October 1, 2011
Representative Ronald S. Marsico
105th Legislative District
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Chairman, Judiciary Committee
Re: Scheduled Hearing Dates:
House Bill 832 – Sponsor Rep. Louise Williams Bishop
(re statute of limitations for child sexual abuse – criminal & civil)
House Bill 878 – Sponsor Rep. Michael McGeehan
(re legislation to allow civil action for child sexual abuse)
Honorable Rep. Marsico:
I wanted to write to you directly as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the PA House of Representatives and a life-long member of the Catholic Church. Certainly, as an elected official, you are dedicated to the mission that our government acts in the best interests of all its citizens, including children. And, as a Catholic, such an education, tradition and training that we both share has instilled in all of us how dedicated Our Lord was to the protection of the innocence of children.
Several people sent me a press release issued by William Donohue of The Catholic League because it mentioned Catholics4Change in regard to Archbishop Chaput. The press release probably won’t get picked up but I’ll address some points.
I’m confused by why a Catholic civil rights group would find fault with a Catholic creating a blog where Catholics can freely speak. Here is a portion of his press release…
Still another group of malcontents, Catholics4Change, demanded that they “become part of Church leadership.” But wouldn’t that make them part of the dreaded “institutional Church” they so deplore?
Where did Mr. Donohue get the statement “become part of Church leadership?”
Here’s what we say on our About page.
“Catholics4Change.com was created to serve as a forum for Catholics who would like to respectfully share their concerns and questions regarding Church accountability to laity on a variety of issues – the most important being the protection of children. Catholics4Change strives to create a system of meaningful communication and solutions with Church leadership. Catholics4Change will offer related news, links and commentary from a variety of perspectives.”
I do believe that laity should be involved and vocal. The laity is just as accountable as their leadership. Does Donohue disagree?
Also, I don’t deplore the institutional Church. Perhaps Donohue doesn’t know that I worked for the Archdiocese and still have friends there. The institutional Church is responsible for a tremendous amount of good – Catholic Social Services, Catholic Charities, Catholic Schools, the Office for Disabilities, the Office for Migration and so on. I applaud their work.
As for being described as a malcontent, I agree. I’m not content with the handling of clergy sex abuse in Philadelphia. However, I do not hold Archbishop Chaput responsible for the alleged crimes or mess created by others. No flak here.
I am concerned about the civil statute of limitations regarding child sex abuse in PA. But that doesn’t make me a dissident. It makes me a concerned Catholic citizen and mother.
The September 15, 2011 edition of venerable rock magazine “Rolling Stone” teases “The Catholic Church’s Secret Sex -Crime Files” on its cover. Inside is a scathing eight-page article by Sabrina Rubin Erdely on the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s sex abuse scandal and cover up. People may scream Catholic bashing, but it’s all true. There won’t be any libel issues.
Here is an excerpt from her article: (It mentions the impetus behind my C4C crusade – Father Peter J. Dunne.)
“Every Catholic diocese has Secret Archive files – it’s mandated by canon law as a repository for complaints against priests so scandalous that they must be kept out of the regular personnel files. Few outsiders know the secret archives exist, and only the most trusted clergy have access to them. In Philadelphia, the sole keyholders were the cardinal and his closet aides. The files were kept in a row of unlabeled, gray-green cabinets in a windowless room on the 12th floor of the archdiocese’s Center City office tower. Inside was an exhaustive compendium of scandals dating back more than 50 years: priests with drinking problems, priests who had gotten women pregnant, aging stacks of confiscated pornography. Then there were the reams of carefully typed memos that discussed priests with what the archdiocese delicately referred to as ‘unnatural involvements’ or ‘unusual patterns.’ Priests, in other words, who had sexually abused children in their care.
One memo directed to Cardinal Bevilacqua in 1989, described a pedophile priest’s evaluation at an archdiocesan-owned hospital, in which the doctor “is of the very strong opinion that Father Peter J. Dunne is a very sick man” who should be removed from ministry; the memo warned that Dunne’s problem was so acute ‘that we are sitting on powder keg.'”
Let me share that the Archdiocese knew that Dunne was also “treated” in the late 50s long before this 1989 memo. What did they do with him in between those years? They appointed him chaplain of the Boy Scouts and Camp Neumann. Makes sense, right? My husband’s parents had no way of knowing they were sending their sons on camping trips to Canada with a pedophile – but the Archdiocese did. The fact my husband was lucky does not diminish my anger for ALL parents who have been deceived – many still unknowingly. My anger is with the hierarchy. My anger is that Dunne was living “a supervised life of prayer and penance” at Villa Saint Joseph, a retirement home for priests until he passed away last year – all paid for by the Archdiocese via generous congregations. Please don’t put the collection basket in front of me. I’ll give my money directly to Sister Mary Scullion, the Little Sisters of the Poor, Road to Recovery (for victims) or any number of other Catholic organizations that don’t harbor pedophiles.
