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.

Help Push for Legislation that Supports Victims

House Bills 878 and 832 must go through the Pennsylvania Judiciary Committee before they go to the whole House for debate. Please contact members of the Judiciary Committee and your own state representative. These bills would protect ALL abused children – not just those related to clergy abuse. Information on the bills is in the advisory posted below contact information.

Contact Information for PA Judiciary Committee:

Hon. Todd Stephens, 717-260-6163. Stephens worked in the Montgomery County D.A.’s office in the sex crimes unit.

Hon. Sheryl M. Delozier, 717-783-5282. Delozier worked at YWCA with victims of domestic violence and rape.

Hon. Ron Marisco, Republican Chair, 717-783-2014, http://www.ronmarisco.com

Hon. Thomas R. Caltagirone, Democratic Chair, 717-787-3525. Caltigirone refused to pass a similar bill on to the floor last session.

Hon. Marcy Toepel, 717-787-9501

Hon. Tarah Toohil, 717-772-1858. Toohil is pro-life and supports family values.

Hon. Debereh Kula, 717-772-1858

Hon. Jesse White, 727-222-4192, http://www.pahouse.com/white

Hon. Bryan Cutler, 717-783-6424

Hon. Joseph F. Brennan, 717-772-9902

(Thank you to Voice of the Faithful for compiling this contact information.)

You can email and get more information via the following Web site.

http://www.pasen.gov/index.cfm

HARRISBURG, March 9 – State Reps. Louise Williams Bishop and Mike McGeehan, both D-Phila., have called on the House Judiciary Committee to convene a public hearing and vote on their two bills to abolish the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases and to suspend the statute of limitations for adult victims of childhood sex abuse.

Their letter to Republican Chairman Ronald Marsico, R-Dauphin, and Democratic Chairman Tom Caltagirone, D-Berks, follows Tuesday’s announcement by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that 21 priests have been placed on administrative leave after they were named in a grand jury report on incidents of child abuse within the diocese.

“While we applaud the Archdiocese for taking action called upon by the grand jury recommendations by removing credibly accused priests from public circulation, it is all the more apparent that laws must be enacted to allow justice to be served,” the two said in their letter. “Only through discovery can records and files on the accused be subpoenaed and alleged enablers of childhood sexual abuse be deposed.”

Bishop’s bill (HB. 832) would abolish the statute of limitations on both criminal and civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse going forward. McGeehan’s bill (H.B. 878) would open a two-year window for adult victims of childhood abuse to access the civil justice system. The burden of proof is on the plaintiff to prove.

The bills were supported at a joint news conference last week by Bishop and McGeehan. The event also featured representatives from The Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse, Survivor Network of Those Abused by Priests, parents of sexually exploited children, victims and other stakeholders.

“We want to emphasize that although this latest action on the part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia provided the catalyst for our request, we recognize that the problem is not peculiar to the Catholic Church and by some estimates, cleric abuse accounts for but a small percentage of childhood sexual abuse,” they wrote.

Bishop said updating Pennsylvania’s child abuse laws is a challenge long overdue for comprehensive action by the legislature.

“Child abuse crosses all racial, economic, and cultural boundaries,” Bishop said. “All types of child abuse leave lasting emotional scars often throughout the victim’s life.”

“If it can be shown that a person is directly responsible for hurting or putting children in harm’s way, those people should be prosecuted as in any other case,” said McGeehan. “This is the only way to keep organizations accountable for the actions of their personnel and protect children from serial pedophiles.”

###

March 8, 2011

Honorable Ron Marsico, Chairman

PA House Judiciary Committee

218 Ryan Office Building

Harrisburg, PA 17120             Honorable Ron Marsico, Chairman

PA House Judiciary Committee

218 Ryan Office Building

Harrisburg, PA 17120

Dear Chairman Marsico and Chairman Caltagirone:

Today, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, announced that 21 priests have been placed on administrative leave following an internal review of allegations of sexual abuse of minors emanating from the second grand jury last month.

While we applaud the Archdiocese for taking action called upon by the Grand Jury recommendations by removing credibly accused priests from public circulation, it is all the more apparent that laws must be enacted to allow justice to be served.

