ON THE ROCKS: Cocktails at Bishops’ Conference Belies Church Suffering

By Kathy Kane

Dear Bishop Senior and Bishop McIntyre,

We have crossed paths over the years but have never formally met. I considered introducing myself in the hotel lounge at the Marriott in Baltimore. I chose not to because I couldn’t trust myself not to recreate the scene of Jesus in the temple with the money changers. I might have overturned a table, sending glasses of Cointreau and Johnny Walker Black Label into the air.

I’m one of the mothers from the Philadelphia Archdiocese who traveled to Baltimore to stand with the survivors outside of the hotel during the Bishops’ Conference. We also attended the Conference in November. We call ourselves the “Mom Squad” and we support the victims and survivors who have literally saved our children by exposing the issue of clergy abuse to the world.

Voices Carry

Your group of bishops did not notice us when you arrived at the hotel lounge late Tuesday after your dinner out on the town. You picked a table right near us and proceeded to talk about your terrific dinner. Drinks were ordered; lots of laughter; a toast to a birthday (Happy Birthday, Nelson).

Voices carry, even in hotel bars. If you’re going to make fun of a former Archdiocese victim advocate, you might want to whisper. Or, here’s a better idea…don’t mock victim advocates. Bishop Senior, you did get a good laugh from your fellow bishops. Also, not a good idea to discuss Church-related matters in a hotel bar with mothers from the Archdiocese sitting a few feet away.

The Mom Squad nicknamed your group “the Philly Special” being that the fellow bishops with you were former clergy from Philadelphia. If your group had looked around, you would have seen one of our Moms saying the rosary while sipping her drink. She said she felt the need to rebalance the bad with good. In a hotel with 225 bishops she had yet to find a feeling of holiness, and certainly did not feel it in the lounge on Tuesday night.

It is a surreal experience to stay at the same hotel as the bishops during the Conference. While the outside world might imagine bishops with furrowed brows and solemn demeanors, we encountered recent newsmakers such as Cardinal Wuerl looking downright giddy in the lobby, and a very chipper Archbishop Lori heading to the elevators. We were in the lobby earlier as dozens of bishops met up after the day of meetings and headed out to dinner on the waterfront, or to the expensive steak house across the street. There was laughter and handshakes. I imagine no different than any other group of men who are the focus of national attention due to their members’ history of child rape, sexual assault of adults, sexual misconduct, financial impropriety, and cover up of crimes.

Bishop McIntyre, you were a panelist in a USCCB Facebook live event the following day at the Conference. I watched the event and also read the Catholic Philly article where you are quoted as saying the laity has the right to be angry and hurt, but it’s also important that we don’t get stuck there, and to remember that Christ is with us.

Stuck On ‘Mishandling’

Actually, the entire problem has been that the Church has continued to just move forward in the face of crimes against children while covering it up. We have all brushed it off and continued ahead with little regard for those who were harmed and very few criminal prosecutions of the perpetrators and those who covered for them.

Bishop Mcintyre you also mentioned in the same video that you have been angry about the “mishandling” of sex abuse cases. Mishandling is an interesting choice of words.

In 1994, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, a memo with a list of priest predator names was purposefully shredded. Those men remained in ministry and a young man is now dead because no one did the right thing. He was abused by a priest that the Archdiocese had been warned about and whose name was on the shredded memo. If someone had done the right thing their paths would never have crossed. Is that “mishandling?” Is placing a piece of paper in a shredder “mishandling?” Is that the word that helps you move on and not “get stuck?” Is that why you can talk about anger in a flat, monotone voice and in the next breath talk of moving forward?

The young man was someone’s child and he is dead. The only part of your statement that I agree with is that Christ is always with us. What do you think Christ thinks of the death of a young man at the hands of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia?

Horrified Awakening

My children were in Catholic school when some of the predators on the shredded memo were circulating through the parishes. I’m still stuck on that. It’s just this crazy Mom thing of bringing children into this world and not expecting the Church to expose them to child predators.

