ON THE ROCKS: Cocktails at Bishops’ Conference Belies Church Suffering

By Kathy Kane

Dear Bishop Senior and Bishop McIntyre,

We have crossed paths over the years but have never formally met. I considered introducing myself in the hotel lounge at the Marriott in Baltimore. I chose not to because I couldn’t trust myself not to recreate the scene of Jesus in the temple with the money changers. I might have overturned a table, sending glasses of Cointreau and Johnny Walker Black Label into the air.

I’m one of the mothers from the Philadelphia Archdiocese who traveled to Baltimore to stand with the survivors outside of the hotel during the Bishops’ Conference. We also attended the Conference in November. We call ourselves the “Mom Squad” and we support the victims and survivors who have literally saved our children by exposing the issue of clergy abuse to the world.

Voices Carry

Your group of bishops did not notice us when you arrived at the hotel lounge late Tuesday after your dinner out on the town. You picked a table right near us and proceeded to talk about your terrific dinner. Drinks were ordered; lots of laughter; a toast to a birthday (Happy Birthday, Nelson).

Voices carry, even in hotel bars. If you’re going to make fun of a former Archdiocese victim advocate, you might want to whisper. Or, here’s a better idea…don’t mock victim advocates. Bishop Senior, you did get a good laugh from your fellow bishops. Also, not a good idea to discuss Church-related matters in a hotel bar with mothers from the Archdiocese sitting a few feet away.

The Mom Squad nicknamed your group “the Philly Special” being that the fellow bishops with you were former clergy from Philadelphia. If your group had looked around, you would have seen one of our Moms saying the rosary while sipping her drink. She said she felt the need to rebalance the bad with good. In a hotel with 225 bishops she had yet to find a feeling of holiness, and certainly did not feel it in the lounge on Tuesday night.

It is a surreal experience to stay at the same hotel as the bishops during the Conference. While the outside world might imagine bishops with furrowed brows and solemn demeanors, we encountered recent newsmakers such as Cardinal Wuerl looking downright giddy in the lobby, and a very chipper Archbishop Lori heading to the elevators. We were in the lobby earlier as dozens of bishops met up after the day of meetings and headed out to dinner on the waterfront, or to the expensive steak house across the street. There was laughter and handshakes. I imagine no different than any other group of men who are the focus of national attention due to their members’ history of child rape, sexual assault of adults, sexual misconduct, financial impropriety, and cover up of crimes.

Bishop McIntyre, you were a panelist in a USCCB Facebook live event the following day at the Conference. I watched the event and also read the Catholic Philly article where you are quoted as saying the laity has the right to be angry and hurt, but it’s also important that we don’t get stuck there, and to remember that Christ is with us.

Stuck On ‘Mishandling’

Actually, the entire problem has been that the Church has continued to just move forward in the face of crimes against children while covering it up. We have all brushed it off and continued ahead with little regard for those who were harmed and very few criminal prosecutions of the perpetrators and those who covered for them.

Bishop Mcintyre you also mentioned in the same video that you have been angry about the “mishandling” of sex abuse cases. Mishandling is an interesting choice of words.

In 1994, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, a memo with a list of priest predator names was purposefully shredded. Those men remained in ministry and a young man is now dead because no one did the right thing. He was abused by a priest that the Archdiocese had been warned about and whose name was on the shredded memo. If someone had done the right thing their paths would never have crossed. Is that “mishandling?” Is placing a piece of paper in a shredder “mishandling?” Is that the word that helps you move on and not “get stuck?” Is that why you can talk about anger in a flat, monotone voice and in the next breath talk of moving forward?

The young man was someone’s child and he is dead. The only part of your statement that I agree with is that Christ is always with us. What do you think Christ thinks of the death of a young man at the hands of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia?

Horrified Awakening

My children were in Catholic school when some of the predators on the shredded memo were circulating through the parishes. I’m still stuck on that. It’s just this crazy Mom thing of bringing children into this world and not expecting the Church to expose them to child predators.

What has happened this past year is an awakening . People have finally looked past the boundaries of their own parish and have spoken up for those abused in the Church. When the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury report was released it made national news because people did not care if the victims were from their own diocese, or from their own state. Many Catholics finally cared that it happened, to any child,in area of the Church. Are we stuck? Or are we finally aware?

