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)

Philly Archdiocese Breaks Promises

By Kathy Kane

There was recent news that may have been shocking to many parents who volunteer in the Archdiocese and have to go through what sometimes feels like a Secret Service level of background checks and clearances before being allowed to simply chaperone a school dance, or hand out candy canes at the school Christmas party.

In the past two months, in separate incidents, an Archdiocesan priest was arrested for the rape of a minor and a Catholic lay teacher was arrested for institutional sexual assault. The priest allegedly raped the teen in his private quarters in the rectory. The lay teacher used his school office for the alleged assaults. Both perpetrators also were charged with providing alcohol and drugs to minors.

Promise to Protect

Before a situation rises to the level of sexual abuse there is often a period of misbehavior by the adult that includes what the Archdiocese refers to as “boundary violations.” A person with bad intentions is never going to follow the rules, so many times it is up to others to realize that rules are being broken. With that thought in mind, one would expect that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia would incorporate the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries into the yearly Safety Environment lessons for the students .

If a teacher, coach, or priest is contacting kids through social media, isolating them alone in an office or rectory, or giving them gifts, many kids observing the behavior will recognize it as creepy. But do they know that this grooming behavior is actually violating specific Archdiocesan Standards and should be reported to a trusted adult?

Currently the Archdiocese teaches safety in general, not specific to the environment where these kids live, eat, and breathe each day. The actual population that would be targeted by a perpetrator remains an uninformed “sitting duck”. We have advocated for the Standards to be incorporated in an age appropriate level into the yearly Safety Environment lessons. We have not been successful.

Parents, you know the Archdiocese is quick to get in touch if a tuition payment is late, but is your phone ringing if your child’s safety is at risk? When a boundary violation has taken place and the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries are violated, it would seem logical that the first phone calls would be to the parents of every child or student who was a victim of the violation.

Unfortunately there is no written policy of parental notification when a child is a victim of a boundary violation. Not only is there no policy, but from our own first hand experience it is not even the practice of the Archdiocese to inform all parents. So a child could be subject to grooming behaviors that the Archdiocese is aware have occurred, but the parents have no clue. Sound like a good plan for child safety? We have advocated for parental notification. We have not been successful.

Many students in Archdiocesan high schools turn 18 years old before graduation. In every instance the Archdiocese continues to treat the student as a minor. Permission slips still require a signature from a parent, absent notes need to be written ,the school nurse calls if an 18 year old student is ill. Literally nothing changes when the student turns 18 years old, except maybe your child’s safety.

Is it possible that the Archdiocese does not consider 18 year old students as being included in the specific Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries that are in place to protect minors? Not only is it possible, but in a phone conversation about boundary violations with the Investigations Office of the Archdiocese, it was actually stated in reference to boundary violations that “some of these students are already 18.”

We have advocated for the Standards to be updated to use the word “student,” rather than “minor,” so that that every young person’s safety is equally protected. We have not been successful.

We have advocated for these simple, common sense, child protection policies for the past 2 years after these issues came to light on a boundary violation that we reported. The Archdiocese at this point has shut us down and will no longer communicate with us about these advocacy efforts. All that is expected from parents is their tuition payments and background clearances. They do not want to hear from parents who are informed about the gaping holes that exist in their “Promise to Protect”.

A teen is raped. A student is sexually assaulted. Drugs and alcohol are brought into a parish and a school campus by Church personnel. Sounds like they have it all under control. Why would they listen to us?


Shanahan Grad Reveals Unawareness of Vianney Center Concerns

by Kathy Kane

For years, we have sounded the alarm about the proximity of the St. John Vianney Treatment Center to Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown, Pa.

As a Shanahan parent, I sat in the school parking lot waiting for my daughter and watched a patient from the facility walk by my car. Neither the school nor the Vianney Center had any idea of his presence on the school campus. He was supposed to be on the Vianney Center grounds and simply walked off. That priest patient was not a child abuser, but the encounter gave me a front row seat to the cast of characters employed by the Vianney Center and the Archdiocese who are supposed to be protecting our children.

We have documented cases of child predators sent to the facility in recent years. My youngest child graduated from Shanahan in 2017. This is a current issue. Priests who possessed child pornography. Priests who have assaulted children and young people. It’s not just my word. Grand Jury reports and newspaper articles name allegedly abusive priests from around the country sent to the facility.

