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.

Subterfuge & Strings: Examining the Victim Compensation Fund

hand holding puppet strings

The Archdiocesan Victim Compensation Fund was received by many as a responsive step in the right direction. Under scrutiny, it shapes up to be a very strategic solution – just not for survivors. Its primary goal seems to advance Archdiocesan interests. Participating may be nominally beneficial to some who would never consider civil proceedings. But it comes with serious strings attached.

Those strings could strangle a survivor’s options for future legal justice, public awareness and child sex abuse prevention. Is the confusion surrounding it just another layer of the subterfuge? Click below to read more on this by journalist Max Mitchell in The Legal Intelligencer.

Attorneys Accuse Archdiocese of Sowing Confusion About Victim Compensation Fund

U.S. Bishops: Not Shaken, Nor Stirred

By Kathy Kane

It had been a long day of travel, prayer and protest for the Mom Squad from the Philadelphia Archdiocese. A stroke of good luck had enabled us to book the very last room available at the pricey Marriott Waterfront where the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was being held.  Accumulated travel points covered our one-night stay, a rate so high it would have cost the average Catholic a few months of donation basket envelopes. A very nice hotel employee upgraded us. This gave us access to the 31st floor concierge lounge where free food was available along with beautiful views of the Baltimore harbor and skyline. Somehow, on a shoe string budget we managed to live like Bishops for a night.

The first person I recognized when we walked through the Marriott lobby bar on Tuesday night was Bishop John Mcintyre, an auxiliary bishop from Philadelphia. 

We hadn’t been sure we would see any clergy during our stay. A church insider told me that most clergy would be laying low, at least for optics sake. That made sense due to the prior day’s news that depicted a hierarchy reeling from the Vatican directive to delay reform along with the eyes of the world watching in the wake of the McCarrick case, PA grand jury report and PA federal investigation. 

Instead, the atmosphere was what you might expect at any corporate convention. Priests and bishops circulated throughout the public areas of the hotel as well as the lay employees with their USCCCB lanyards.  Everyone looked healthy and not too malnourished from all the fasting. All seemed to hold their liquor well too despite that drinking on an empty stomach can be a disaster.

There were clergy in the concierge lounge, some grabbing a bite to eat, others enjoying a glass of wine or evening cocktail.  One Bishop with a booming voice and swagger of a CEO, talked loudly on his cell phone.  At the dessert table a lay employee took it upon herself to loudly identify each dessert to a bishop, treating him like a helpless man child.   

A Study In Contrasts

There were clergy in the main lobby throughout the day, talking and enjoying each other’s company. In contrast, protestors came in from the cold whipping winds of the waterfront to warm up for a minute or use the bathroom. Security was polite but ever present. Protest signs were forbidden and the Mom Squad had to conceal them or risk those losing their stay and accumulated travel points.

Tuesday, Theresa and Beth attended an event where they heard a survivor named James speak. He had been abused by the former Cardinal McCarrick. 

I connected with Father Chris Walsh, who came to Baltimore with a busload of parishioners and friends. This energetic crowd was interviewed by local Philly press outside of the hotel. They were passionate about children and the Church. Bob Hoatson of Road from Recovery was also out in front of the hotel on Tuesday. His calm presence and friendly demeanor was the opposite of the indifferent vibe inside.

Our Mom Squad had deep conversations throughout the day and into the evening.  We asked each other, Do they believe what they preach? How can one believe and at the same time have allowed such crimes and cover up? Do they fear death or a final judgment? Why don’t the ones not involved in crime or cover up speak up louder and tear down the wall of clericalism? What if the ultimate “fraternal correction” awaits them all in the afterlife – where there are no teams of attorneys at their beck and call. 

We struggled through conversations about our devout parents and disillusioned kids, trying to makes sense of how we ended up at this corporate convention of Christ protesting a hierarchy that allowed and covered up crimes against children, crimes against humanity. None of us would have predicted as Catholic kids that we would be here at this moment.

What happens when a bishop and three moms walk into a bar….

By the time we went to the lobby bar Tuesday night we had solved the Church’s problems 10 times over in our conversations. That’s when I saw Bishop McIntrye sitting nearby with a group of clergy. I signaled to our waiter and asked him what the man a few feet away in the blue sweater was drinking. “Cointreau on the rocks.” The Mom Squad immediately nicknamed the group “Top-Shelf Bishops.” I sent Bishop Mcintyre a drink compliments of Catholics4Change but somehow that message was bungled by the waiter so we changed it to sent from “Moms from Philly” and that got his attention. 

He came over and I introduced myself as did the other members of the Mom Squad. I told Bishop Mcintyre it was nice to meet him but that I was disappointed that emails to him in the past had gone unanswered. This is not an issue isolated to Bishop Mcintyre, the hierarchy simply ignores whatever mails they don’t want to answer.  Actually, at this point even the Archdiocesan staff ignores C4C emails.  I told him maybe now that we have met in person and I bought him a drink, it would ring a bell if I emailed him in the future. He thanked us for the drink and made an exit.

