A Papal Request for Forgiveness Begs Clarification

“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”

Socrates

An article on the Vatican Radio’s Website  reported on  a request from Pope Francis for forgiveness for the priests who committed sexual crimes against children.  During his prepared remarks to members of BICE [International Catholic Child Bureau] whom he received on 11 April 2014 in an audience at the Vatican, he deviated from the prepared text.  That deviation for his text was captured in the  English translation of  the Pontiff’s prepared statement provided by Vatican Radio:


…. I feel compelled to personally take on all the evil which some priests, quite a few in number, obviously not compared to the number of all the priests, to personally ask for forgiveness for the damage they have done for having sexually abused children. The Church is aware of this damage, it is personal, moral damage carried out by men of the Church, and we will not take one step backward with regards to how we will deal with this problem, and the sanctions that must be imposed. On the contrary, we have to be even stronger. Because you cannot interfere with children…

Before I start this conversation I am being mindful of my fellow survivors and their families, some are no longer here because of the damage caused by predator priests.  We have been subjected to endless promises of reform and lies about accountability.  This is important to me as  survivor of rape by a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. At the risk of appearing to be hopeful enough that these questions will somehow come to the attention of Pope Francis, I will address my questions to him directly.

Your Holiness, I have some questions I must ask so that I can understand the meaning and intent in your words.  Holy Father, from who are you asking forgiveness?  An honest question, I promise you.  I am convinced of your sincerity when you say you “feel the compelled to personally take on all the evil”.  If you do so, why do you qualify your statement by saying that the number of predator priests are “quite a few” in number but not when compared to the total number of priests?  YourHoliness, you start off by marginalizing the depth of the crisis.   Why should I trust what you go on to say next?

Are you asking survivors/victims for forgiveness?  Are you asking your Church? Are you asking us to forgive those who committed such heinous acts of depravity that destroyed our trust, our faith and injured our beings?  Or are you asking us to forgive those that hid and protected these monsters?  Are you asking us to forgive those, both religious and laity who have expended the treasure of the church to support evil and attack us, as if we were the cause of the crimes committed against us?  They  painted us as monsters or opportunists looking for an easy pay out.  Are you asking for forgiveness for the marginalization of our suffering, the suffering of our families, the lost potential of our shattered lives?   Are you asking for forgiveness for the irreparable damage  and damnation of those who chose not to right a wrong but to isolate and vilify the survivors?   Are you asking forgiveness for those who put the comfort of the church ahead of the safety of children?

Holy Father, it does not matter if there are a relatively small number of predator priest relative to the total number priests in the church.  It does matter that many of your Bishops chose to mitigate risk and protect predators instead of maximizing justice and protecting children.  You say the church is aware of the damage and that you cannot take one step back.  Until you take one step forward your Church will remain aware but ineffective and uncaring. Until you take action to cut the cancer of protection for predators from the ranks of your bishops your Church will not be stronger.

You speak of sanctions.  You want to take action to deal with the problem.  Your Holiness, with great respect I ask you, what are you willing to do?  My Catholic education instructs me that forgiveness is earned through acts of contrition.  The words are hollow if they do not come with action, with change and with the will to live a life that is true to the values and faith that you profess.

Words are important.  Words have meaning.  Holy Father, please show me that your words are sincere  and that you will finally take the action necessary to protect children and vulnerable adults.  Unless there is an accounting, unless the truth is more important than the comfort of those that have protected predator priests, your words will be lost on the wind.

Show me your committment, your actions, the meaning in your words.

 

 This post was picked up and reposted on: Catholic4Change. Thanks Susan!

 

…And the Lord seemed to sleep…

The dome of St. Peters strick by lightning on the night of the Papal resignation
The dome of St. Peters struck by lightning on the night of the Papal resignation

The resignation of Pope Benedict XVI came as a shock to the Catholic Church and the world.  In the last month pundits have examined and speculated on the reasons for his sudden retirement and the tremor that went through the Catholic faithful in the aftermath of the announcement.

In what is being touted as his farewell speech, the Pontiff sited failing health and energy as the reason for his unconventional departure from the throne of Saint Peter.   Canon Law (Canon 332, No. 2) states “If it happens that the Roman Pontiff resigns his office, it is required for validity that the resignation is made freely and properly manifested but not that it is accepted by anyone.” In other words, he can leave and no one has the right to say “No you can’t go!”  It seems that the only restriction is that he can’t take his red shoes with him into retirement.