What has happened this past year is an awakening . People have finally looked past the boundaries of their own parish and have spoken up for those abused in the Church. When the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was released it made national news because people did not care if the victims were from their own diocese, or from their own state. Many Catholics finally cared that it happened, to any child,in area of the Church. Are we stuck? Or are we finally aware?

My 19-year-old daughter, who has a hearing disability, called me after she read the news of the deaf students in Italy who were sexually abused by clergy and whose disability was used against them by their perpetrators. The children could not even communicate what was happening to them to the outside world. She described what she read as ‘the torture of children.” Should I tell her not to be stuck in her anger? I don’t think the word “anger” even captures the emotion behind what most decent people feel about crimes against children. My daughter was horrified. I think horrified is the word we should use going forward.

Should we go to Mass each week and pray for the victims but do nothing to help them? Actually most times the issue of clergy abuse is even publicly prayed for at Mass, we also have to pray for the perpetrators. As if that is not a sick message delivered to youth who are present. Children should not be told to pray for those who harm children. Do we pray for the sexually abusive soccer coaches and teachers? Of course not, only sexually abusive clergy are extended that mercy.

Your Plan?

When do we acknowledge those abused within our Church often have PTSD and cannot even enter a Church for burials of family members or joyous occasions such as weddings. That the faith that many take solace in has been ripped from their lives? Should we just move forward without them? What’s the plan? If you want me not to be stuck, then tell me the plan going forward. Do you have a plan?

In just the past few months a priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was arrested for the rape of a teen parishioner and two lay teachers were arrested for sexual assault of students. What is the statute of limitations on the anger we should feel about abuse continuing in the Archdiocese? A few weeks? A few months? Do we need to seek professional help if we are still stuck after that?

We watched in Baltimore last week as clergy walked right past the survivors outside the hotel. We have seen this happen countless times at vigils in Philadelphia. Would Jesus simply refer the abused in his midst to the Archdiocese Victim Assistance Office? Is that how we get “unstuck?” By pretending they are invisible?

As for the bishops pretending that they never had a clue about McCarrick or Bransfield’s misconduct, it will be fun to watch the Oscars this year as you all receive Best Supporting Actor awards in the real life horror category.

Gospel P.R.

You talk of Christ but the behavior of many bishops is anything but Christ like. Would Christ be out to dinner, or in the lounge having drinks, as his followers suffered? Would he shred a memo that could have protected children? That wasn’t Christ; that was Bevilacqua. Would he ignore the very people who were harmed?

Maybe use Christ as your public relations crisis manager. The Gospel is free and any change in behavior by the bishops would be genuine. The mystery to the laity and survivors is not what Christ would do, the mystery is why the Bishops don’t do it. Firing the attorneys would be a good first step.

We will be back in Baltimore for the Conference in November. We were lucky the June meeting was rescheduled to Baltimore rather than at the Ritz Carlton in Santa Barbara, where it was originally scheduled. Mom Squad does not have a bishop’s budget.

Maybe we will bring some more moms with us to outnumber the bishops in the hotel lounge. Since the laity is so often not welcome to a seat at the table, we will just pull up to the bar.

Kathy

(unofficial captain of the Mom Squad)

Sqeaky Wheel Protects the Children

Demand a child protection charter (such as those in other U.S. Dioceses) and hold clergy accountable if they violate it. In her article below, expert and parent Kathy Kane makes the case for “practical policy.” Her experience illustrates why we all need to speak up.

By Kathy Kane

There is no child safety hotline leading to a red phone in Cardinal Justin Rigali’s office. We were led to believe protecting children from sexual predators was an Archdiocesan priority. My experience says otherwise.

I’d been advocating for improved safety policy for the thousands of children who participate in Archdiocesan programs. I brought my concerns not only as a concerned parent, but also as a social worker specializing in policy development. I have collaborated with many agencies and organizations throughout the area. No other experience left me more stunned than my dealings with the Archdiocese.

