by Susan Matthews
Last week, Pennsylvania bishops issued a joint statement outlining a myopic and self-serving plan for compensating past victims of clergy child sex abuse.
In a PhillyCatholic.com editorial on the statement, Archbishop Chaput seemingly boasts about how the archdiocesan victim’s assistance program “has quietly served hundreds of abuse victims and their families for more than 15 years and underwritten their therapy and care in an amount totaling more than $18 million.”
Grand Juries = Grand Gestures
First, let’s state the obvious. None of it would have been necessary if the hierarchy hadn’t allowed priests to continue abusing children while covering it up for DECADES.
Why did it take another Grand Jury report for the bishops to make this grand gesture? Is that commitment or public relations? I think it’s the latter combined with a strategic lobbying effort. One PhillyCatholic.com reader, Anita, writes in the comments section, “So now the bishops are pledging ‘new’ aid….if the statute of limitations issue was not on PA’s radar screen would these ‘new’ funds have been available?”
If this gesture were at all sincere, these resources would be available even if the statute of limitations were to be temporarily lifted for civil cases. But they aren’t.
Crystal Clear Agenda (For Once)
“We’re committed to dedicating substantially more resources to the task of helping survivors, unless destructive, retroactive statute of limitations legislation makes that impossible.”
Note the word – “unless.” Chaput explains “destructive” by warning that parishes may go bankrupt. Are any of bishops concerned about moral bankruptcy? They’ve become pros at mitigating financial risk and placing the burden on those in the pews.
For insight, check out: The Bishop’s Alter Ego: Enterprise Liability and the Catholic Priest Sex Abuse Scandal, Journal of Catholic Legal Studies
Ignores Justice for ALL Victims
The bishops’ compensation plan doesn’t take into account ALL victims of child sex abuse. What about those abused by an uncle or a coach? Shouldn’t they be entitled to pursue compensation through a civil case? The bishops’ plan doesn’t even apply to victims abused by Catholic order priests – only diocesan clergy. Semantics. They’ll let Franciscans or Oblates teach in archdiocesan schools and celebrate Mass at parishes, but they won’t take responsibility for them. Retroactive statute of limitations legislation would apply to everyone.
Doesn’t Protect Kids
This legislation also provides an important element of prevention. Not all of these alleged abusers are dead. One could be living next to your granddaughter or your nephew. They are in a community living in anonymity alongside children. The legal process allows for identification and public awareness.
Read “No One Is Monitoring Former Abusive Priests,” by the National Catholic Reporter
Yes, it’s disheartening that the diocesan coverups in Pennsylvania have put so much at risk. That’s why the Pope should create a betrayal compensation plan for parishes, Catholic social services and other ministries. I don’t blame the legal system. The blame lies squarely with the Church.