New System Is Old Bandaid For Bishops’ Broken Promises

by Susan Matthews

Coming out of last week’s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a new oversight system for handling clergy child sex abuse and attempted cover-ups has been announced. It’s the same old bandaid that’s lost its sticky since they created the Dallas Charter in 2002.

Ostensibly, this system creates greater accountability. In reality, it’s just less of the same. In some instances, it’s not as comprehensive as the Charter. A lack of laity involvement, let alone management, and the rules for reporting allegations fall short.

According to an article in The New York Times, some bishops lobbied for mandatory lay involvement, but were unsuccessful. Why would that be objectionable given bishops have failed at self-investigation?

The answer according to a panel of bishops was that the pope’s decree didn’t mandate lay participation. So much for the “Holy” spirit of Church law.

“The system really perpetuates clericalism, which is something Pope Francis has criticized in other situations — the idea that priests exist on a different level than lay people and bishops exist on a different level than priests, and that’s by divine origin and you can’t even talk about changing it.”

Nicholas P. Cafardi, former chairman of the national review board, as quoted in The New York Times article

This “fix” adds more insult to injury. Survivors and betrayed Catholic laity know this bandaid is just another cover-up to promote donor healing and that the Church has cured nothing.

Read The New York Times article “Catholic Bishops Vow to Hold Themselves Accountable for Sexual Abuse and Cover-Ups,” June 13, 2019

The God Fathers: Time for RICO Investigation of U.S. Catholic Church

By Susan Matthews

Early in the life of this blog, a very passionate commenter demanded a RICO investigation of the Catholic Church. Kathy and I thought he was overly dramatic and maybe even a bit crazy. Now, we agree with him. Using popular quotes from the The Godfather, let’s break it down.

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Yesterday, The Washington Post broke the news that Bishop Michael Bransfield* gave $350,000 in cash gifts to Cardinals and priests, including some who accused him of sexual harassment. Vatican records reportedly reveal the money trail. Bransfield wrote “gift” checks from his personal account and the West Virginia diocese reimbursed him by raising his compensation to match “gift” amounts plus his added income tax burden.

What other organization engages in payoffs to possible informants? The mob. And just like the mafia, the Catholic hierarchy appears to be involved in organized crime. But there’s at least one difference. I don’t believe the mafia would sanction the coverup of child rape. They have a code.

With recent revelations, we’ve reached a national, if not global, tipping point. If doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is the definition of crazy. It would be crazy to offer the Catholic hierarchy another opportunity to reform itself.

Let’s turn to the law. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) is a federal law intended to combat organized crime in the U.S.

“Goddam FBI don’t respect nothin.”

Federal prosecutors would have to prove the Catholic Church is an enterprise and engaged in two or more instances of racketeering. They would have to prove the church directly invested in, maintained an interest in or participated in criminal behavior affecting interstate or foreign commerce.

Child sex abuse and obstruction of justice could establish racketeering, said David Hickton in an article on Hickton, a former U.S. attorney in the Western District of PA, used RICO in 2016 to initiate a suit against the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. The time wasn’t right, but it could be now.

Special agents from the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime reviewed evidence collected by the Pennsylvania grand jury investigation of clergy sex abuse across six dioceses. The FBI found all six dioceses employed the same pattern of practices to systematically cover up abuse, according to an article in The New York Times. It stands to reason these practices span the U.S. Catholic Church.

The civil provisions of RICO offer a wider berth than the criminal. Take the case of Art Cohen vs. Donald J. Trump. Cohen filed suit against Trump on behalf of students claiming they were defrauded thousands of dollars each by Trump University. The case was settled out of court for $25 million.

I paid for my kids’ Catholic education and donated to the Catholic Church, a supposed nonprofit. Hasn’t the Church abused its tax-exempt status and operated counter to its stated institutional mission?

In just the last year, the U.S. Catholic Church spent $301.6 million on clergy sex abuse-related costs, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This sum doesn’t include all the “gifts.” That’s only ONE year of expenditures! Imagine the total cost for the past 50 years. Read the breakdown of last year’s payouts at CNN.

Clearly, I’ve been defrauded by the Catholic Church. How about you?

Times have changed. It’s not like the Old Days – when we can do anything we want.”

Those seeking justice for clergy child sex abuse should take note of federal anti-racketeering charges filed against Harvey Weinstein on behalf of multiple plaintiffs. RICO suits were filed against his brother Bob Weinstein, Miramax and some board members of The Weinstein Company. They are accused of complicity in facilitating and concealing a pattern of sexual misconduct and violence. Does that sound familiar?

In an August 2018 letter to the U.S. Justice Department, Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the Center for Constitutional Rights asked for the following:

a full-scale, nationwide investigation into the systemic rape and sexual violence, and cover-ups by the Catholic Church, and, where appropriate, bring criminal and/or civil proceedings against the hierarchy that enabled the violations.”

