U.S. Bishops: Not Shaken, Nor Stirred

By Kathy Kane

It had been a long day of travel, prayer and protest for the Mom Squad from the Philadelphia Archdiocese. A stroke of good luck had enabled us to book the very last room available at the pricey Marriott Waterfront where the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was being held.  Accumulated travel points covered our one-night stay, a rate so high it would have cost the average Catholic a few months of donation basket envelopes. A very nice hotel employee upgraded us. This gave us access to the 31st floor concierge lounge where free food was available along with beautiful views of the Baltimore harbor and skyline. Somehow, on a shoe string budget we managed to live like Bishops for a night.

The first person I recognized when we walked through the Marriott lobby bar on Tuesday night was Bishop John Mcintyre, an auxiliary bishop from Philadelphia. 

We hadn’t been sure we would see any clergy during our stay. A church insider told me that most clergy would be laying low, at least for optics sake. That made sense due to the prior day’s news that depicted a hierarchy reeling from the Vatican directive to delay reform along with the eyes of the world watching in the wake of the McCarrick case, PA grand jury report and PA federal investigation. 

Instead, the atmosphere was what you might expect at any corporate convention. Priests and bishops circulated throughout the public areas of the hotel as well as the lay employees with their USCCCB lanyards.  Everyone looked healthy and not too malnourished from all the fasting. All seemed to hold their liquor well too despite that drinking on an empty stomach can be a disaster.

There were clergy in the concierge lounge, some grabbing a bite to eat, others enjoying a glass of wine or evening cocktail.  One Bishop with a booming voice and swagger of a CEO, talked loudly on his cell phone.  At the dessert table a lay employee took it upon herself to loudly identify each dessert to a bishop, treating him like a helpless man child.   

A Study In Contrasts

There were clergy in the main lobby throughout the day, talking and enjoying each other’s company. In contrast, protestors came in from the cold whipping winds of the waterfront to warm up for a minute or use the bathroom. Security was polite but ever present. Protest signs were forbidden and the Mom Squad had to conceal them or risk those losing their stay and accumulated travel points.

Tuesday, Theresa and Beth attended an event where they heard a survivor named James speak. He had been abused by the former Cardinal McCarrick. 

I connected with Father Chris Walsh, who came to Baltimore with a busload of parishioners and friends. This energetic crowd was interviewed by local Philly press outside of the hotel. They were passionate about children and the Church. Bob Hoatson of Road from Recovery was also out in front of the hotel on Tuesday. His calm presence and friendly demeanor was the opposite of the indifferent vibe inside.

Our Mom Squad had deep conversations throughout the day and into the evening.  We asked each other, Do they believe what they preach? How can one believe and at the same time have allowed such crimes and cover up? Do they fear death or a final judgment? Why don’t the ones not involved in crime or cover up speak up louder and tear down the wall of clericalism? What if the ultimate “fraternal correction” awaits them all in the afterlife – where there are no teams of attorneys at their beck and call. 

We struggled through conversations about our devout parents and disillusioned kids, trying to makes sense of how we ended up at this corporate convention of Christ protesting a hierarchy that allowed and covered up crimes against children, crimes against humanity. None of us would have predicted as Catholic kids that we would be here at this moment.

What happens when a bishop and three moms walk into a bar….

By the time we went to the lobby bar Tuesday night we had solved the Church’s problems 10 times over in our conversations. That’s when I saw Bishop McIntrye sitting nearby with a group of clergy. I signaled to our waiter and asked him what the man a few feet away in the blue sweater was drinking. “Cointreau on the rocks.” The Mom Squad immediately nicknamed the group “Top-Shelf Bishops.” I sent Bishop Mcintyre a drink compliments of Catholics4Change but somehow that message was bungled by the waiter so we changed it to sent from “Moms from Philly” and that got his attention. 

He came over and I introduced myself as did the other members of the Mom Squad. I told Bishop Mcintyre it was nice to meet him but that I was disappointed that emails to him in the past had gone unanswered. This is not an issue isolated to Bishop Mcintyre, the hierarchy simply ignores whatever mails they don’t want to answer.  Actually, at this point even the Archdiocesan staff ignores C4C emails.  I told him maybe now that we have met in person and I bought him a drink, it would ring a bell if I emailed him in the future. He thanked us for the drink and made an exit.

That night as the Mom Squad bunked together in our accumulated travel points hotel room, we talked in the darkness into the night. Theresa said, “I always think of the survivors.”  We agreed and added the families of victims who have have died are always on our minds. Beth spoke of how the abuse took so much from so many, so often leaving someone abused and without the faith that many lean on in crisis, because the leaders of their faith actually caused the crisis.

The next morning Theresa departed early, Beth and I took a walk outside and found Siobhan O’Connor and her friend down by the waterfront standing in the cold with signs in hand. Siobhan is the whistleblower lay employee from Buffalo who recently appeared on 60 minutes. The irony of the person who protected children being relegated to the sidewalk is a story repeated over and over in every Diocese, this time at a national conference.  How is it that victims, survivors, and advocates are the “outsiders”? Siobhan is a truly lovely woman with a heart as big as her conscience.