On this blog, I’ve shared my communications and the details of my meeting with Vianney Center administration as well as school administration. A Shanahan mother appeared on a news segment. A handful of parents were supportive but not nearly enough to make an impact. I guess parents believed the misleading statements issued by the Archdiocese. Parents should use Google to get to the truth. Any concerned parents can still always contact us, I have enough information to give a PowerPoint presentation about the concerns related to the Vianney Center.

It’s refreshing to see a Bishop Shanahan graduate address this issue in a published commentary. Thank you, Ian. You give me hope. Maybe it will be the young people who will make a difference.

“The Pennsylvania report focuses on many small towns throughout the state.  One of those towns — mentioned more than a dozen times — is an outlier. It’s a town you wouldn’t think to look for unless, like me, you were born and raised there.

In 2002, around the same time the Boston Globe published its bombshell report on sexual abuse of children in the Archdiocese of Boston, I was a freshman at Bishop Shanahan, a Catholic high school in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

I don’t remember paying much attention to the Boston Globe report. Nor was I aware that, during this same time, multiple priests accused of child abuse were being sent to a clergy treatment center directly across the street from my high school

Click here to read the entire story: “How the Catholic Church Used Treatment Centers To Hide Priests Accused of Child Abuse” WHYY


If any Shanahan parents are inspired after reading Ian’s article, I can be reached at kmkane242@gmail.

Finding Fr. Meyers: A C4C Investigation

By Kathy Kane

The strangest thing happens when you are not even looking for an abusive priest – you end up finding him. What started from an obnoxious comment by a priest on the C4C facebook page created a series of events that led to the discovery of Fr. John Meyers’ new life in Tucson, Arizona. Meyers was found unsuitable for ministry in January 2019 by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for a credible and substantiated allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor.

Sometimes the way things fall into place can’t be explained although Jeremy Roebuck did a fantastic job chronicling the series of events in his article. Thank you to Carolyn Fortney who is a tireless advocate for children . Carolyn is a clergy abuse survivor and her eagle eye helped crack this case wide open. Maybe someday the Pennsylvania legislators will join the efforts to protect children by enacting very important SOL Window legislation. Until then it is amazing what a few women with a laptop can accomplish.

Click here to read: “From victim to vigilante: Clergy sex abuse survivor finds accused Philly priest online, working for charter school system in Arizona,” by Jeremy Roebuck, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 23.

Excerpt: “This is a prime example of survivors working together to take the law into our own hands,” said Carolyn Fortney, the Harrisburg woman who uncovered Meyers’ new life in Tucson. “We’ll do what we have to do to protect children.”

Philadelphia Priest Placed on Administrative Leave

Fr William Waters, pastor of St Augustine Church in Philadelphia, has been placed on administrative leave while being investigated for an allegation of the sexual abuse of a minor. News outlets in the Boston area reported on this development yesterday as Waters is one of two Augustinians accused of the abuse which is alleged to have occurred in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Ken Gavin, of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, stated that Fr Waters has been placed on administrative leave however one full day after this news broke Waters name remains on the Archdiocese clergy list. The clergy list shows all priests with full faculties in the Archdiocese. As many who have followed our efforts over the years are aware, we have had to contact the Archdiocese many times for errors on their list.

Stay tuned.

https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2019/04/09/andover-philadelphia-pastors-put-on-leave-amid-sexual-abuse-allegations

No Thank You

Closeup of the neck of a priest wearing a black shirt with cassock and white clerical collar

By Kathy Kane

There are 19 pages highlighting the case of Father Peter Dunne in the 2005 Grand Jury report on the Philadelphia Archdiocese Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal.

“Father Peter J. Dunne, ordained in 1954, served the Philadelphia Archdiocese as a teacher, pastor, administrator of a school for delinquent boys, and assistant director of the Archdiocese scouting program for 40 years. He remained a parish priest for seven and a half years after Archdiocese officials learned, in 1986, that he had sexually abused an altar boy who had been in the priest’s Boy Scout troop. During those seven and a half years, Father Dunne was diagnosed as an untreatable pedophile. He personally paid $40,000 to silence a victim. The Archdiocese was warned repeatedly that he had many victims, that he was most likely continuing to commit sexual offenses, that he should not be in a parish setting, and that he should not be around children or adolescents.”