My main issue involved a mandatory overnight requirement for a CYO program in which my daughter participated. The three-day, overnight event had no Archdiocesan affiliation and there were red flags regarding supervision and safety. My husband and I decided she couldn’t go. Because of our decision, our child was no longer allowed to fully participate in the program. How could this happen in a diocese that promised to prioritize child safety?

The Archdiocesan staff I contacted was just as confused and concerned about the situation. However, they explained time and time again how limited their roles were in relation to an individual parish. An employee from the Office of Child and Youth Protection told me Canon Law prevents them from offering unsolicited advice or guidance to clergy, even when poor decisions have been made in regard to child safety. Turns out, there is no such Canon Law. However, this is what they are either told or are somehow lead to believe.

The very few existing Archdiocesan recommendations can be interpreted as a pastor deems appropriate. Even though there are Archdiocesan child welfare specialists, they seem to have very little say in the matter. Make no mistake – clergy trumps all.

The staff agreed the issue I raised was serious enough to warrant a policy. What happened next was an education in Archdiocesan bureaucracy. There was confusion as to which office within the Archdiocese should take the lead in executing the policy. Drafting the policy took months. Several times it was put on hold while other non-urgent issues were worked on. The limited role of Archdiocesan lay employees also hindered progress.

I soon realized that without a clergy member on board, the outlook was bleak. I contacted a priest with the appropriate ranking and asked for his help. Fortunately this Monsignor turned out to be compassionate, knowlegable in child safety and, most importantly, respected me as a parent. Up until that point, the priest I had been dealing with was quite the opposite. Even with this Monsignor’s influence, it continued to be a bumpy road. I continued to send emails, place phone calls and advocate for policy.

I researched other U.S. Dioceses and found superior policies in place. The Safety Environment Program, which requires background checks and training for all that work with children, came from the United States Catholic’s Bishop’s Conference – Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People of 2002. Since that time many dioceses have adopted additional customized child protection charters. They include what can be termed “practical policy.” There are exact rules and guidelines for all of the various activities and situations in which children participate. In some cases, these charters are referred to as “diocesan law” to be followed by all, including clergy. They are detailed and comprehensive. The situation I encountered simply would not have taken place in another diocese.

We do not have the same additional child protection charters in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Instead we are subjected to an archaic system of having many child safety issues determined on a parish-to-parish basis. This gives the clergy too much authority and leaves us with a system that is haphazard at best, dangerous at worst.

Along with the “practical policy” these charters include, many also include a section entitled “parents right.” This describes how every detail of an activity is to be explained to parents and every question answered. It identifies the parent as the decision maker for their child. While it seems obvious, I had to explain this notion to my pastor.

I contacted an auxiliary Bishop who was identified as the person who could sign off on the policy for which I had advocated. I emailed this Bishop on three separate occasions. I explained my concerns, requested a meeting to have questions answered and also offered my research into other Diocese and their safety protocol charters. I wrote, “Maybe we could all learn some things to better protect the children of the Archdiocese” I have never received a response.

The policy banning mandatory overnight situations involving children was finally approved. It still leaves some areas to be the interpreted by individual pastors. One example of missing “practical policy” is the child-chaperone ratios. There are only recommended ratios. One pastor could choose a ratio of 5 chaperones to every 10 children while another could choose one to 14 children. A child’s safety comes down to how informed their pastor is about child safety. In other diocese there is no room for this varied interpretation.

It ‘s up to the leadership, Cardinal Rigali and the Bishops, to implement a child protection charter for the Philadelphia Archdiocese and clergy need to be held accountable if they violate such a charter in making decisions within their parish.

A few months ago, I received a letter from a priest who said my pursuit of this child safety matter had proven to be “destructive.” It seems I was supposed to have sat down and been quiet, and instead I stood up and yelled.  If advocating for the safest environment possible for children is destructive, then I wear that label proudly.

Kathy Kane received a BSW from Cabrini College and a MSW from the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice.