The Mom Squad lives on in a group text as we have kept in contact to sort out our feelings about the trip. Before she left Baltimore, Theresa drove by a Church where many years ago a relative had been the pastor. She texted that she was in tears as she headed toward I95. She was thinking about the hardship and sacrifice of those who brought the Catholic faith to the U.S and how it has been destroyed by the leadership in the past few decades. Beth texted that she went to adoration to talk to Jesus and told Him that she found saints outside the hotel at bishops’ conference. 

You never know going into a trip like this what each person’s takeaway will be. For me, the one thing I am sure of, is that the next time I need to email the hierarchy in Philadelphia, the subject line will read “Cointreau on the rocks.” Nothing else has gotten their attention.

Maybe cocktail diplomacy is the way to go.

With These Shepherds, Whose Afraid of Wolves?

by Susan Matthews

Pope Francis directed U.S. bishops to postpone decisions regarding clergy child sex abuse accountability as they gathered in Baltimore for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. They had planned to vote on a code of conduct and to establish a lay commission to investigate misconduct from within their ranks. They will obey the pope and these measures were taken off the agenda.

My headline is borrowed from a comment posted by a C4C Facebook follower in response to the news. He’s right. This latest development makes me wonder if an entire institution can be classified as sociopathic.

The Vatican ambassador to the United States reiterated the pope’s wishes and warned bishops not to rely on lay investigations.

The Washington Post quotes him…

“There may be a temptation on the part of some to relinquish responsibility for reform to others from ourselves, as if we were no longer capable of reforming or trusting ourselves,” said Archbishop Christophe Pierre.

“Assistance is both welcome and necessary, and surely collaboration with the laity is essential. However, the responsibility as bishops of this Catholic Church is ours.”

He went on to quote a French author who said that “whoever pretends to reform the church with the same means to reform temporal society” will “fail.”

Damn straight. Civil law, ethics and morality mean absolutely nothing within their arrogant clerical bubble. And, they’ve also proven time and again that they aren’t capable of reforming themselves.

So now what?

The “change” in Catholics4Change does NOT refer to a change in the Church. It refers to the change within each of us that has been brought about by the abuse and the hierarchy’s criminal coverup.

  1. Demand that your senators pass window legislation for justice and prevention.
  2. Demand thorough federal, state and county investigations.
  3. Demand the full measure of the law be applied to those found guilty of covering up the sexual abuse of children.

We aren’t sheep.

Coming soon: Coverage from the concierge lounge and lobby bar at the Bishops’ Conference. C4C’s Kathy Kane investigates.

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.

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20111004_Suspended_monsignor_draws_support_from_Chaput.html

Letter to Chair of PA Judiciary Committee Rep. Ron Marsico

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.

Mike Skiendzielewski

Catholic League Mouthpiece Maligns Journalists

“Time for Bill Donohue and Catholic Church to stop smearing victims — Also attacking journalists Maureen Dowd and Chris Matthews,” People and Politics coverage, Irish Central, September 24, 2011

Editors note:

My Uncle Chris is a practicing and dedicated Catholic. He has vigorously supported Catholic Charities and education. While we don’t always see eye-to-eye on politics, I’ve always admired his commitment to his faith.  To suggest that he is trying to smear the Church is absurd.

Not one aspect of Sabrina Erdely’s article in Rolling Stone is untrue. Donohue can call it inflammatory all he wants, but that doesn’t change the facts. Church leadership covered up alleged abuse and put our children at risk. Bottom line. Without legal and media ramifications, the Church would not be making any moves to address this problem.

Whether you agree with her or not, Maureen Dowd is a talented writer with a column in the New York Times. Donohue has to pay big money to publish his vitriolic ads in the Times. Is that how Jesus would have us evangelize? Wouldn’t that money be better spent on a loving outreach?

Protect Children from Sex Abuse: Free Seminar for Parents

PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA – Justice4PAkids will hold a free seminar for parents that will share the facts on child sex abuse on October 6, 2011 at UFCW Local 1776, 3031 Walton Road in Plymouth Meeting from 7 to 9 pm. Statistics show child sex abuse isn’t rare and it’s usually isn’t stranger danger.

Experts will guide parents on how to teach their children safety skills without scaring them. They will explain the warning signs of sex abuse and offer advice on screening child care. Speakers include a pediatrician, an adult child sex abuse survivor and legal professionals.

Justice4PAKids is a newly formed coalition of child & victim advocates, lawyers, mental health professionals and concerned citizens dedicated to eliminating the Pennsylvania statutes of limitations for childhood sexual abuse. This would expose perpetrators and those who harbor them; protect children; give victims an opportunity for justice; save taxpayers money.

“There is no statute of limitations on murder,” says former Philadelphia Deputy District Attorney and group member Charles Gallagher. “Why should childhood sexual abuse, which is actually soul murder, be treated differently? The arguments against it are the same that could be used against murder statutes. They simply don’t hold up.”

House Bills 832 and 878, which were introduced on March 9, 2011 by Louise Bishop and Mike McGeehan respectively (both D-Phila), have been stalled in the Judiciary committee without a hearing. Committee chair, Ronald Marisco (R- Dauphin County) has not presented the bills for a move to the House floor.

For more information, please visit www.Justice4PAkids.com or email info@Justice4PAkids.com.

Editor’s Note: Kathy Kane and I are founding members of Justice4PAkids.

Where Does William Donohue Get His “Facts”?

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.