My 19-year-old daughter, who has a hearing disability, called me after she read the news of the deaf students in Italy who were sexually abused by clergy and whose disability was used against them by their perpetrators. The children could not even communicate what was happening to them to the outside world. She described what she read as ‘the torture of children.” Should I tell her not to be stuck in her anger? I don’t think the word “anger” even captures the emotion behind what most decent people feel about crimes against children. My daughter was horrified. I think horrified is the word we should use going forward.

Should we go to Mass each week and pray for the victims but do nothing to help them? Actually most times the issue of clergy abuse is even publicly prayed for at Mass, we also have to pray for the perpetrators. As if that is not a sick message delivered to youth who are present. Children should not be told to pray for those who harm children. Do we pray for the sexually abusive soccer coaches and teachers? Of course not, only sexually abusive clergy are extended that mercy.

Your Plan?

When do we acknowledge those abused within our Church often have PTSD and cannot even enter a Church for burials of family members or joyous occasions such as weddings. That the faith that many take solace in has been ripped from their lives? Should we just move forward without them? What’s the plan? If you want me not to be stuck, then tell me the plan going forward. Do you have a plan?

In just the past few months a priest in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was arrested for the rape of a teen parishioner and two lay teachers were arrested for sexual assault of students. What is the statute of limitations on the anger we should feel about abuse continuing in the Archdiocese? A few weeks? A few months? Do we need to seek professional help if we are still stuck after that?

We watched in Baltimore last week as clergy walked right past the survivors outside the hotel. We have seen this happen countless times at vigils in Philadelphia. Would Jesus simply refer the abused in his midst to the Archdiocese Victim Assistance Office? Is that how we get “unstuck?” By pretending they are invisible?

As for the bishops pretending that they never had a clue about McCarrick or Bransfield’s misconduct, it will be fun to watch the Oscars this year as you all receive Best Supporting Actor awards in the real life horror category.

Gospel P.R.

You talk of Christ but the behavior of many bishops is anything but Christ like. Would Christ be out to dinner, or in the lounge having drinks, as his followers suffered? Would he shred a memo that could have protected children? That wasn’t Christ; that was Bevilacqua. Would he ignore the very people who were harmed?

Maybe use Christ as your public relations crisis manager. The Gospel is free and any change in behavior by the bishops would be genuine. The mystery to the laity and survivors is not what Christ would do, the mystery is why the Bishops don’t do it. Firing the attorneys would be a good first step.

We will be back in Baltimore for the Conference in November. We were lucky the June meeting was rescheduled to Baltimore rather than at the Ritz Carlton in Santa Barbara, where it was originally scheduled. Mom Squad does not have a bishop’s budget.

Maybe we will bring some more moms with us to outnumber the bishops in the hotel lounge. Since the laity is so often not welcome to a seat at the table, we will just pull up to the bar.

Kathy

(unofficial captain of the Mom Squad)

Guilty! Jury Believed “Billy”

Click here to read: “Guilty verdicts in priest sex abuse trial,” by Joseph A. Slobodzian, January 30, 2013

Click here to watch: “Catholic Priest, Teacher Guilty of Abusing Altar Boy,” by Maryclaire Dale, NBC.com, January 30, 2013

Excerpt: “The victim is this case has shown exceptional courage,” said District Attorney Seth Williams. “Not only did he have the strength to report his abuse, he had the tenacity to look his abusers in the eye and testify in front of complete strangers about the horrific details of his attacks. I hope this verdict will help him to continue with the long journey of healing that comes after such trauma.”

 

 

 

Prosecuters Hope to Include Former West Chester Chaplain Allegations and Others

Editor’s comment: I’m heartsick knowing the situations in this article merely scratch the surface of what investigators found. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” So many in leadership did nothing and would continue to do so, if left unchecked by the law, media and concerned Catholics. Msgr. Lynn should not be the only member of our leadership on trial. Others knew. The Vatican knows. They don’t want to answer to governments, but they will answer to God.  – Susan Matthews

Click here to read: “Lawyer: Pa. Church Official Threw Peer ‘Under Bus,'” by Maryclaire Dale, Associated Press, ABC News, January 25, 2012

Excerpt from article: The cases include a priest who allegedly pinned loincloths on naked boys playing Jesus in a Passion play, and whipped them, in keeping with the drama; a priest who held what prosecutors called “masturbation camps” at the rectory, having boys strip naked and teaching them to masturbate; and a pastor written up for disobedience for complaining to Bevilacqua about an accused priest being transferred to his parish.

