Last week a few of us from Catholics4Change attended a presentation at Villanova University given by Fr Hans Zollner, president of the Center for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Of all the information that Fr Zollner provided, one fact that spoke volumes was that there are only 18 people on staff at the Vatican who handle the ever increasing number of clergy sex abuse coming in from around the world. The office is understaffed and lacks even the basic infrastructure to handle their task.
It was clear from Fr Zollner’s presentation that lay involvement is desperately needed. He spoke of reform in the Church always having come from the bottom up. Although needed, is it welcome? The Church claims they want laity involved but we so often hear what happens is more along the lines of someone inviting you to their home but then slamming the door when you show up.
While the house is on fire, the Church response is a trickle of water aimed at the flames. The victims burned by the flames in the past, were ignored for years. They were told to bandage their wounds and move on. The fact that the trickle of water even exists is seen as progress because for so long the Church was satisfied with leaving the house burning. In the past year the Church has heard from laity, the media, law enforcement, and the many survivors who continued their efforts while often dodging the embers around them. Finally there are desperately needed first responders showing up. No arsonist will extinguish their own flames.
There are many lay groups that recently have formed in dioceses around the country focusing on survivors and advocating for child protection. They are practicing their faith while assisting and protecting the most vulnerable. They are doing so publicly through the press, social media and websites. God bless the internet.
In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati a commendable lay effort went into developing a timeline of a recent story of boundary violations gone unchecked.
The lay group, Awake, in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has our vote for the most informed list of questions that we have seen compiled to date.
In Seattle a lay group advocates for full access to internal church files
Charlie Specht won the prestigious duPont award for coverage of the crisis in the Buffalo diocese. Specht worked with diocese whistleblower, Siobhan O’Connor, and survivors in Buffalo to expose the continued cover up. Charlie’s speech is inspirational.
Sara Larson’s blog In Spirit and Truth is always a good resource for the most up to date news articles on the clergy abuse crisis. Sara brings her prayerful presence to a difficult subject.
In a few weeks we will be marking the 9th anniversary of Catholics4Change. While we focus our efforts mostly in our own backyard, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, we are thrilled to see so many lay efforts in various cities. Maybe a bucket brigade is what will douse the flames once and for all.