ON THE ROCKS: Cocktails at Bishops’ Conference Belies Church Suffering

By Kathy Kane

Dear Bishop Senior and Bishop McIntyre,

We have crossed paths over the years but have never formally met. I considered introducing myself in the hotel lounge at the Marriott in Baltimore. I chose not to because I couldn’t trust myself not to recreate the scene of Jesus in the temple with the money changers. I might have overturned a table, sending glasses of Cointreau and Johnny Walker Black Label into the air.

I’m one of the mothers from the Philadelphia Archdiocese who traveled to Baltimore to stand with the survivors outside of the hotel during the Bishops’ Conference. We also attended the Conference in November. We call ourselves the “Mom Squad” and we support the victims and survivors who have literally saved our children by exposing the issue of clergy abuse to the world.

Voices Carry

Your group of bishops did not notice us when you arrived at the hotel lounge late Tuesday after your dinner out on the town. You picked a table right near us and proceeded to talk about your terrific dinner. Drinks were ordered; lots of laughter; a toast to a birthday (Happy Birthday, Nelson).

Voices carry, even in hotel bars. If you’re going to make fun of a former Archdiocese victim advocate, you might want to whisper. Or, here’s a better idea…don’t mock victim advocates. Bishop Senior, you did get a good laugh from your fellow bishops. Also, not a good idea to discuss Church-related matters in a hotel bar with mothers from the Archdiocese sitting a few feet away.

The Mom Squad nicknamed your group “the Philly Special” being that the fellow bishops with you were former clergy from Philadelphia. If your group had looked around, you would have seen one of our Moms saying the rosary while sipping her drink. She said she felt the need to rebalance the bad with good. In a hotel with 225 bishops she had yet to find a feeling of holiness, and certainly did not feel it in the lounge on Tuesday night.

It is a surreal experience to stay at the same hotel as the bishops during the Conference. While the outside world might imagine bishops with furrowed brows and solemn demeanors, we encountered recent newsmakers such as Cardinal Wuerl looking downright giddy in the lobby, and a very chipper Archbishop Lori heading to the elevators. We were in the lobby earlier as dozens of bishops met up after the day of meetings and headed out to dinner on the waterfront, or to the expensive steak house across the street. There was laughter and handshakes. I imagine no different than any other group of men who are the focus of national attention due to their members’ history of child rape, sexual assault of adults, sexual misconduct, financial impropriety, and cover up of crimes.

Bishop McIntyre, you were a panelist in a USCCB Facebook live event the following day at the Conference. I watched the event and also read the Catholic Philly article where you are quoted as saying the laity has the right to be angry and hurt, but it’s also important that we don’t get stuck there, and to remember that Christ is with us.

Stuck On ‘Mishandling’

Actually, the entire problem has been that the Church has continued to just move forward in the face of crimes against children while covering it up. We have all brushed it off and continued ahead with little regard for those who were harmed and very few criminal prosecutions of the perpetrators and those who covered for them.

Bishop Mcintyre you also mentioned in the same video that you have been angry about the “mishandling” of sex abuse cases. Mishandling is an interesting choice of words.

In 1994, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, a memo with a list of priest predator names was purposefully shredded. Those men remained in ministry and a young man is now dead because no one did the right thing. He was abused by a priest that the Archdiocese had been warned about and whose name was on the shredded memo. If someone had done the right thing their paths would never have crossed. Is that “mishandling?” Is placing a piece of paper in a shredder “mishandling?” Is that the word that helps you move on and not “get stuck?” Is that why you can talk about anger in a flat, monotone voice and in the next breath talk of moving forward?

The young man was someone’s child and he is dead. The only part of your statement that I agree with is that Christ is always with us. What do you think Christ thinks of the death of a young man at the hands of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia?

Horrified Awakening

My children were in Catholic school when some of the predators on the shredded memo were circulating through the parishes. I’m still stuck on that. It’s just this crazy Mom thing of bringing children into this world and not expecting the Church to expose them to child predators.