USA Today, August 22, 2018

“It’s true I have a lot of friends in politics.”

There seems to be plenty of evidence to warrant the investigation the U.S. Catholic Church. Why has it been so difficult? Aside from a narrow interpretation of RICO, there are political pressures. Evidence can be found in the battle to reform existing child sex abuse laws.

In eight northeastern states the Catholic Church spent $10.6 million on lobbyists to fight legislation that would help clergy sex abuse victims. In Pennsylvania, where victims of child sex abuse can come forward with criminal allegations until age 50 and file civil claims until age 30, the church spent $5,322, 979 to keep those limitations in place, according to a report covered by NBC News.

Why? Because the current law is not retroactive. It only applies to eligible victims from when that law was passed in 2002 and moving forward. Advocates are fighting for a limited window of time during which victims, whose abuse doesn’t fall within current statutes, can file civil lawsuits. This would provide an opportunity for justice AND awareness of alleged perpetrators currently living anonymously – – maybe in your neighborhood.

No sequel to The God Fathers

In light of yesterday’s breaking news in The Washington Post and a federal investigation into the Catholic Church in PA, a demand for a federal U.S. investigation is forming.

Read The Washington Post article here.

Editor’s note: Bishop Michael Bransfield is a Philadelphia native. The former Bishop of the West Virginia Diocese has been banned from ministry in two dioceses. Why not all dioceses? Read more in The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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.”


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”

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.”

Dome to Dome: Philly Archdiocese Shares Vatican’s Slow-to-Reform Pace

By Susan Matthews

In what might be the most epic delayed reaction in history, Pope Francis opened the Vatican Summit on clergy child sex abuse this morning. The publicized purpose of the four-day conference is to better educate and train Church leaders on how to deal with the global crisis. One would think a summit had already taken place given their universally executed coverup.

As the head goes, the body follows. From the Vatican dome to the dome of the Cathedral Basilica of SS Peter and Paul, coverups have been remarkably proactive and reform has been reactive and slow coming.

Big Problems In Child Protection 

  • It’s almost two years that we’ve advocated for a policy that would require the Archdiocese to inform parents when their child has been the victim of a boundary violation by church personnel. No progress and no policy.
  • The Archdiocese doesn’t include the Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries in the annual Safety Environment lessons given to students. How can students know when there’s been a violation, if they don’t know what they are? An example: clergy messaging a student via social media or text.
  • Grand Jury Reports and newspaper articles revealed that many priests, who pose a danger to children and young adults, have been sent to the St. John Vianney Treatment Center. This center is located directly across the street from Bishop Shanahan High School in West Chester, PA. With priests being shipped in from all over the US, it’s a lucrative gig for the Archdiocese. Money, not children, is the true treasure of the Church.
  • The recent discovery that Father John Meyers had been left in ministry for months while being investigated for child sexual abuse shows this generation of kids is still at risk.

Creepy Clerical Culture 

In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, priests who violated the bodies of innocent children have their funerals presided over by Church leaders. Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, who heads the office of Child and Youth Protection, was the celebrant at Father John Cannon’s funeral in 2017. Cannon’s prolific abuse of children dates back to the 1960’s.

Some priests in good standing socialize with former or current priests who have violated children or had other child-related issues. Dinner and drinks with the creeps is concerning, but what about owning a home with a child predator? One priest doesn’t have a problem with it. Laity, get to Googling and scanning social media. They don’t even hide it.

Those who participated in the cover up receive heartwarming obits on and some parishes need to be told to remove glowing bios of abusive priests from their websites. Revisionist history.

Re-Victimizing Survivors

In November 2018, just as the statute of limitation/window legislation had its most promising chance in years, the Archdiocese announced the Independent Reconciliation and Reparation. With it, victims of clergy abuse may file a claim for financial compensation. Victims who were abused by religious order priests are left out of the program, even though the Archdiocese relied on religious orders to staff many high school and parishes. This is odd considering the Diocese is lead by a religious order priest – Archbishop Chaput.

A vigil arranged by young Catholic laity was interrupted by a priest who was unhappy the Cathedral staff had not been alerted. He was being a bit self-important considering the vigil took place in a public park across from the Cathedral. He said his concern, “was for the people in his Church.” Jesus, whom this priest represents, would have wanted victims, victims’ families and advocates to be seen and heard. He would have invited them IN!

A few weeks later, at yet another “Healing Mass,” the father of a deceased victim was asked to leave the sidewalk of the cathedral. Message received. “We will pray that you go away.”

Sheep Herd the Shepherds

In recent months, we’ve heard from more laity than ever before and we thank everyone for your interest and efforts.

In the Pittsburgh Diocese a newly-formed group of 1,000 lay members will address various issues of the sex abuse crisis with the hierarchy.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is currently being investigated by the Department of Justice.

There’s a long way to go, but we are in good company with all of you.