But I digress, Erdely’s article is well researched and worthy of a careful read. http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/the-catholic-churchs-secret-sex-crime-files-20110906
Many have asked what I hope from Archbishop Chaput’s leadership. Kathy and I hope he will follow all of the recommendations of the 2011 Grand Jury Report. For instance, the Archdiocese still hasn’t removed the Victims Assistance Program from its (and therefore, its lawyers) supervision.
We hope Archbishop Chaput will support a bill for the removal of the civil statute of limitations for child sexual abuse in PA. There is no civil statute for murder in this state. We agree the Catholic Church shouldn’t be unfairly targeted in a bill. The Catholic Church should strive to protect and bring justice to all children. We hope Archbishop Chaput would use his extensive lobbying experience to push for such a bill rather than fight against the idea as he did in Colorado. A Church that puts its institutional interests above even one child is not the Church I learned about in Catholic grade and high school. We were taught what Jesus would do.
For those victims who don’t wish to seek civil litigation (and there are many), we hope Archbishop Chaput will embrace a plan for “Restorative Justice.” (More on this soon). However, so much trust has been lost, I’m not sure this is possible.
We hope Archbishop Chaput will reach out to those who are on the fence and those who have left the Church over the cover up. We hope reaching out is done with more than words. Actions will speak louder.
David O’Reilly writes about Archbishop Chaput in today’s Inquirer, “In his 2008 book Render Unto Caesar, he wrote, ‘Catholics who live so anonymously that no one knows their faith . . . aren’t really living as ‘Catholics’ at all.’ He went on to observe that ‘American democracy depends on people of character fighting for their beliefs . . . forcefully and without apology.'”
That’s just what Kathy and I will continue doing.
“Archbishop Chaput to take post on Thursday,” by David O’Reilly, The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 4, 2011
The unfolding situation in Ireland illustrates underlying clergy abuse issues still debated in the U.S. Does the culture of the priesthood skew attitudes regarding children? Is canon law contradictory with civil law? Attempts to protect other adults and the Church at the expense of the “least of us” could destroy the Church.
“Deputy to Bishop John McGee ‘should have resigned,'” BBC News, August 24, 2011
Excerpt: “In July, Monsignor O’Callaghan said he was sorry that in responding to allegations of abuse he had sometimes become ’emotionally and pastorally drawn to the plight of the accused priest.'”
Really? Are you kidding me? I may just lose it. Every single day I’m reminded that despite global attention on Catholic clergy sex abuse, the Church is in a complete cluster when it comes to handling it. Or, more cynically, these are calculated moves.
A friend just emailed me a link for the “Protection of Children” Web site page for Holy Trinity Church in Washington D.C. It’s beautifully designed and written. I’m sure she thought they were doing a bang up job of addressing the issue. Aside from the fact that the “audit system” is a joke and that there is no accountability if one doesn’t comply with the charter, one huge problem jumped out. The copy includes a link to their Archdiocesan policy that states:
“For the complete policy and other information on the Archdiocese’s program, including how to report an allegation of abuse, go to: www.adw.org/youth/protect_index.asp.”
Follow that link and your told:
“if you have been a victim of child sexual abuse, to contact Marcia Zvara, M.S.W., director of child protection services, so you may get the assistance you need.”
No. No. No. Go to the civil authorities. Why are some diocese still not directing people to the police? This is a CRIME!
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops needs to wake up and do something real. The faithful are informed. We are watching. Get your house in order. Now.
The Sunday Inquirer cover story on incoming Archbishop Chaput outlines his highly organized strategy – not just a stance – on sex abuse legislation in Colorado. With similar bills pending in PA, child advocates better get their message out and their best game on. If they don’t, all children in PA are the losers. See Justice4PAkids.com to understand how pending bills would protect all youth in this state. In this complex issue, there is more at stake than justice for victims. Although, that should be enough.
While Cardinal Rigali and other Pennsylvania Catholic hierarchy fought in a subversive manner to protect Church assets, Archbishop Chaput will be vocal and filled with conviction. While I admire him for that, I completely disagree with his arguments.
This legislation does not unfairly target the Church. The Church, as well as any other private institution entrusted with the care of children, would be held accountable. The Catholic Church should be a role model in this regard. Every victim deserves their day in court to prove their case.
“I have an obligation – a duty to help the victims and to defend innocent Catholics today from being victimized because of earlier sins in which they play no part,” said Archbishop Chaput in an interview with Our Sunday Visitor, a national Catholic newspaper. I am one of those innocent Catholics and I feel far more victimized by a Church that turns its back on justice, children and victims. I would prefer a financially bankrupt Church to one that is morally bankrupt. What do you think?
Here’s the Inquirer cover story:
“In Denver, Chaput fought bill on abuse,” by Jeremy Roebuck, The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 7, 2011