Catholics have an expectation the their Pope will die in office.  The departure of Benedict, without benefit of death, opens many wounds that should be addressed by the Conclave.  It should be noted that the last Pope to “retire”  St. Celestine V, was imprisoned by his successor and died in a papal prison.   Scholars believe that the line  “who made from cowardice the great refusal” in Dante’s  The Divine Comedy was a reference to Celestine V.

So here we are on the first night of the Conclave.  Ballot 1 resulted in black smoke.  Tomorrow we will see up to four more polls of the assembled Cardinals.  These men are as far removed from the teachings of their Lord as can be.  Take a look at the media coverage during the last month.  Think of the image that is being presented by the princes of the church in their blood-red, silk cassocks and hand tied fine lace.  Each in what seemed to be different patterns of finery.  Is this what the successor of Peter should look like?  Or are we seeing the excesses of royalty in a church wracked with scandal?  These men are addressed by grand titles such as “Your Eminence”.  Have they become the modern-day Pharisees, enamored of their titles?

These men are sweeping away the numerous scandals and crises in the church as they prepare to crown a new monarch.  They talk of looking to the future (why look at the carnage in their wake?).  They ignore the sex abuse crisis that has seen children and vulnerable adults preyed upon by sexual predators.  The church continues to protect these monsters.  As much as Cardinals would like the “scandal” to be over, new stories come forward every day detailing the loss of innocence, faith and trust.

The Vatican Bank has been a scandal for decades.  Can you believe that the bank run by the Vatican is considered to be one of the most corrupt in the world?  It has consistently failed to be in compliance with international standards.  The Pope’s bank has been involved in laundering money for years!  Can someone tell me why the Vatican needs to be running a bank?  Are there no Italian Banks that can serve the needs of the Curia, while adhering to Italian law and international banking practices?

The fact that the Vatican is a sovereign nation unto itself also makes me wonder what these men in red silk are up to.  Although, most of these men are citizens of other countries, they are voting for the head of state of another nation.  Should Cardinal Dolan’s American citizenship be revoked because he is an official of a foreign government?

It seems that the men in red silk are a little taken with themselves.  They parade around in their finery, vote under the watchful eye of Renaissance masters and try to look like humble servants of the church.  I wonder if Jesus was alive today if he would be throwing these pretenders to the throne of Peter out of the temple, exposing them as the frauds that they really are.

Benedict spoke of his concern that the “Lord seemed to sleep”.   I would theorize that it is  Catholics who are sleeping.  They allow crisis after crisis, scandal after to scandal to go unabated.  There are no consequences for the princes of the church. Perhaps the forces at work in the Vatican are not those of light and salvation.

Benedict XVI should be wary in his retirement. He did not have the good sense to die.  Celestine V was imprisoned by his successor,  Pope Boniface VIII. He was seen as a threat that could be used to destabilize the Holy See.  He would die in his prison cell, some scholars think he was murdered by order of Boniface.

In the meantime, the world is glued to their smart phones, computers, iPads, tablets and televisions waiting for white smoke to rise from the makeshift chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel.   I guess we will know who will be wearing red shoes soon enough.

Prophecy

I had a conversation with a Victims Assistance Coordinator from the Diocese of Scranton in August.  She is a very kind woman named Joan Holmes.  She has consistently reached out to me since my initial notification to the Diocese of the events that occurred when I was 13 years old.  While I still think that the position she holds within the diocese has more to do with collecting information on victims and less to do with assisting them, she has been very helpful to me in a number of ways.  She is the only person in the Diocese that I have had consistent, albeit infrequent contact.

What struck me during the conversation was her use of the word “prophet”.  She told me that I was speaking truth and that is what a prophet does.  In looking up the word in the dictionary I found the following:

NOUN  1.  somebody who interprets divine will: somebody who claims to interpret or transmit the commands of a deity 2.  somebody predicting the future: somebody who predicts the future “prophets of economic doom” 3.  advocate of something: somebody who advocates a cause or idea 4.  inspired leader: somebody considered to be an inspired leader or teacher [ 12th century. Via French and Latin < Greek prophētēs “somebody who speaks beforehand” < phētēs “speaker” ]

I certainly do not see myself as a conduit for a deity.  That would require me to have faith that one exists. The Catholic Church has proven to me that you should not take on faith anything that they say.   I may be able to see myself in the third definition, an advocate for a reform of the legal system to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual crimes and the follow-on cover-ups in the Catholic Church. I keep going back to what Joan told me. Her view was that a prophet is someone who tells the truth. If that is so, why aren’t the Bishops of the world prophets? Why hasn’t the Catholic Church been an institution that supports prophets and the truth? Why have they been such an astounding failure at telling the truth? Why do we keep seeing the cycle of discovery, denial, contrition, deflection and distance played out as the game plan from the Bishop of Rome down the line?

