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

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.

Archdiocesan Priest Placed On Leave Presents Himself as Clergy In Public

According to sources, on Friday, June 26th, Father Louis J. Kolenkiewicz attended a funeral at the chapel of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. He was in full priestly attire. Why is that a problem? Earlier this year, Archbishop Chaput placed Kolenkiewicz on administrative leave. Parishioners at St. Bede the Venerable in Holland in Bucks County, (his most recent assignment) were told he had a pornography addiction. The diocese had disciplined him in both 2005 and 2011, but took further action when the Bucks County District Attorney’s office informed them that of the 12,000 images he downloaded in 2005, up to 12 could have depicted juveniles.  (Read Philadelphia Inquirer article here.) An archdiocesan statement issued this February stated, “While on administrative leave, he is not permitted to exercise public ministry, administer any of the Sacraments, or present himself publicly as a member of the clergy.” I’d say showing up in his black cassock and a white collar at a funeral qualifies as presenting himself publicly as a member of the clergy. Three other priests were in attendance. They may have contacted their superiors. But this brings to mind the subject of monitoring. Should the archdiocese be responsible for monitoring its priests who have been removed or placed on leave? Please note that they priests are still receiving financial assistance.

Here is an interesting passage from Opus Bono Sacerdotii. The group works on behalf of priests with “sensitive situations:”

Question: “This is the first time I hear of the ‘monitoring’. Is this happening in more than one diocese? Does this mean you can function in full ministry now? How often do you see this ‘monitor’? Can he just drop in on a surprise visit?

(Answer) First, there is no reason to simply “cave in” to monitoring, especially if there has been no canonical action taken against you. If you are not under a penalty, impediment or irregularity — which has been formally declared in a canonical action of some sort, you can challenge the bishop’s attempts to monitor you as a violation of your right to privacy under canon 220 (“No one is permitted to harm illegitimately the good reputation which a person possesses nor to injure the right of any person to protect his or her own privacy.”) A canon lawyer should be more than happy to help anyone interested in preparing a letter to his bishop to begin such a challenge….

As for the procedures, many dioceses and religious orders utilize monitoring. Monitoring can be handled by a priest, or official of the Archdiocese, or a professional investigator of some sort. Typically the visits are weekly and yes, they are unannounced visits. The reason for this is to insure that your conduct is appropriate at any given moment, however, it also has value for the one being monitored since there is a quantifiable record against any suspicions of restrictions violation.

All that being said, monitoring should be reserved to those that are in most need of it because of grievous continued inappropriate behavior. These priests are usually very accepting of the restrictions that are placed on them having full knowledge of their personal need for supervision. Unfortunately, there is a gross abuse of the monitoring program by dioceses and religious orders. They are now implementing monitoring for just about any priest that has been accused even if nothing has been proven, or the behavior was so long ago the priest has proven himself over many years without ever re-offending.

We are aware of a monitoring case in which a priest who had never been formally placed under any sort of canonical penalty was subjected to a system of monitoring. The priest appealed the matter to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and the CDF responded that the bishop’s actions were inappropriate since no formal process had ever been undertaken in this priest’s case and such monitoring constituted a violation of the right to privacy expressed in canon 220. Again, a priest could address this matter by getting a canonist willing to present a petition to the Archbishop asking that his decision to initiate this monitoring be revoked.”

The Chicago Archdiocese has a monitoring program but its effectiveness has been called into question in recent years. The Archdiocese of Newark, New Jersey also has one. (Read about it here). Accused priests are under no legal obligation to listen to the bishops’ terms. However, one would think their pensions and pay would provide some leverage.

Crazy Talk from Pope Francis

While this blog focuses on clergy child sex abuse, we think it’s important to take a break to acknowledge the Pope’s interview. His leadership style will have an impact on clericalism – a leading cause of the coverups.

by Susan Matthews

As a parent, I realize how impossible it would be to raise and guide my children if they weren’t in my house – under my roof. Many Catholics have left home. With his landmark interview, Pope Francis, the Father of our Church, is acting like any good Dad. He is opening the doors to his home. That gesture is also allowing light into an institution darkened by clericalism.

Some are misinterpreting his message as an accommodation. Yet, Pope Francis mentions no change in doctrine – just a different approach to teaching. The same approach that Jesus took.

Crazy. A Pope that acts like Jesus. He is reaching out to the marginalized and embracing the troubled with empathy and love. What a revolutionary idea. I’ve read comments that call Pope Francis a heretic. That’s what they called Christ.

But do his words change anything for Philadelphia Catholics? We are reeling in the aftermath of greed, mismanagement and scandal. At the same time, our physical identity is being dismantled due to shifting demographics and financial limitations. Archbishop Chaput has the unenviable task of closing parishes, schools and nursing homes. I don’t question his morals, but I do question his ability to raise morale. He was assigned to us by a very different Pope who sought a smaller, more orthodox Church. That hasn’t been a winning strategy.

Right now, we can’t depend on our local institutional Church to create and maintain a strong positive presence across all of our neighborhoods. But there are 1.3 million of us. With those numbers, we can still feed the hungry, protect our youth, shelter the homeless, provide health care and educate children across the archdiocese.

If you liked what the Pope had to say, live it. Give both your time and money to organizations and charities run by the humble, loving and inclusive. Maybe this crazy talk will catch on.