It recently came to our attention that Dunne’s name is included on a parish website along with other priests who have served at the parish. The section expresses gratitude to all of the priests who have shared their time and talent.

Last year we had to contact the Archdiocese to have the flattering biographical paragraphs of abusive priests Father John Paul and Msgr. John Gillespie removed from a parish website. Gillespie was accused of abusing children at the very parish that still listed his information as a former pastor.

There obviously needs to be Archdiocesan policy on how parishes should handle the inclusion of abusive priests in parish literature and websites. We are asking the C4C community to weigh in. We think a common sense policy would require each parish to list the names of any abusive priest who volunteered or served at that parish. No more whitewashing with information that omits the abuse history of the priest, and no “thank you” to priests who have violated innocent children.

Please share your thoughts on this subject in the comment section or join the conversation on the Catholics4Change facebook page .

Unexcused Absence

By Kathy Kane

There was very sad and disturbing news last week in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia with the arrest of Father Armand Garcia, who was charged with rape, sexual abuse of a minor, and corruption of a minor. When the year long criminal investigation began in March of 2018, Garcia was the newly appointed pastor at St. Martin of Tours parish. He had been a parochial vicar at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Roxborough from 2011 through 2017. The criminal charges allege the abuse occurred during his years at IHM.

The only initial announcement made by the Archdiocese last March was to the St Martin of Tours parish where police had executed a search of the rectory. There was no press release issued by the Archdiocese informing that a Philadelphia priest was under criminal investigation for misconduct with a minor. There was was no announcement by the Archdiocese to his former parish of IHM, where he had interacted with children and young people for the previous six years.

Last year many IHM parishioners first learned of the criminal investigation from the local news media who picked up the story from our blog post when we alerted our readers that Garcia was under investigation after we received a tip about situation. Catholic Philly finally ran a story 12 days after the rectory at St Martin of Tours had been searched.

We heard from an attendee at the 9:30 a.m. Mass at IHM this past weekend that the hierarchy was not present for the announcement that the pastor shared concerning Garcia’s recent arrest . The information from the Archdiocese press release from earlier in the week was shared in the pastor’s announcement and the information was available for parishioners to take with them. There was also the reminder for everyone to be charitable in their conversation with others concerning the situation. There were staff from the Office of Children and Youth Protection of the Archdiocese present and were noticed at a table when entering the Church but at the conclusion of Mass it got a bit confusing when the staff member now had her coat zipped up, which covered her name tag. She was now standing and greeting parishioners as they exited.

. When a priest is arrested for the rape of a 16 year old parishioner and the best the Archdiocese can do is to have a timeline of the investigation announced at Mass, and a representative from Victim Assistance in the vestibule, there is not much hope that Archdiocese will ever respond in a pastoral manner. The Archdiocese claims that in March 2018 they did not know that the crimes were alleged to have occurred at IHM so there was no announcement to the parish. A bizarre technicality when common sense would dictate that the parish where he had been recently stationed for 6 years should have been informed. Even now with the arrest and the timeline showing that the crimes occurred during Garcia’s time at IHM, the hierarchy was MIA at the morning mass. Even if they cannot provide answers at this time, an acknowledgment is deserved.

The Archdiocese will often state that they cannot comment on a case until after court proceedings but when the former CFO of the Archdiocese , Anita Guzzardi,was found to have embezzled close to a million dollars, Archbishop Chaput wrote an article about her alleged crimes prior to her arrest and before any guilty plea or conviction. Along with detailing the alleged crimes, he also talked about the anger concerning the financial loss, including his own anger. There was no mention of making sure our conversations were charitable about the situation

The arrest of Garcia a few weeks before Easter proves particularly troubling for the Archdiocese as Christmas and Easter are a source of “holiday revenue” for the Church . Maybe that is part of the reason the investigation was initially kept under wraps last March during the Lenten season. There is no worse time for bad PR for the Church than when parishioners’ donations are expected to exceed the normal Sunday collections.

Sadly, once again, the wolves have attacked the flock. As seems to be standard operating procedure the “shepherds” are nowhere to be found – protecting themselves rather than caring for those they have been entrusted to by God. At this point it is a good idea to stop acting as sheep.

This Lenten season may we all remember the suffering of the innocent children, young people, and adults who have been victims of abuse within the Church.