That night as the Mom Squad bunked together in our accumulated travel points hotel room, we talked in the darkness into the night. Theresa said, “I always think of the survivors.”  We agreed and added the families of victims who have have died are always on our minds. Beth spoke of how the abuse took so much from so many, so often leaving someone abused and without the faith that many lean on in crisis, because the leaders of their faith actually caused the crisis.

The next morning Theresa departed early, Beth and I took a walk outside and found Siobhan O’Connor and her friend down by the waterfront standing in the cold with signs in hand. Siobhan is the whistleblower lay employee from Buffalo who recently appeared on 60 minutes. The irony of the person who protected children being relegated to the sidewalk is a story repeated over and over in every Diocese, this time at a national conference.  How is it that victims, survivors, and advocates are the “outsiders”? Siobhan is a truly lovely woman with a heart as big as her conscience.

The Mom Squad lives on in a group text as we have kept in contact to sort out our feelings about the trip. Before she left Baltimore, Theresa drove by a Church where many years ago a relative had been the pastor. She texted that she was in tears as she headed toward I95. She was thinking about the hardship and sacrifice of those who brought the Catholic faith to the U.S and how it has been destroyed by the leadership in the past few decades. Beth texted that she went to adoration to talk to Jesus and told Him that she found saints outside the hotel at bishops’ conference. 

You never know going into a trip like this what each person’s takeaway will be. For me, the one thing I am sure of, is that the next time I need to email the hierarchy in Philadelphia, the subject line will read “Cointreau on the rocks.” Nothing else has gotten their attention.

Maybe cocktail diplomacy is the way to go.

Join Support Group for Archbishop Chaput

two hands reaching together in support for sarcastic article on the pain the press has caused Archbishop Chaput

by Susan Matthews

Media outlets, specifically The Philadelphia Inquirer, have allegedly victimized Archbishop Charles Chaput while reporting on the Catholic Church coverup of child predator priests.

Why would the press unjustly target the prelate who successfully helped defeat statute of limitation reforms in Colorado? It was clearly a coincidence that he was then assigned to the Philadelphia Archdiocese in the wake of the 2011 Grand Jury Report.

“You saw the job they tried to do on me,” said Archbishop Chaput to Inquirer columnist Maria Panaritis during the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In an effort to protect himself from further pain, he reportedly refused to answer questions. Read her column here.

The alleged adult victim of molested character and scrutinized actions must be suffering beyond imagination. Catholics4Change is shifting our focus. Those abused and raped by priests as kids are better equipped to handle their devastation. Archbishop Chaput needs us more.

Catholics4Change is forming a support group for Archbishop Chaput. Please join us for a “listening and healing” prayer service. We will meet at St. Persecution’s complex on the 5th of never. Please join us.

Our new support hotline is open for any member of the clergy whose personal suffering is disproportionate to reality.

Or, offer it up to the cross. 


With These Shepherds, Whose Afraid of Wolves?

by Susan Matthews

Pope Francis directed U.S. bishops to postpone decisions regarding clergy child sex abuse accountability as they gathered in Baltimore for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They had planned to vote on a code of conduct and to establish a lay commission to investigate misconduct from within their ranks. They will obey the pope and these measures were taken off the agenda.

My headline is borrowed from a comment posted by a C4C Facebook follower in response to the news. He’s right. This latest development makes me wonder if an entire institution can be classified as sociopathic.

The Vatican ambassador to the United States reiterated the pope’s wishes and warned bishops not to rely on lay investigations.

The Washington Post quotes him…

“There may be a temptation on the part of some to relinquish responsibility for reform to others from ourselves, as if we were no longer capable of reforming or trusting ourselves,” said Archbishop Christophe Pierre.

“Assistance is both welcome and necessary, and surely collaboration with the laity is essential. However, the responsibility as bishops of this Catholic Church is ours.”

He went on to quote a French author who said that “whoever pretends to reform the church with the same means to reform temporal society” will “fail.”

Damn straight. Civil law, ethics and morality mean absolutely nothing within their arrogant clerical bubble. And, they’ve also proven time and again that they aren’t capable of reforming themselves.

So now what?

The “change” in Catholics4Change does NOT refer to a change in the Church. It refers to the change within each of us that has been brought about by the abuse and the hierarchy’s criminal coverup.

  1. Demand that your senators pass window legislation for justice and prevention.
  2. Demand thorough federal, state and county investigations.
  3. Demand the full measure of the law be applied to those found guilty of covering up the sexual abuse of children.

We aren’t sheep.

Coming soon: Coverage from the concierge lounge and lobby bar at the Bishops’ Conference. C4C’s Kathy Kane investigates.