By Susan Matthews
In what might be the most epic delayed reaction in history, Pope Francis opened the Vatican Summit on clergy child sex abuse this morning. The publicized purpose of the four-day conference is to better educate and train Church leaders on how to deal with the global crisis. One would think a summit had already taken place given their universally executed coverup.
As the head goes, the body follows. From the Vatican dome to the dome of the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul, coverups have been remarkably proactive and reform has been reactive and slow coming.
Big Problems In Child Protection
- It’s almost two years that we’ve advocated for a policy that would require the Archdiocese to inform parents when their child has been the victim of a boundary violation by church personnel. No progress and no policy.
- The Archdiocese doesn’t include the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries in the annual Safety Environment lessons given to students. How can students know when there’s been a violation, if they don’t know what they are? An example: clergy messaging a student via social media or text.
- Grand Jury Reports and newspaper articles revealed that many priests, who pose a danger to children and young adults, have been sent to the St. John Vianney Treatment Center. This center is located directly across the street from Bishop Shanahan High School in West Chester, PA. With priests being shipped in from all over the US, it’s a lucrative gig for the Archdiocese. Money, not children, is the true treasure of the Church.
- The recent discovery that Father John Meyers had been left in ministry for months while being investigated for child sexual abuse shows this generation of kids is still at risk.
Creepy Clerical Culture
In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, priests who violated the bodies of innocent children have their funerals presided over by Church leaders. Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, who heads the office of Child and Youth Protection, was the celebrant at Father John Cannon’s funeral in 2017. Cannon’s prolific abuse of children dates back to the 1960’s.
Some priests in good standing socialize with former or current priests who have violated children or had other child-related issues. Dinner and drinks with the creeps is concerning, but what about owning a home with a child predator? One priest doesn’t have a problem with it. Laity, get to Googling and scanning social media. They don’t even hide it.
Those who participated in the cover up receive heartwarming obits on CatholicPhilly.com and some parishes need to be told to remove glowing bios of abusive priests from their websites. Revisionist history.
In November 2018, just as the statute of limitation/window legislation had its most promising chance in years, the Archdiocese announced the Independent Reconciliation and Reparation. With it, victims of clergy abuse may file a claim for financial compensation. Victims who were abused by religious order priests are left out of the program, even though the Archdiocese relied on religious orders to staff many high school and parishes. This is odd considering the Diocese is lead by a religious order priest – Archbishop Chaput.
A vigil arranged by young Catholic laity was interrupted by a priest who was unhappy the Cathedral staff had not been alerted. He was being a bit self-important considering the vigil took place in a public park across from the Cathedral. He said his concern, “was for the people in his Church.” Jesus, whom this priest represents, would have wanted victims, victims’ families and advocates to be seen and heard. He would have invited them IN!
A few weeks later, at yet another “Healing Mass,” the father of a deceased victim was asked to leave the sidewalk of the cathedral. Message received. “We will pray that you go away.”
Sheep Herd the Shepherds
In recent months, we’ve heard from more laity than ever before and we thank everyone for your interest and efforts.
In the Pittsburgh Diocese a newly-formed group of 1,000 lay members will address various issues of the sex abuse crisis with the hierarchy.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice.
There’s a long way to go, but we are in good company with all of you.