If the hierarchy put Jesus in the driver’s seat, they wouldn’t have to worry about steering the clergy abuse conversation. Instead, they craft messaging to deflect criticism and distract Catholics.
Because of this, some were re-gifted canned talking points during the Christmas homily. This was the case across the Archdiocese of Chicago, where the Illinois state attorney general recently uncovered hundreds of previously unreported priest abuse accusations. Bishop Ronald Hicks, an aide to Cardinal Blase Cupich, sent a letter to archdiocesan priests on how to address the unfolding scandal during holiday masses and conversations.
Here’s a talking point from the letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times: Let people know the archdiocese has been “working to develop strong policies and procedures to heal victims and prevent abuse since 1992.”
Shouldn’t reporting abuse accusations to the police should have been the starting point back in 1992. It seems they’re still “working to develop” that policy and procedure more than 25 years later. No rush. Take your time. It’s only children at risk.
Pulpit Public Relations In Philadelphia Archdiocese
Talking points made their Philadelphia debut when the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua hired the Tierney Group, a public relations firm to handle his image. The faithful should have been more concerned that their shepherd needed to invest so heavily in spin. Since then, archdiocesan leadership continues to manage messaging – with less success.
In one instance, Leslie Davila, director of the office for child and youth protection, emailed United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) talking points to her staff when the movie “Spotlight” was released in 2015. The Oscar-winning film chronicles the investigative reporting of Boston Globe journalists whose groundbreaking coverage in 2002 exposed that archdiocese’s clergy child sex abuse coverup.
In her email, Davila wrote that the movie could “stir things up” in victims, survivors and the community. She reminded staff to remember the good work they do. Maybe she thought seeing the movie would cause a few archdiocesan employees to quit? It’s a reasonable assumption.
USCCB introduction: “In our experience, Catholics and others will take the movie as proof of what is happening today, not what happened in the past. Do not let past events discourage you. This is an opportunity to raise the awareness of all that has been done to prevent child sexual abuse in the Church. There is much good news to share.”
Much good news to share? Such as the news shared in 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report?
The final bulleted talking point reads: “Remember that if someone is calling to make a new report they need to be referred to the Office for Investigations 1-888-930-9010.”
How about telling abuse victims to call the police! The USCCB does not include this instruction in their talking points. This was sent to staff members of the OFFICE FOR CHILD AND YOUTH PROTECTION!
But the real bulls#@! can be shoveled out of the “additional information section.”
“Possible Words to those Harmed by Abuse: The movie, Spotlight, is likely to remind you of the pain and suffering you have endured at the hands of someone you had every right to trust, a member of the Catholic priesthood.”
Member of the Catholic priesthood? Why not just say Catholic priest? The USCCB intentionally uses this wording to create distance from the problem. The priesthood doesn’t have members – it has priests. “That pedophile is just a ‘social’ member, not a full member.” Well… maybe it is like a country club.
“Express great sorrow and profound regret for what they have endured. Apologize for the grave harm that has been inflicted.”
To borrow a phrase from my kids. WTF? Do they really have to instruct human beings who work for the Catholic Church on how to be human? That line had to be written by a sociopath and intended for other sociopaths.
“Words alone cannot express our sorrow, shame and disappointment. So, it is our prayer and hope that through our actions you will find the healing you so richly deserve.”
Bishops hired lobbyists to prevent survivors from having their day in court. And, who says “you so richly deserve” in conversation? Bishops. That’s who. We hope and pray that complicit bishops get what they so richly deserve.
“Over the past years the Church has worked towards both healing and preventing abuse. Our endeavors may be seen in the twelve years of Annual Reports based on the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and independent audits.”
“The Church strives to put the child in the center of the room when making decision about children…”
That poor kid. My kindergarten teacher did that to me once. She sat me in a chair in the center of the room so she could keep an eye on me. The other kids were outside at recess.
“….and she will not be finished with this issue until child sexual abuse is no longer a part of society or our churches.”
She quickly forgot about me and went to lunch. I was left sitting there in the center of the room. The bishops have left for lunch. Until Pope Francis takes a long hard look at clericalism that child will cools his or her heels in the center of an empty room.
“Words Reaffirming our Commitment to the Charter:….Twelve years later we remain committed to the principles of that Charter and we ask for your continued help, support and prayers as we: promote healing and reconciliation with victims/survivors of sexual abuse, respond effectively to allegations of sexual abuse, become accountable for our procedures, and protect the faithful in the future.”
Kathy, after countless calls and emails, have you heard back in regard to your personal experience with the lack of archdiocesan accountability for boundary violations? Nope. I didn’t think so.
“What the Church is doing now: It has been twelve years since the Charter for the Protection of Children was approved in Dallas. The Charter is a comprehensive set of procedures established by the USCCB in June 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. It also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse. The Charter directs action in all the following matters: Creating a safe environment for children and young people;
Now potentially dangerous mommy volunteers take classes and prove they don’t have criminal records.
Healing and reconciliation of victims and survivors;
Anyone here healed? Reconciled? Anyone?
Making prompt and effective response to allegations;
Did the bishops misplace their copies of the Charter?
Cooperating with civil authorities;
When forced by law.
Offenders is a nice soft word for men who raped, molested and abused kids. But not as soft as the discipline. Say three Hail Marys and 10 Our Fathers. Some have been issued three demerits, a full pension and a Vatican assignment.
“Child sexual abuse is a scourge on society. Figures show that 25% of woman and 16% of children are victimized by the time they are adults. Sadly, the Church did not recognize the possibility it could be a part of our communities as well.”
The secret archives tell a different story. The Church knew about clergy child sex abuse for decades and actively covered it up.
“But now we know and the Church will keep up its efforts to prevent child sexual abuse in all areas of society.”
The bishops expensive lobbying efforts against statute of limitations reform hinders justice for ALL victims of sexual abuse – those abused by a coach, uncle or neighbor. With no prosecution and no civil lawsuit, a perp can score a free pass and anonymity. Is one living in your community? You wouldn’t know. So much for prevention.
Speaking The Truth
To end on a more optimistic note, there were priests in Chicago and at least one archdiocesan staff member in Philadelphia who rejected the above supplied talking points and spoke their own truth.
There’s only one message the pope, cardinals and bishops should be spreading. It’s called the word of God.