“I truly would love a jury to see how these were handled,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said in court. “The more cases they see … the clearer the picture becomes.”

Summer Required Reading for Catholics: The 2011 Grand Jury Report

As practicing Catholics, it is our responsibility to read the 2011 Grand Jury Report on clergy abuse. Please read it. Pray on it. And, then most importantly, I ask you to act on it. No real solution can be found until the entire Church addresses this issue. Pedophilia can and does occur anywhere. What doesn’t happen everywhere is the cover up – which has taken on global proportions.

The laity must stand up to protect their children and fight for their faith. If you sit in the pews silently, then you enable the cover up to continue. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and hope the hierarchy handles this. They’ve proven they can’t or won’t. For evidence of this, please read the 2005 report and ask yourself what they did between the two reports. Below is the opening of the 2011 Grand Jury Report. Catholics4Change will be posting excerpts as a series.

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In September 2003, a grand jury of local citizens released a report detailing a sad history of sexual abuse by priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. That abuse was known, tolerated, and hidden by high church officials, up to and including the Cardinal himself. The previous grand jury was frustrated that it could not charge either the abusers or their protectors in the church, because the successful cover-up of the abuse resulted in the expiration of the statute of limitations.

Now, measures taken in response to the previous report have led to new information about more recent abuse, which this grand jury was empaneled to investigate. The fact that we received that information, and from the church itself, is some sign of progress; and this time there will be charges. The present grand jury, however, is frustrated to report that much has not changed. The rapist priests we accuse were well known to the Secretary of Clergy, but he cloaked their conduct and put them in place to do it again. The procedures implemented by the Archdiocese to help victims are in fact designed to help the abusers, and the Archdiocese itself. Worst of all, apparent abusers – dozens of them, we believe – remain on duty in the Archdiocese, today, with open access to new young prey. (C4C editor note: Despite stating that no abusive priests were in active ministry, the Archdiocese removed over 20 priests after the report was released. Investigations into those cases are ongoing.)
Billy and Mark
This grand jury case began because two men came forward, while still young, to say what was done to them as children. By no means do we believe that these are the only two parishioners who were abused during this period. It remains an extraordinarily difficult thing for adults to tell authorities that they were taken advantage of, in the most intimate, shameful ways, by people they trusted. Their stories must be told, however, because they reveal a great deal about the current treatment of sexual abuse in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

Twelve years ago, Billy was a 10-year-old altar boy in the fifth grade at St. Jerome School in Philadelphia. “Billy” is a pseudonym; he is still reluctant to name himself publicly, although he knows he will have to do so soon. While alone with him in the sacristy, Father Charles Engelhardt began to show Billy pornographic magazines. Eventually, the priest directed Billy to take off his clothes, and to put his penis in the priest’s mouth. Then the priest reversed positions, until he ejaculated on the boy.

After that, Billy was in effect passed around to Engelhardt’s colleagues. Father Edward Avery undressed with the boy, told him that God loved him, had him engage in oral intercourse, and ejaculated on him. Next was the turn of Bernard Shero, a teacher in the school. Shero offered Billy a ride home, but instead stopped at a park, told Billy they were “going to have some fun,” took off the boy’s clothes, orally and anally raped him, and then made him walk the rest of the way home.

That was the beginning of a longer journey. Billy stopped talking with friends and started smoking marijuana. He would often gag and vomit for reasons the doctors could not discern. He checked books out of the library about sexual abuse. By high school he was taking pills, and then heroin.

The second victim, Mark, was only nine when he first met Father James Brennan, a parochial vicar at St. Andrew Church in Newtown. Father Brennan became a family “friend” who often visited the house. Mark, though, was the subject of special attention from the priest, who persistently wrestled with the boy, rubbed his back and shoulders, and openly brought up sex talk.

When Mark was 14, in 1996, Father Brennan was finally ready to make his move. He arranged with Mark’s mother for a “sleepover” at an apartment the priest was renting. Once he had the boy there, Brennan showed him pornographic pictures on his computer, bragged about his penis size, and insisted that Mark sleep together with him in his bed. Then he lay down behind the boy and put his penis into the boy’s buttocks.

Mark told his parents what happened, and they confronted Brennan, but he denied it and they believed the priest. From that point, Mark suffered depression, dramatic weight loss, and drug and alcohol addiction. Ultimately he attempted suicide.

For what they did, Father Avery, Father Engelhardt, Father Brennan, and teacher Shero will all be charged with rape and related offenses.

Read more here.