What has happened this past year is an awakening . People have finally looked past the boundaries of their own parish and have spoken up for those abused in the Church. When the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was released it made national news because people did not care if the victims were from their own diocese, or from their own state. Many Catholics finally cared that it happened, to any child,in area of the Church. Are we stuck? Or are we finally aware?

My 19-year-old daughter, who has a hearing disability, called me after she read the news of the deaf students in Italy who were sexually abused by clergy and whose disability was used against them by their perpetrators. The children could not even communicate what was happening to them to the outside world. She described what she read as ‘the torture of children.” Should I tell her not to be stuck in her anger? I don’t think the word “anger” even captures the emotion behind what most decent people feel about crimes against children. My daughter was horrified. I think horrified is the word we should use going forward.

Should we go to Mass each week and pray for the victims but do nothing to help them? Actually most times the issue of clergy abuse is even publicly prayed for at Mass, we also have to pray for the perpetrators. As if that is not a sick message delivered to youth who are present. Children should not be told to pray for those who harm children. Do we pray for the sexually abusive soccer coaches and teachers? Of course not, only sexually abusive clergy are extended that mercy.

Your Plan?

When do we acknowledge those abused within our Church often have PTSD and cannot even enter a Church for burials of family members or joyous occasions such as weddings. That the faith that many take solace in has been ripped from their lives? Should we just move forward without them? What’s the plan? If you want me not to be stuck, then tell me the plan going forward. Do you have a plan?

In just the past few months a priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was arrested for the rape of a teen parishioner and two lay teachers were arrested for sexual assault of students. What is the statute of limitations on the anger we should feel about abuse continuing in the Archdiocese? A few weeks? A few months? Do we need to seek professional help if we are still stuck after that?

We watched in Baltimore last week as clergy walked right past the survivors outside the hotel. We have seen this happen countless times at vigils in Philadelphia. Would Jesus simply refer the abused in his midst to the Archdiocese Victim Assistance Office? Is that how we get “unstuck?” By pretending they are invisible?

As for the bishops pretending that they never had a clue about McCarrick or Bransfield’s misconduct, it will be fun to watch the Oscars this year as you all receive Best Supporting Actor awards in the real life horror category.

Gospel P.R.

You talk of Christ but the behavior of many bishops is anything but Christ like. Would Christ be out to dinner, or in the lounge having drinks, as his followers suffered? Would he shred a memo that could have protected children? That wasn’t Christ; that was Bevilacqua. Would he ignore the very people who were harmed?

Maybe use Christ as your public relations crisis manager. The Gospel is free and any change in behavior by the bishops would be genuine. The mystery to the laity and survivors is not what Christ would do, the mystery is why the Bishops don’t do it. Firing the attorneys would be a good first step.

We will be back in Baltimore for the Conference in November. We were lucky the June meeting was rescheduled to Baltimore rather than at the Ritz Carlton in Santa Barbara, where it was originally scheduled. Mom Squad does not have a bishop’s budget.

Maybe we will bring some more moms with us to outnumber the bishops in the hotel lounge. Since the laity is so often not welcome to a seat at the table, we will just pull up to the bar.

Kathy

(unofficial captain of the Mom Squad)

34 thoughts on “ON THE ROCKS: Cocktails at Bishops’ Conference Belies Church Suffering

  1. Ms.Kane….congratulations to you and the Mom Squad!
    Unfortunately, the bishops have not and never will “get it” .
    Remember, Christ said that the “gates of hell” will not prevail against the church. But he didn’t see , I suppose, the hierarchy doing a better job than the devil!

  2. THANK YOU for an excellent letter about how the “good old boys club” spend “free time” at the conference. The Conference did not accomplish much since they did not make it MANDATORY to involve Lay and civil authorities.

    I have no problem praying for the “cover-up” artist and the perpetrators of child abuse since Christ urged us to forgive but part of my forgiveness is for these individuals to face civil authorities. I bet my prayers will go up to God quicker if I’m praying for individuals who belong in jail.