We are respectfully requesting that you, as Chairmen of the House Judiciary Committee, conduct a hearing and vote House Bill 832 and House Bill 878 out of committee forthright. House Bill 832 abolishes the statutes of limitation for future criminal and civil child sex abuse cases. House Bill 878 provides for a two year civil “window” for adult victims of childhood abuse to access the justice system against perpetrators and the entities which employed them. Plaintiffs must prove “gross negligence” on the part of the entity.

Only through discovery can records and files on the accused be subpoenaed and alleged enablers of childhood sexual abuse be deposed. We want to emphasize that although this latest action on the part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia provided the catalyst for our request, we recognize that the problem is not peculiar to the Catholic Church and by some estimates, cleric abuse accounts for but a small percentage of childhood sexual abuse.

With that said, we welcome the opportunity to work with the Judiciary Committee to prepare for a hearing on these statutes of limitation bills and we thank you in advance for your consideration of our request.

Sincerely,

Rep. Louise Williams Bishop

PA House of Representatives

192nd Legislative District             Rep. Michael P. McGeehan

PA House of Representatives

173rd Legislative District



Breaking the Silence

by Nancy Buck, guest blogger

Written after the Grand Jury Report Release in Jan. 2011.

>
> We heard the news; we read the carefully crafted damage control statements. We
> gritted our teeth and drew taut our lips. We dropped silent tears for children
> so young, so scarred, so betrayed. Some of us renewed our warnings to our
> children.  This week we met at CYO games, in church vestibules, bus stops, and
> school activities.  Through it all we sounded a murmur of disapproval;
> sometimes refusing to write that offertory check or vowing not to attend
> church, feeling helpless to do anything else.  But until we raise our voices,
> like a practiced choir in a communal cry of “ENOUGH!” then we have failed the
> victims of clergy abuse, just as surely as our church officials have.  So why
> then are we so silent?
>
> Like many faithful in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, I attended church this
> past weekend skeptical, disappointed and curious as to how the leaders could
> respond.  As it turned out, some addressed their congregations with petitions
> for prayers, or at one, a substitute priest addressed the church, as their
> pastor stands accused of a crime.  Still others, like the church I attended in
> Exton, remained silent, but for the reference to a terse statement from
> Cardinal Rigali, left in piles in the vestibule.  Granted, many innocent
> clergy grapple with their own response, and many faithful may be fearful of
> “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”; but to remain silent is to give
> credence to the way the hierarchy of the church continues to handle these
> cases—shielded from view of society and its own congregations, a puzzling
> response, in view of a basic Catholic catechism.
>
> The church, we are told from first lessons, is the PEOPLE—the body of
> believers.  As such it is our duty to call for reform, demand a voice, protect
> our children and join with other voices of concern, like those of the
> Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), who stood on the wintry
> sidewalks of the City of Brotherly Love with only twenty-five strong, while we
> kneeled in the warmth of the churches by the hundreds, unaware of their
> painful plight.

Catholics join in the thousands in support of children whose
> voices are silenced by abortions; yet for these victims of abuse, our church
> community musters merely silent prayer. Through shame? Through embarrassment
> for our church?   How different it might be if we collectively stood by these
> children, now men and women, and joined hands in demanding reform, instead of
> relying on Seth Williams and a grand jury to be their only defenders.  The
> next time these victims brave the cold, from both Mother Nature and from
> within the church, we, lay and clergy alike, should march beside them.  The time has come
> to raise our voices, plan mass demonstrations, withhold funds, overturn the
> moneychangers in the temple and pass the word, “ENOUGH!”
>

Accused Priests Painted with Same Brush

I received some important clarification today from The Archdiocesan Office of Communication. Of course, it’s not the information we are all seeking. But it’s something.

All 23 priests placed on administrative leave have been painted with the same brush. The accusations could range from boundary issues to sexual abuse. That’s a broad range of behavior. While all accusations should be investigated, I don’t think priests should be referred to as alleged pedophiles by the press unless accusations include sexual abuse. Of course we don’t know specific accusations because the Archdiocese won’t release them. I will be going on FOX 29 Good Day this Monday morning at 8:15 to discuss this.

All of the accusations have been deemed credible enough to warrant further independent investigation by Gina Smith, the former D.A. hired by the Archdiocese. If she finds evidence of criminal behavior, those cases will be forwarded to the Philadelphia D.A.’s office. It is possible that some priests will be cleared and returned to their prior status.

Through previous mishandling of allegations, the Philadelphia Archdiocese has created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust that is destroying faith and lives on all sides of the scandal.