Archdiocesan Response to Philly Mag

Can you imagine what ended up being cut by Philly Mag’s lawyers? I’m sure it was a treasure trove of unverifiable truth. That’s the article the laity needs to read. The portrayals and facts related in this article mirror my own experiences and private conversations with a variety of sources. Huber and his editors showed tremendous restraint and respect.

An Archdiocesan response to any news outlet is complete hypocrisy for many reasons. But here’s one of my own. When I worked as a sections editor for The Catholic Standard & Times (the official “newspaper” of the archdiocese) any article that was even the slightest bit controversial was reviewed and edited by the Tierney Group – an expensive public relations firm hired by Cardinal Bevilacqua. That, my friends, is not a newspaper. It’s a giant press release. It’s about control and they couldn’t control Philly Mag. I’m buying a subscription!

Below is the response from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to Robert Huber’s article, “Catholics in Crisis: Sex and Deception in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,” published in Philadelphia Magazine, July 2011.

“This is Donna Farrell, writing on behalf of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Unfortunately for Philadelphia magazine readers looking for honest, in-depth reporting, this piece is an agenda-driven travesty of salacious innuendo masquerading as journalism. It is built almost entirely on unsubstantiated comments recklessly offered by unattributed sources that Mr. Huber is all-too-ready to accept as fact.

In reality, “facts” are hard to come by in this article. Mr. Huber fails to accurately represent everything from the simplest of factual details to more intricate truths.

Regrettably, this 7,630-word piece, which is entirely one-sided, does not address the full story. It ignores fundamental and far-reaching changes Archdiocesan leaders have implemented and continue to implement in light of the 2005 and 2011 grand jury reports.

This inaccuracy is especially galling because the Archdiocese arranged meetings between Mr. Huber and Mary Achilles, the Archdiocesan victim services consultant, and Gina Maisto Smith, the veteran child abuse prosecutor hired by Cardinal Rigali. Despite these and other conversations about the significant steps taken by the Archdiocese to protect children, prevent child abuse, and assist victims, Mr. Huber chose to omit these perspectives from his piece — which left it sensational, wildly unfair, and incomplete.”

Stopping Donations Is Only Part of Solution to Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal

The results of this Catholic Standard and Times poll indicate there will always be those who continue to participate and contribute despite Archdiocesan criminal behavior. While 25% say they will donate less, 15% say they will become MORE active in their parish and 38% say the current crisis won’t affect their participation at all. Visit and take this poll online. It’s in the left column on the main page.

Are you still giving? Have you diverted funds to other non-diocesan Catholic charities? If so, which ones? Please include why you chose the charity.

Stopping donations shouldn’t be the only solution. If 50% continue to donate, the Archdiocese will work around it and children will still be at risk.

We’d like to hear from pastors. From what we understand, they have to send a stipulated amount to the Diocese. That amount is reviewed every few years. If the amount was set four years ago and then giving drops significantly this year, the pastor still owes the same amount. They have to make up the difference from within their budget. Parishioners are then shortchanged. The hierarchy doesn’t get hurt at all.

We need to be creative and effective in growing the numbers of “informed” Catholics. With the support of a larger base we can fight for legislative change and put the needed pressure on the archdiocese to change in much the same way the Boston laity and religious did.

Archiodese Considering Changing Victims’ Assistance Program

“Archdiocese Considering Big Changes to Victims’ Assistance Program,” by John T. Gillespie, special to The Catholic Standard and Times, May 18, 2011.

The key word here is “considering.” Why not a commitment? The Archdiocese should fulfill ALL the recommendations of the Philadelphia Grand Jury Report. One recommendation was the removal of the victims’ assistance program from the supervision of the Archdiocese and its legal team.

Cardinal Rigali on National Sexual Assault Awareness Month

“National Sexual Assault Awareness, Child Abuse Month,” by Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia for The Catholic Standard and Times

The Cardinal writes: “The resurgence of news coverage concerning sexual abuse causes further pain. Every time there is a report of abuse it not only re-injures the victims, our parishioners are shaken by each disclosure, and it erodes the true image of the priesthood.”

Here’s an idea from C4C: Cardinal Rigali could ease the pain by fulfilling the recommendations of the 2011 Grand Jury Report. Doing this would cut down on abuse and media coverage. Doing this would restore our faith in Church Leadership and reinforce respect for priests.

Interviews From the Pews – Reaction to Pedophile Priest Coverup

Today’s edition of The Catholic Standard & Times, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, includes a front page staff report on parishioner reaction from across the diocese to the grand jury report on priest pedophiles and the Church officials who covered up the scandal. (Article link at end.)

The reporting staff had their work cut out for them. Kudos to editor-in-chief Matthew Gambino for publishing a credible range of reaction gathered from the pews. Over the years, the Cardinal’s office often placed handcuffs on CS&T reporters in regard to what was covered and how it was covered. I speak from experience. I was an editor there from 1991 to 1997. As a journalist, it was demoralizing to have a public relations executive red lining factual information deemed unpalatable. In my day, the controversies were financial – such as parish closings. I had no idea the Cardinal’s office was also covering up for pedophile priests.

It’s harder to gather reaction from Catholics on the fringes of their faith – those who were already distanced by issues such as annulments, homosexuality, birth control. So many outreach efforts to bring them back into the fold have likely been undone by the hypocrisy of the hierarchy.

The article also references Archdiocesan initiatives in the area of child protection. Here is a link to that office: The Archdiocesan Office for Child and Youth Protection

The office and its initiatives are under severe scrutiny from child protection advocates and professionals. Their Web page highlights victim outreach efforts including a hotline that was allegedly used to gather information in order to safeguard the legal interests of the Archdiocese.

Via Facebook, The Catholic Standard & Times also provided me with two links on initiatives. Here they are:

Please share any personal or professional reaction to these initiatives.

Holding On To The Light – Parishioners Respond to Grand Jury Report, The Catholic Standard and Times staff report, March 3, 2011

Don’t Apologize for Me

In the most recent edition of The Catholic Standard & Times, editor-in-chief and Archdiocesan spokesperson Matthew Gambino issued an apology on behalf of the Church.

“We are sorry. We, the Church, are the lay men, women and children; the religious who pray for us and work with us; the deacons, priests and bishops who lead us and bring us the divine graces of the Catholic sacramental system.

We, the Church, are sorry for the sexual abuse suffered by our brothers and sisters when they were young people at the hands of the Church’s clergymen and teachers. The Church is sorry for the sins and crimes of some members against other members. The Church begs forgiveness of our brothers and sisters, and of almighty God.” Read more.

I worked with Gambino for several years while I was an editor with The Catholic Standard and Times. Knowing him personally, I have no doubt his intentions regarding this apology were well-meant and sincere. But I take issue.

Do not apologize for me. I’m guilty of plenty, but I’m not guilty of pedophilia or the cover up. There are very specific individuals who need to apologize and reconcile with God and their victims. So far, they haven’t. Even if they did, it would be too little and too late.

I’m sickened that I worked for such a morally corrupt archdiocesan administration.

I do believe in the healing power of forgiveness, but true repentance and real reform must come first. Gambino asks for our trust. I say the Church hierarchy hasn’t earned it.