Catholic Church Aborts Pro-Life Morality

By Susan Matthews

The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) highlighted its flawed morality when it shamed a clergy child sex abuse survivor on its Facebook page yesterday.

Why do you have to troll here Carolyn? Don’t you get enough media attention?”

Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, Facebook Comment, 5/15

The comment was aimed at Carolyn Fortney, who was sexually abused from age two to 12 by Father Augustine Giella.

The originating post celebrated the passing of a bill restricting abortion. Fortney’s comment read, “Next up… statute of limitations Reform with a 2 year retro active window to give victims of Child Sexual Abuse Justice and to EXPOSE pedophiles and co-conspirators who helped to cover it up so we can be #ProChildren and protect them.”

#ProChildren

Albert Gnoza, the PCC communications director told Kathy Kane that he didn’t expect many people to see his reply to her comment. Sadly, Kathy had to point out the one person who would absolutely see it is a child clergy sex abuse survivor. Aside from exposing a detrimental deficit of public relations and social media skill, it highlights an alarming lack of empathy.

Gnoza went on to say that Fortney’s comment didn’t relate to the original post. Even if this were an acceptable excuse, he is wrong.

The pro-life movement is intended to protect ALL human life from conception to death. It advocates against abortion, murder, assisted suicide, the death penalty and more. Clergy child sex abuse has often been referred to as “soul murder.”

Bishops Pratice Cafeteria Catholicism

As the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic Bishops, the PCC lobbies for legislation that protects unborn children while it lobbies against legislation that would help to protect ALL children from sex abuse by any adult.

I’d venture a guess the Bishops have spent far more on the latter to protect themselves. Who funds the Bishops? Parishioners across Pennsylvania. Some unknowingly and some whole-heartedly. Shortly after founding this blog, my husband and son were approached by a fellow parishioner after Mass. He loudly told them that what I was doing was wrong. This was especially surprising to me because this man was an active member of the pro-life group. Aren’t children equally important as unborn babies?

The Bishops promote this moral blind spot. Their credibility on social issues crumbles as they defy the answer to “What would Jesus do?”

Carolyn, your life is sacred and worthy of protection. The Church failed you. We will fight hard along with you to ensure children are protected now and in the future.

That’s the appropriate reply.

Read more here.

Major Flaw In Pope’s Promising New Law

This week Pope Francis issued a mandatory reporter law requiring all Catholic diocesan priests and religious orders, including sisters, to inform Church authorities when they have “well-founded motives to believe” abuse has occurred. It also directs them to obey civil reporting requirements where they live. This Church law is retroactive and includes past abuse.

Those reporting will receive whistle-blower protection and dioceses must have a confidential reporting system in place by June 1, 2020.

But there is a glaring flaw in the new law.

The Definition of Insanity

Bishops will continue to investigate reported bishops. History has proven this fails. Former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is an excellent point in case. Fellow bishops knew about McCarrick’s predatory behavior. Worse than doing nothing, they put him in the role of spokesman on the subject of child sex abuse prevention measures.

Truth Or Consequences

We might get somewhere if the bishops who didn’t report McCarrick were laicized as well. That’s not happening.

Speaking of the failure to report, there is no punishment for an individual who neglects to report abuse or for dioceses that don’t have a confidential reporting system.

Laws without consequences are ineffective, if not useless.

Clericalism Strikes Again

Instead of merely allowing lay experts to assist, Pope Francis should have made it law that qualified laity investigate all cases. But clericalism got the last word in this law.

Why We Need More Info With ‘Credibly Accused’ Clergy Names

By Susan Matthews

New York’s Cardinal Dolan recently released the names of 120 ‘credibly accused’ priests. His belated transparency is missing a few key details.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan should update his list to include, at a minimum, the work histories of each accused priest so that communities where abusers served know to look for survivors in their midst,” according a statement from SNAP issued on Friday. “Similarly, he should include information about when the archdiocese first received the allegations and what they did in response.”

The Catholic Church should release work, volunteer and accusation history along with each name. Why?

It Wakes People the Hell Up

Child sex abuse feels very distant to most parents. It’s something that happens to other people’s kids. When one learns a predator had proximity to their own child, it finally clicks. The betrayal and the potential harm finally make it real. We need that kind of awareness for protection, prevention and justice.

Connects the Dots

Priests can have more than a dozen assignments, chaplaincies and volunteer positions that spread across diocesan and state lines. A credibly accused priest in NY may have once served in a Philadelphia parish. Along with the allegation history, a timeline of positions held helps investigators connect the dots.

And as we’ve found, the lapse between accusations being found credible and removal can be extremely concerning. If compelled to release this information, Church leadership might accelerate better response to avoid scrunity.

Empowers Victims

Information is power. Victims could finally believe in a world where they may have an opportunity for justice and to protect others. This results in more survivors coming forward. Which…

Creates A Safer Environment

The safe environment programs will be a sham until we demand all the facts, the full truth and crystal clear transparency.