Lets see how revelation of sexual crimes plays out in the latest hotbed of the sexual crime crisis in the Catholic Church.  I suspect it will be just as it has been  in Boston, Los Angeles, Ireland, Germany, and Belgium to name but a few. The story breaks and the first thing we hear is that the cases are isolated and that the church itself is innocent (denial). Then comes the uproar and a contrite bishop comes forward to say that he knew nothing of the abuse but now that it is made public that the church will support victims and take action against the perpetrators. Then the tide turns, Bishops or their mouthpieces begin to point out that the sexual abuses are a reflection of society, that these men are sick, gay, or that other institutions have similar problems. This is not an isolated Catholic problem! Finally, they try to put distance between themselves and the victims. They play the “we are protecting the confidentiality of the victims” card.  That loosely translates to trying to silence the victim through any means available. Or they just get nasty and start the campaign, usually through people like Phil Donahue, that paints survivors as money hungry opportunists looking for a quick score at the expense of the poor parishioners that support the local dioceses.  As we are seeing with the reports coming out of Europe in the past few days, we have an instance of the same playbook being taken out and put into action in a different city/country.

I recommend the pope  be decisive and end this debate once and for all.  He should go on tour. “The Pope Benedict XVI Last Apology Tour”. We could have satin jackets made up, collectible plates and spoons, maybe some T-shirts. I bet red shoe sales would go through the cathedral ceiling!  In each city the local Cardinal can warm up the crowd and get them whipped up in a frenzy, tell them that new processes are in place and that the problems of the past are in the past. Groupie nuns can go crazy at the front of the crowd trying to get their pictures taken with the MAN.  “Benny 16” is seriously “the goods”, he is happening, he is a rock star! When they finish the 3 month 71 city tour, the Holy See can claim that all is well and that a return to normalcy is the way to go. There is only 1 small problem. The status quo for the church included priests who committed varying degrees of sexual crimes on innocents while the hierarchy of the church shielded the predators from prosecution to save the Holy Roman Church from scandal. The problems of the past are not in the past. We see new allegations every week. We hear of new victims coming forward after years. We hear of very senior clergy admitting to abuse. One, a Bishop,  even has admitted to abusing his own nephew.

The truth, which seems to be completely lost on the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church, is that victims are victimized over and over because the church does not have any idea on how to fix the problem. Even if they did, they do not have the will to fix the problem. Society must enforce established secular laws on institutions like the Church and force them to comply to the standards of decency and the rule of law. (Is it me, or is the previous sentence a real head scratcher? We have to force the church to be ethical, do the right thing and protect innocent children and vulnerable adults.) If they do not comply, they need to be sanctioned. They need to be punished. They need to pay a dear, real price for their complicity and obstruction in the protection of predators and the isolation of victims. They can’t be sanctioned for arrogance by anyone but the people partially filling the pews on Sundays.   

Warning! I am beating the drum again. We need to enact legislation in each state that does not currently have it, to pass laws that will allow victims to seek redress for their grievances against the men and women who committed crimes against them and the institutions that supported, shielded and protected them from being turned over to civil authority.  Criminal behavior should be met with societal sanctions. (Again scratching my head because this all seems just all too obvious, even though it is not really playing out that way in the real world.)

I do not want to be a prophet. I do not want to be the guy in the blogosphere that is screaming at the top of his lungs about the injustice and stupidity in all of this. I do not want to be the one standing up for the other survivors. But, until the Bishops start being prophets and telling the truth, I have no other choice. Until Catholic Institutions lay bear their sins and seek real penance for the wrongs they have inflicted on the victims and their families, I cannot be silent. Until the Bishops, from Benedict on down, open the files on the predators and open the doors to those who are paying an incredible price for being the targets of pedophiles I have to be one of the voices that is shouting out.

How screwed up is it that we need prophets to show us that the direction the church is taking the faithful is the wrong way?  How many other voices are willing to join in?  What, exactly, are you doing?