    Joe Gable

  3. “… careening madly down the path to getting their hearts spattered all over hell. And grinning like buffoons the entire time.”

  4. Brilliant. Horrifyingly brilliant.

    My predictions as a result of this piece follow.

    All future hotel locations will be kept confidential until the very last minute.
    Expect all of the rooms to be booked.
    There will be private suites with private bars established to foster teamwork and “facilitate”.
    Several promising young leaders will be tasked with (discreetly) keeping an eye out for your squad in public access areas.

    So.
    Time to send in YOUR equally promising young leaders instead of yourselves.
    Maybe even arrange for a few of the most fetching to work behind the bars and in the suites.

  5. According to the Pastor at my Parish, “There has been no noticeable impact on attendance and contributions” so the apathetic and heartless mindset is institutionally shared and affirmed.

  6. I was also in Baltimore on Wednesday. Dinardi was directly heard saying, the past year has been hell, I’ll be glad when this is all over. For us survivors, the hell will never be over.

  7. Kathy – THANK YOU! My husband and I were in Baltimore in Nov with parishioners from St Raymond’s parish – praying respectfully at the hotel until we were told to move. I told our bishop of Allentown how upset I was that Timlin was at that meeting – he said he was too – so I asked him why he and the brother bishops did not ask him to leave – he agreed they should have. I wrote to many bishops prior to this meeting reassuring them of our prayers trusting that they would do the right thing – reading this has me heartsick. Disgusting. I too would like to join you in November.

    1. Sylvia,
      Is there a group that gathers regularly at St Raymond’s to discuss the Leadership failures of the Church? I am an OMC parishioner , but have been attending St Raymond’s more and more frequently.
      Thx
      Kerry

  8. You describe perfectly the Institutional sin of clericalism. In your writing you speak truth to power. Embrace the Gospels and may we, the People of God, stand up to this sin and invite the bishops to become one with us. Stand strong and continue to invite others to awareness and action.

  9. Kathy, very well written, my sentiments exactly, couldn’t have said it better. Something needs to change.

  10. This is soooo sad. It would appear that our Church’s leaders are not listening to the Holy Spirit and taking a stand for the sins of the perpetrators in the Church. They, the leaders, are not the victims. They did not listen to the Holy Spirit. Something is so wrong with this. Read Romans 14:4. What happened to the hierarchy of the Church. Where did they stand for the victims of these atrocities? Maybe the swamp needs to be drained here as well.

  11. Wow this letter nailed it!! I am new to this organization, but already fully support it 100%! I wish I could attend the Baltimore event! Will try, how would I get information on dates and time? I have two family members that were victims. One passed away in July 20018, 39 yrs old, suffered PTSD. The other fought back, and was punished for coming forward!

    1. Debra – I am so, sobsorry. What really fired us up – our diocese hosted a seven week session on HEALING OUR CHURCH – there was a victim at our table – the only reason we went back the other six weeks – and everyone at our table felt the same way. We need to be the voice for the victims.

  12. Thank you, Kathy for this powerful letter. I still have a deep sense of anger toward our church hierarchy that recycled these predators back into our community, knowing just how dangerous they were. It took quite sometime for me to forgive the actual priests in my heart. I recognize my arrogance in this as I have never personally been sexually abused by them. The burden of the anger and betrayal just became too heavy for me, so with a lot of prayer and a long amount of time, I was able to let it go. I still struggle with the bishops, though. They knew better and were certainly in a position to do better and they chose not to. It is still so unforgivable to me. I will continue to pray for the victims as always and love them in my heart.

  13. Kathy you are a bona fide badass and a terrific writer! Love how you shred those hypocritical sickos to shreds!

  14. Kathy, I am just reading this post now. I truly don’t know how you continue to advocate for past victims and current catholic children and are not overwhelmed by impotence or consumed by rage.
    May you stay strong; may you receive all the love and support you need to remain emotionally and spiritually whole.
    Mona

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s