Read more from the NPR article here: “Archdiocese of New York Names 120 Clergy ‘Credibly Accused’ of Child Sex Abuse”

Window To Justice: Will PA Senate Support Victims Or Child Predators?

Pennsylvania senators must decide whose interests they’ll represent. Will it be the victims and children or will it be the predators, their enablers and insurance companies?

When the PA Grand Jury Report revealed 1,000 victims of Catholic clergy child sex abuse and that it had been covered up, there seemed to be a bi-partisan wake-up call. Yet, there’s been no progress in the senate. Where is the humanity and common sense?

Pennsylvania’s legislative shortfalls enable child rapists and molesters to live among us – unnamed, unpunished and undeterred.

Current law allows child sex abuse victims to pursue criminal charges against abusers until age 50; they can file civil lawsuits until age 30. The grand jury recommended eliminating the statute of limitations for prosecutions, noting that “no piece of legislation can predict the point at which a victim of child sex abuse will find the strength to come forward.”

Eliminating the statutes of limitation for child sex abuse is smart, but it wouldn’t be retroactive. Marci Hamilton, an expert in constitutional law and CEO of Child USA, explained to CNN in a recent article, that US Supreme Court precedent prohibits extending criminal liability after a case’s statute limit expires. So, even if a bill passed in Pennsylvania, it would not apply to any victim age 51 or older.

And worse, the limits for child sex abuse cases used to be five years for prosecution and two years for civil suits. Think of the thousands of victims silenced due to that short time frame. If that doesn’t grab you, think of all their anonymous abusers.

The solution is to eliminate the statutes of limitation for child sex abuse AND pass limited window legislation to clean up the past and prevent abuse.

A two- or three-year window would allow victims, who aged out of previous statutes of limitation, to file civil lawsuits. Arguments that a window is unconstitutional have been refuted by Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who references ample precedent in other states, including Delaware. He is confident that window legislation will survive legal challenges.

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

Every Pennsylvania parent, grandparent, person who cares about kids should let their state senator know they support this solution.

Download the Excel spreadsheet compiled with the help of attorney Slade McLaughlin. It provides insight to each PA senator’s stance on window legislation as well as contact information. Please tell them you want them to open a window to justice and send them pictures of the kids they should be representing.

With more feedback, we will continue to update spreadsheet.

Abuse Talking Points Interrupt God’s Word

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.

Read the Chicago Sun-Times article here.

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.”

Parallel universe?

“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.

Disciplining offenders;”

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.  

Our Christmas Wish For You

With decades of clergy child sex abuse coverups, the Catholic hierarchy has given plenty of reasons to curse the darkness. But you have all chosen to light a candle. The bright glow of truth has revealed so much to the world this past year.

Survivors and betrayed Catholics can probably relate to the Christmas message in Isaiah Chapter 9. I was Google searching for something else and it popped up. That kind of spiritual serendipity happens a lot with Catholics4Change. Kathy and I appreciate how it has connected all of us and helped C4C grow into a community. This Christmas, we wish you the gifts of peace and hope.

The people who walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

Upon those who lived in a land of gloom

a light has shone.

You have brought them abundant joy

and great rejoicing;

They rejoice before you as people rejoice at harvest,

as they exult when dividing the spoils.

For the yoke that burdened them,

the pole on their shoulder,

The rod of their taskmaster,

you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.

For every boot that tramped in battle,

every cloak rolled in blood,

will be burned as fuel for fire.

For a child is born to us, a son is given to us;

upon his shoulder dominion rests.

They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Herod

Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.

His dominion is vast

and forever peaceful,

Upon David’s throne, and over his kingdom,

which he confirms and sustains

By judgment and justice,

both now and forever.

The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!


No Law or Order With Victim Compensation Fund

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

Victims who were abused by order priests stationed in archdiocesan schools aren’t eligible for the Victim Compensation Fund rolled out by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

This is just another rock solid reason for the PA legislator should pass a two-window for civil cases. It would allow those whose abuse previously fell outside the statutes of limitation two years to file a civil case and seek justice. 

Wouldn’t it seem the archdiocese was serving in a supervisory role, given that these men were working with children in archdiocesan schools. It’s no different than the responsibility they should accept for a lay teacher who isn’t an archdiocesan priest. 

Of course, the religious orders are also responsible for their clergy members and for hiding abuse.

Click here to read: “Catholic Church: Religious orders kept reports of child abuse secret for years,” by Lindsay Schnell, USA Today, Dec. 16, 2018

“Religious order priests make up roughly one-third of all priests in the USA, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They’re often known best for achievements outside the church. The Jesuits, for example, run some of the most prestigious academic institutions at the collegiate level and some of the most dominant athletic programs in U.S. high schools.”

Are you wondering what the difference is between archdiocesan and order priests? Here’s a Catholic classroom link that explains.