Catholics Consider Next Steps in Scandal Aftermath

I stumbled across a blog post that beautifully illustrates the dichotomy of the Philadelphia Archdiocese cover up and the practice of our religion. It depicts the best and the worst of our faith.

“A Hog and Me Both,” from Millennial Catholic: Twenty Somethings Living and Working in Today’s Church

Our leadership has brutally betrayed us and I’m wondering what to do next. In good conscience how can I continue to participate in the structure of the Roman Catholic Church? By structure I mean its archdiocesan churches and organizations. I’ve lost all trust and the Church hierarchy has done nothing to regain it. Withholding the names of the suspended priests was just the latest example. Why did we have to find out from CBS? They deserve no applause for the suspensions as they were finally forced to act.

Cardinal Rigali still characterizes the suspensions as “interim measure” despite what the court has called “overwhelming evidence.” This past Sunday, a Montgomery County parish priest read a letter from one of the suspended priests after reading the latest letter from the Cardinal Rigali. How about victim’s letter? Or, better yet, the grand jury report. Every adult Catholic in this country should read it. This has happened in other diocese – L.A., Cincinnati, Boston and in the Catholic Church in Ireland and England.

How many people has the Church hierarchy pushed away from the faith with this scandal? A few friends have decided to pull their children from Catholic school after this year. Another has left the Roman Catholic Church after 12 years of Catholic school. She practiced her faith up until last week. Another is reconsidering entering the RCIA program. These people will quietly move on.

I won’t go quietly, but I’m afraid no one will listen before I’m finally gone.

We Are Not Sheep – Demand Answers

Last week’s suspensions have left many unanswered questions. Parents are stunned their children served Mass with priests who they now know were credibly accused of sex abuse. The Philadelphia Archdiocese chose to leave us in the dark until last week.

When was the priest first accused? What was the accusation? Why was he left in a position that offered proximity to our children? Why did it take the grand jury report to get the Church hierarchy to do the right thing?

Parishioners affected by the suspensions are asking these questions. No one is answering. Many are infuriated by the vague announcements made during Ash Wednesday services in front of parish school children. The attempt to downplay events did not go over well.

Why not hold parish-based, adult-only meetings? “Parishes need to have open forums where people can vent their frustrations and get all their questions answered,” said Vince Wesolowski, to Monica Yan Kinney of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “That’s the only way we’ll ever get closure.”

I agree but we need more than that. Every single clergy member directly involved with the cover up should be removed – right up into the Vatican. Clean God’s house.

With a great deal of mistrust and no way to register their anger, some say they will pull their children from the parish schools. And do you think collections are down this week? Many are angered their Church offerings have been used for the Archdiocesan legal defense and priest payoffs. (Father Edward Avery was offered $87,000 to leave the priesthood quietly. They should have defrocked him and given that money to victim outreach!) While individual priests are required to retain legal counsel at their own expense, the diocese retains separate legal representation. Imagine the billable hours spent on the cover up over the last decade.

Important archdiocesan services will be cut and schools will close due a financial hardship that could have been avoided with honesty. Those who loyally served the Lord will lose their jobs because of those who acted in every way but Christ-like.

Jesus is our shepherd; but I can’t believe He wants us to behave like sheep. Ask questions. Demand answers.

Test of Faith

By Kathy Kane

When the first wave of clergy sex abuse in Philadelphia was exposed a few years ago, it changed something in me forever. How could even one child of God, let alone hundreds, be harmed by those who were proclaiming the Gospel message. It distanced me from my Church, however I remained. I stayed even though I had found that some of the same priests who have abused children, have ministered to me throughout my life. I have received the Holy Eucharist from hands that have violated children, and confessed my sins to those whose own sins were simply inexcusable. A priest that had a profound impact on my life as a child was identified as someone who did not report a fellow priest who was a notorious serial abuser. This charismatic priest who always encouraged children to try to do the right thing, when put to the test did not do so himself.

