Dear Pennsylvania Senators…

By Carol Galante

Dear Pennsylvania Senators:

I am writing to ask that you vote for Senate Bill 261.

I want to be clear that I do not hate the church but I hate the behavior of those in charge. I have been an active member of the Catholic Church in Philly (40 years) and worked as a director of parish religious education for children for nearly 20 years. The altar of my wedding (40 years ago), I now see as the altar of an accused priest whose identity was disclosed in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report. My beautiful memory of that sanctuary has changed forever.

I have been following the church closely on this matter since the scandal broke. I was a theology student and worked with children through Church programs back then. Moral theology and social justice were the focus of my study and writings. When I read those papers now, I realize how my reaction has intensified over the years toward those who selfishly protect predator priests and deny the abuse to victims, survivors and their families.

Within the church it’s called sin, but in society it’s called crime. The pope needs to handle internal Church changes. Lawmakers need to handle this civilly.

I have many friends (lay and clergy) in the Catholic Church who want to reclaim our church. They were told to shut up, mind their own business and obey the bishops. Too MUCH of the bishops’ power is spilling over in our state and country.

A two-year window would support Catholic teaching within the principle of “restorative justice.” I wonder if the catholic lobbyists and even the bishops are aware of these teachings. It’s what our current moral theology teaches. Opening a two-year window would help heal and restore my church, survivors and society.

Across the US, all eyes are watching Pennsylvania to see what happens with this bill. We know where this is heading in our country with a federal investigation. There are continued revelations of clergy abuse and a systematic cover up. How is PA going to be perceived if this bill fails to go through? I have heard PA called the “pedophile state.”

My sibling’s question echoes. “How can you work in a church that abuses children.” I thought I could help change things from within, but I have learned that can’t be done now. It’s up to you. Our laws need to reflect our values and we need to care for children.

Let’s face it, if the bishops knew what was right to do for the people, it would have already been done. They listen to lawyers who encourage secrecy. Bishops don’t have to follow their own Charter for the Protection of Children.

I can’t expect all lawmakers to be know what makes this church tick, but I can expect that you can look at this as a bill and know that it would protect children and families.

We need our legal system and our politicians to lead the way. Please vote yes for HB 261.

Thank You!

Carole Galante

Editor’s note: Please contact your PA state senator to let him or her know that you’d like them to vote yes for a two-year window for victims of childhood sexual abuse whose cases previously fell outside the statute of limitations. Find your senator’s name and contact information at this link.

Catholic League President Responds to Judge Anne Burke’s Column

Catholic League president William Donohue responds to a guest column in the Chicago Tribune written by Illinois Court Judge Anne Burke, who also served as interim chair of the National Review Board, organized by the U.S. Bishops’ Conference to monitor clergy sex abuse. (READ HER COLUMN HERE)

“Catholic Bishops Indicted by ‘Reformer Judge,'” guest column by William Donohue for Spero News, April 29, 2011.

“Anne Burke misrepresents the situation in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, and indicts every bishop in the United States.

Burke’s accusation of a cover-up in Philadelphia is factually wrong and morally scurrilous: she cites 24 priests who are accused of wrongdoing, never mentioning that most of them were previously investigated and allowed to stay in ministry (unlike others who did not pass muster with earlier probes), precisely because the charges were unsubstantiated. The only reason they are being reinvestigated is because the Philadelphia Archdiocese decided this was the proper response to resurrected accusations made in a third grand jury report.

Burke makes it sound as if the Archdiocese is comfortable with allowing molesters to walk the streets of Philadelphia. This is a smear. She also gives the impression that all of these priests are guilty of some serious crime. Truth to tell, none has been found guilty of anything, and many of the accusations are more absurd than they are serious.

If this isn’t bad enough, Burke indicts every bishop in the nation. “This makes me wonder what kind of people we are dealing with when we engage the bishops?” Her conclusion: “Are they ever to be trusted?” Her statement is unqualified, demagogic and irresponsible.

This is nothing new. In 2006, Burke justified removing priests from ministry on the basis of one unsubstantiated accusation: “We understand that it is a violation of the priest’s due process—you’re innocent until proven guilty—but we’re talking about the most vulnerable people in our society and those are children.” Burke’s problem extends beyond the Catholic Church—she has a problem with the U.S. Constitution.”