“Dear Mr. Ratzinger” Campaign

I have a new hero in Ireland. Her name is Emma Somers. She is a free-lance writer and she has come up with the most elegant and simple way to reply to Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to the Irish people regarding the sex crisis in the Catholic Church. We are all going to drop him a line, compose a letter, fire off an email, send an epistle, you choose the form it takes as long as the message is sent. I know this is starting as an Irish initiative, but I would like to see a more international effort  supporting Emma’s campaign.  This is a show of support for Ireland’s concerned movers and shakers who are done with the abuse committed by clergy and covered up and denied by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.  This is a show of support for survivors worldwide. This is a pontifical “WAKE-UP” call to the Holy See.

Emma’s WordPress Blog is called “Dear Mr. Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland“.  The rules are simple (I hope she forgives me for cutting and pasting):

No 1: Read the pope’s letter

Please do not post a response unless you have read the pastoral letter from the pope — or at least the parts directed at you (eg victims, young people, parents, etc). It is posted here.

No 2: Write your reply

It may be one line, it may match the pope’s 4,000 words — either way, you can get your message across. Feel free to borrow from other letters here if you have trouble articulating your feelings.

No 3: Share your reply

If you are comfortable sharing all or part of your reply, please post it as a comment on “Dear Mr. Ratzinger“. Your letter may inspire others to put pen to paper.

No 4: Post  your reply on Saturday 15th May 2010

 
This is the most important part. DO NOT FORGET TO POST OR EMAIL YOUR LETTER! For the biggest impact, we will send our letters on the same day and show the Vatican Ireland cares about victims of clerical child abuse.

Note: (For you Americans out there, Post=Mail, find a stamp and mail the thing)

Participants are invited to meet at the GPO on O’Connell Street, Dublin, at 2pm on Saturday 15th May to post our letters as a group. (If you would like to be sent a reminder for this, please email dearmrratzinger@gmail.com with ‘Reminder GPO’ in the subject line. Your email will not be passed on or used for any other purposes.)

If you can’t make it to the GPO, all you need to do is post or email your letter before 5pm on Saturday 15th May. (Again, for a reminder, please email dearmrratzinger@gmail.com with the word ‘Reminder’ in the subject line.)

Address for letters: Pope Benedict XVI, Apostolic Palace, 00120 Vatican City
-or-
His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
00120 Via del Pellegrino
Citta del Vaticano

Address for emails: benedictxvi@vatican.va

No 5: Spread the word

Please pass “Dear Mr. Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland” on to anyone you know who might be interested in having their voice heard or help friends and family who are not online to get involved in the campaign.

Consider this “Spreading the Word”!  I need a Canadian and an Australian to get the word out in your neck of the woods. 

For those of us that can’t make it to the GPO in Dublin on the 15th because of lack of funding, expired passports, or Icelandic volcanos,  I recommend similar gatherings at post offices around the world.  Talk amongst yourselves and come up with an appropriate location, preferably near a mail box, post box, container approved by your local postal authority or free WiFi hotspot.   

If you are going to meet, let me know where and when and I will spread the word.

Why are you still reading this?  Go to Emma’s Blog, Dear Mister Ratzinger: Letters from Ireland, you have reading and writing to do.

The Pedophile Sex Crisis in the Catholic Church Continues, Despite All Efforts by the Vatican to Make You Think Otherwise

Anyone who has watched network or cable news, read a newspaper, logged on to a blog or a news website in the past couple of weeks has been inundated with information of the Catholic Sex Crisis.  (I keep calling it a crisis, because “scandal” just doesn’t start to cover it. )  New revelations of bishops and their minions covering up sexual crimes by clerics around the world seem to come out on a daily basis.  Add to that the statements by the Vatican about “gossip”, the passage of a South Dakota law to severely limit the ability for victims to seek out justice and the constant chatter on the Catholic message boards about who is at fault for the continuing “Catholic Bashing” and I really don’t know where to start.

Not knowing really where to go with all this, I decided to start with what I know.  For me, that is my blog, my frustration with the Catholic Church, in general (both the hierarchy and the parishioners that continue to enable the pedophile protection policy); the Diocese of Scranton in particular; the  number of people who are searching for priests, by name, and  finding my blog.  There is more of an interest in this crisis as evidenced by the tenfold increase in traffic to this blog.  My concern is that the interest in the blog is fleeting.  I just don’t think that Catholics get it.  They continue to allow the hierarchy of the Church squander any remaining credibility the Catholic Church may have once had.  Of course that credibility was based on fear, deception and the threat of hell.  But many Catholics still buy into the infallibility of people who are coming to be seen as what they really are, mortal and seriously flawed.