Catholic League Couldn’t Be Less Christ-Like With Latest Release

The Catholic League used the clip art at left in a press release in regard to the Boston Victims’ Summit. To use such art in relation to the issue of clergy sex abuse is reprehensible. Regardless of what you think about the law suits, the media or the issue in general – the bottom line is that children were harmed. This artwork and the press release is not only highly inappropriate – it couldn’t be less Christ-like. The actual press release is no better.

I find it very disturbing that our Church leaders support an organization that would do this. Below is Archbishop Chaput’s testimonial from the Catholic League’s Web site.

“The Catholic League has the courage to speak up candidly and forcefully for the Church when circumstances call for fighting the good fight. The League should be on every Catholic’s short list of essential organizations to support.”

— Most Rev. Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Philadelphia

Please let Archbishop Chaput and the Catholic League know that you find this unacceptable.

I Want You to Tell the Truth

by Fr. Christopher M. Walsh, Pastor of St. Raymond Church, guest blogger

A member of the “Catholics4Change” community recently forwarded me the following questions:  I am asking you and your hierarchy to tell the truth about who the perpetrators and enablers are. Also where does the money come from that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia uses for the lobbying group Penna. Catholic Conference? Why is Abp. Chaput lobbying against HB 832 & HB 878?

Unfortunately I do not believe I am able to provide complete answers to these questions.  I am not unable due to a desire to protect my brother priests or our bishops, or out of a desire to protect the institution of the Church or out of arrogance.  I truly do not know the answers you are seeking although I have been asking some of the same questions.  Based on what I do know, I can offer the following…

At this point the Archdiocese of Philadelphia website publishes the names and photos of priests and deacons who have been accused and whose accusation has found to be “credible” by the Archdiocese.  I realize that this system does not include all the accused, which is a concern to many given the belief of the Philadelphia District Attorney that the Archdiocese’s process was often flawed and left children at risk.

Regarding the identification of “enablers”, I am not aware of the Archdiocese doing this at all.  Again, the various Grand Jury Reports did name a variety of priests who worked for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who they believed contributed to the system that continued to place children at risk (which led to the current prosecution of Msgr. Lynn).  One of the recurring conversations among priests in recent months has been on this topic: who knew what and when (I assure you that those who were having these conversations truly did not know what was happening regarding the victimization of children and their families).  While there is continued encouragement to move forward in faith and seek healing, I do not believe that this can happen for many people until there is clarity and transparency on “who knew what and when”.   Like the person who posted this question, I too would like to know a complete answer from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Regarding the finances that the Archdiocese contributes to the PA Catholic Conference, the “public affairs” arm of PA’s Catholic Bishops and our Dioceses: sadly, the answer remains “I do not know”.  I do not know the budget of the PA Catholic Conference (nor is the information available online) nor do I know the amount of contribution made by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia (not listed in the Archdiocese Financial Statement).  The Conference advocates on a variety of issues including: school choice, respect life issues, poverty concerns, marriage and family issues, and I imagine they will soon be advocating on behalf of the Bishops regarding the proposed lifting of the statute of limitations to allow for civil suits against perpetrators of sexual abuse.  In general, the income of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia comes from a few sources: interest from investments, the assessment levied against parishes and gifts in kind made to the Archdiocese.  I imagine that any support for the PA Catholic Conference comes through these sources however I do not know that for certain.

Finally, I do not know that Abp. Chaput is lobbying against the proposed legislation that would allow civil suits on behalf of victims of childhood sexual abuse.  I have not had a conversation with Abp. Chaput about this matter nor has he communicated anything to priests at this point.

As I am able to gain more complete answers to these questions I will share them on this forum and in other ways as I continue to seek a renewed integrity in our Church for the glory of God and the good of the human family.

Archbishop Chaput Acknowledges Lynn But Not Victims

According to the following article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, Archbishop Chaput extended support to Msgr. Lynn during a private Mass for priests. Why is the suspended priest, on trial for alleged conspiracy, more worthy of a shout out than the many survivors and victims of clergy sexual abuse? Where was Archbishop’s prompt to offer them support? Where is the prompt to offer support and prayer for those in the pews still struggling with all that has been exposed? If this is leadership by example, then we can expect more of the same ministry from our parish priests on this matter. Not much to none.

More cynically, was this a placating pep rally? Msgr. Lynn is a string that unravels the rug this has all been swept under. Bolstering his spirits surely tops the priority list. Leads Fight For Laws to Allow Justice and Protect Kids

Click to Read: Suburban Catholics drive effort to let victims of long-ago abuse sue, by John P. Martin, Inquirer Staff writer, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct. 3, 2011

Here’s a section of the above story:

“Margaret Reif, a Downingtown mother who started the Catholic Accountability Project, said she did not want to enrich lawyers or bankrupt the church, and would support a cap on damages in such suits. “As a parent, it’s really important that we can say who these people are and get them off the street.”

Like Reif, Bob Riley became engaged in the issue after the latest grand jury report. A 64-year-old financial adviser, grandfather, and lifelong Catholic from Devon, Riley said he was so outraged by the developments that he decided to attend a meeting organized by abuse victims in Northeast Philadelphia.

Riley wasn’t a victim himself but was stunned to hear people who looked little different than him describe the impact of the abuse. “It was just unfathomable to me that this horrific situation could be happening and getting so little notoriety,” he said.”