Finding out some of these truths has been like a sucker punch, I didn’t see it coming. Why would I have? My Catholic faith taught me that the children of God were one of the most treasured parts of his Kingdom. The Church was to take these young minds and by example, show them the way, the truth and the light. Instead some, who claim to be representing the Gospel message, have taken these children and assaulted their mind, body and soul.

We hear so much in recent weeks of these sexual assaults against children that we can almost become numb to the phrase. Children were fondled, raped, sodomized, it is an image we don’t want picture, a place we don’t want to go to. Instead we focus on things such as civil law, canon law, statute of limitations, anything other than the real subject at hand. In doing so we can almost treat the matter in a cold and insensitive manner, just as we would any other legal issues or story of the day. The truth is that what lies underneath all of these legalities and technicalities, is that children were abused, their childhoods taken from them.

In the past few weeks I have had many conversations with friends and fellow Catholics. There is anger, disgust, betrayal. A friend now sits in the pew right by the aisle, ready to leave should she hear any lies from the altar concerning the sex abuse scandal. Another has had to explain to her children that we put our faith in God, not the men of the Archdiocese. A story a friend tells of a family member who has long been a strong financial supporter of the Archdiocese and now is feeling embarrassed by his association.

So many feelings, so much confusion, a flock in turmoil. Our leadership has been relatively absent other than a few carefully worded statements statements and video messages.

When I was a child in Catholic school, an image of Jesus was often portrayed where he was above us with his arms outstretched. It was a comforting image, the message that Jesus is always with us. I told a very devout friend that this is the image I picture when I think of the victims. Jesus is above them and they are safe in his outstretched arms. My friend stated that Jesus is also with the Archdiocesan officials who have allowed such evil to take place. I protested that Jesus is not with these men but my friend reminded me that Jesus is always with us, even when we have fallen.

Maybe Jesus is indeed with us all, but in my mental image now, he is weeping. He is heartbroken that the children, the most treasured part of his kingdom, were violated by some who claim to be the teachers of his message, the most devoted of his followers.

It is a true test of faith, to try to remain in the Catholic Church knowing all that has happened, not only in Philadelphia but throughout the world, with clergy sex abuse scandals. It is like everything I once believed, has been turned upside down, inside out.

The trust that has been broken is almost too great, the betrayal runs so deep. As a child I was taught to look towards the clergy as an example of what is good and holy, and now I find that I have had to tell my children to look away.

I was taught from a young age that as a Catholic, I needed to be careful to not fall prey to the corruption and evil that exists in the secular world around us. But this time the threat comes from within the Church. The problems of the outside world have never shaken my beliefs the way the Church itself has done in recent years.

I was also taught to speak out against injustice and all that is wrong, and so I do, however it is against all that I have ever known and believed. So for now I remain, wanting to walk away, but in doing so feeling like I would be abandoning all that the Church has destroyed.

I recently used the term of “Catholic Orphan”, to describe my status in the Church. I feel that I have no leadership, no trust, the hierarchy continues to mislead and tries to put a spin on a vile situation. A friend recently said that in her anger, she refuses to let them take her faith from her. In a way she clings to it more now than ever, her relationship with God more personal, less dependent on man. Maybe that is the way it was always supposed to be.

Pedophiles Can Stay – but Not Gays?

Does this make any sense?

“Chestnut Hill College, a Roman Catholic institution in Philadelphia, last week told a gay priest who had been a popular adjunct there for several semesters that he was no longer welcome to teach the two religion courses he had been offered for the term starting this week…

Father St. George said that he was open with Chestnut Hill officials that while he is a priest, he is not a Roman Catholic priest — and that he asked if that was an issue when he was hired. He said he was reassured by college officials, and told that many faculty members at the college are not Roman Catholic. Further, he said that anyone who did a Google search on him would have found that the church where is a pastor is an “Old Catholic” church.”

– from “Catholic College Yanks Courses by Gay Priest,” by Scott Jaschik for USA Today