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.

PA Senators Vote This Week: Tell Them Window Protects Kids

Dear Senators Scarnati, Corman and Costa,

As a kid, you might have been told you had a guardian angel who watched over and protected you? We were. It was fascinating to think there was an invisible presence keeping us from harm. Some kids even named their guardian angel and wondered if they’d meet them in heaven.

We’ve met our children’s angels. Their names are Vicky, Mark, Mike, Shaun, Julie Ann, Mary, John, Patty, Carolyn, Jim, Jeanne…. Every victim and survivor in Pennsylvania who has spoken out about their clergy abuse is helping to protect kids. They’ve sacrificed privacy and emotional wellness to warn future generations of Catholic families about predator priests. They’ve done everything in their limited power to ensure no child endures the horror they experienced. But it’s not enough.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has been the subject of two Grand Jury reports (2005 and 2011), which lead to dozens of abusive priests being removed from ministry and some legal reforms. The PA Grand Jury Report has revealed so much more.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia touts their victims’ assistance program and child protection efforts. But the devil is in the details, literally.

  • The PA Grand Jury Report points out what we already know, that child predator priests from all over the country are shipped to a Catholic facility in Pennsylvania located across the street from 1,000 Archdiocesan students.
  • The Archdiocese has a set of standards for all church personnel who interact with children and young people but they don’t educate the kids and teens on the standards. How will they know what to report?
  • The Archdiocese will not agree to implement policy agreeing to notify parents of a child when church personnel violate the standards. 
  • In Philadelphia, a victim can pick up a newspaper and read that Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, the head of Office of Child and Youth Protection/Victims Assistance has celebrated the funeral of a child predator priest.
  • Parents at a parish find out that a priest being investigated for child sex abuse was left at the parish for almost a year while being investigated.

When Archdiocesan leadership promises they will report sexual abuse, that’s because it’s the law now. Anything less than law leaves it to their judgment, which has been proven to put children at risk.

Yes, their victims assistance program provides free therapy. Imagine if a car manufacturer knowingly sent cars with defective brakes out on the road and then offered free physical therapy for those injured as a result. Would that be enough? We’ve witnessed victims, and family members of deceased victims, ignored and even hassled.

This institution takes more guidance from attorneys than the Gospel. We say this as Catholic moms, both the product of Catholic schools, who sent our kids to the same. Lucky to have only been betrayed, we trust in God and in our legal system. We don’t believe the bishops. Neither should you.

Window legislation benefits all Pennsylvanians. Civil suits can expose even more abuse and cover ups. A copy of memo, made prior to it being shredded, listing the names of 35 abusive priests was introduced during a criminal trial in Philadelphia. One priest from the list was still in ministry at the time. Archdiocesan leadership knew, but did nothing until his name was revealed in a court room. Children are the safer for it. Civil suits will offer the same opportunity for discovery.

The victims, survivors and their family members have been heroic in their efforts to protect our children. They deserve justice and they deserve to be released from the clutches of the Church, whose reach extends to our commonwealth’s capitol. And what about abuse survivors who aren’t Catholic? The bishops and Catholic Conference lobbying efforts block justice for those abused by a uncle, coach or neighbor. 

Who is lobbying on behalf of our kids?  It’s the victims, those who were raped and molested as children. It’s tragic and beautiful that they are the ones on the front lines. We wish we could offer the words that express the empathy, gratitude and respect they deserve. But you can offer those words in new legislation.

Please extend an opportunity for civil justice, an opportunity to expose child predators and the institutions that hide them, and an opportunity to better protect all Pennsylvania children.

Sincerely,

Kathy Kane & Susan Matthews

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WRITE & EMAIL YOUR LETTERS TODAY

Please  share your thoughts with these senators and your own:

jscarnati@pasen.gov

https://www.senatorcorman.com/contact/

http://www.senatorcosta.com/contact/

This week is the final time the Pennsylvania Senate will be voting before the two-year session ends in November. So much is at stake for victims and children.

Excerpts from: As Pa. Senate session winds down, last-minute push would allow two-year window for clergy abuse victims, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 14, 2018

Senator Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, has declined interview requests and “his office circulated a counter-proposal calling for the creation of a ‘tribunal’ of judges appointed by the state’s appellate courts that would, in turn, select an administrator to manage a compensation fund. Mr. Scarnati’s proposal also would create some sort of public registry that would allow victims to petition courts to have an abuser’s name added to it.

The proposal was swiftly opposed by victims and their advocates, many of whom characterize it as a bailout for the Catholic Church and the insurance industry. Both have argued that it could lead to devastating financial blows.

‘We don’t need more bureaucracy,’ said York-area advocate Kristen Pfautz Woolley, who was abused as a child. ‘We need a two-year window for survivors to use the existing court system to obtain justice.’

Ms. Woolley said her abuser was not a priest, but a man her family trusted. She said for many victims, compensation has little to do with achieving justice.

‘I want to face my abuser in court,” she said. “I want to make sure that he never harms another child.’

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, declined a media request made last week through his spokeswoman.

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Allegheny, said he believed there was support in his caucus for the measure, but he didn’t have a specific vote count.

‘I think there are a number of members in our caucus who would like a two-year window, but I don’t believe that that is where our colleagues in the Senate Republican caucus are at,’ Mr. Costa said.”