lead the way. Please vote yes for HB 261.
Editor’s note: Please contact your PA state senator to let him or her know that you’d like them to vote yes for a two-year window for victims of childhood sexual abuse whose cases previously fell outside the statute of limitations. Find your senator’s name and contact information at this link.