In the past week I have seen a marked increase in the number of search engine searches for Father Robert Gibson (Gibson is the priest that raped me at age 13).  We are not talking four or five searches, more like forty or fifty hits on this blog in the last week for that monster.  I have no way to divine the motives of the person or persons who are searching for him, but if you are searching for this priest for the same reasons I did a few years ago, please contact me.

As for the Pope and his propaganda spin machine,  I have to fall back on an often used statement.  “I know he was lying, his lips were moving”. There are so many coming to Ratzinger’s aid pleading that the man did not have time to read memos while he was the Archbishop of Munich or he was unaware of cases while he headed up the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican’s department handling the canonical review of pedophile priests.  To them I say, BULLSHIT!  Again, I have to draw on almost 24 years of service in the Navy.  When in command, COMMAND!  Ratzinger is in charge, he is responsible for the actions of his subordinates, even if he was not read in.  If he wants to blame someone else, maybe he should step down and retire to Berchtesgaden.  He can sit around and sing some of the songs he remembers from his youth.  Maybe, during his time wearing a brown shirt, he learned how to blame others to divert attention away from his own failures.  If this man is only a “caretaker” pope, lets hope we don’t have to wait long for a change.  

One final note before I wrap this up tonight.  There may be another predator in the Diocese of Scranton who is still actively grooming potential victims.  Be on your guard. If you are seeing the signs of a man who is acting very strangely around children, especially in light of all the recent revelations of pedophiles within the church world-wide , TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS.  If you are right you may be saving the life of a child.  If you are wrong (and I don’t think you are) it is better to err on the side of caution.  More to come, one way or another.


Circling the Bishops’ Wagons… SNAP Midwest Press Release

I am not one for press releases.  This one, however, crystalized many of the thoughts I have been trying to sort out this week. Please give it a careful read.

For immediate release: Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Statement by Peter Isely, Midwest Director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (414-429-7259)

America’s bishops have joined the “circle the wagons” chorus, more intent on protecting prelates’ reputations than on protecting children’s safety.

Instead of exposing predators and helping victims, America’s bishops busy themselves with self-congratulations and public relations. They tout their plentiful but largely ineffective policies, panels and procedures which were adopted as public relations moves. Since 2002, they have done little but water down and increasingly ignore their pledges of greater openness, confident that ‘the wave has crested’ and they have little to fear from more victims, lawsuits, prosecutions or media exposes.

Once again, bishops still refuse to use the words “bishop” or “cover up” when talking about a crisis caused by bishops covering up. This statement, like so many others, tries to minimize this crisis, blaming only the predators and ignoring their corrupt supervisors.

The Holy Vader’s Letter to Ireland (or, Vatican example of passive aggressive prose)

The Holy Vader
Scary, isn't it?

From the Death Star (Vatican): Emperor, oops, POPE Benedict XVI  has issued a pastoral letter to the people of Ireland concerning the findings of two reports commissioned by the Government of Ireland.  The letter was meant to be a way of communicating with  the faithful in Ireland on the never-ending sex crisis in the church.  Pope Benedict, who bears a striking and oddly appropriate likeness to Emperor Palpatine (of Star Wars notoriety), is hoping that this letter will be a salve on the wounds in the church in Ireland.  

The pastoral letter did not really accomplish it’s mission. People in Ireland have not been receptive to the “his Holiness'” advances (pun intended). Instead of a letter that is contrite and makes a statement of the committment of the Holy See to take immediate and decisive action to weed out perpetrator priests and the bishops that hid their actions and victimized the survivors, the pope (or his subordinates) developed a rambling passive aggressive missive that, at the end of the day, does nothing to correct the wrongs committed by priests in Ireland or anywhere else. The way the letter was crafted is telling. The passive voice is used throughout, almost qualifying each statement. He carefully lays blame for the crisis firmly within the borders of Ireland, “I must also express my conviction that, in order to recover from this grievous wound, the Church in Ireland must first acknowledge before the Lord and before others the serious sins committed against defenceless children.” The Vatican is not complicit in any of this…

 “In recent decades, however, the Church in your country has had to confront new and serious challenges to the faith arising from the rapid transformation and secularization of Irish society. Fast-paced social change has occurred, often adversely affecting people’s traditional adherence to Catholic teaching and values.” It is not a church problem, it is the heathen secular society in Ireland that allowed this situation to manifest itself.

 “On several occasions since my election to the See of Peter, I have met with victims of sexual abuse, as indeed I am ready to do in the future. I have sat with them, I have listened to their stories, I have acknowledged their suffering, and I have prayed with them and for them.” Come sit with me for a while. Virginia is nice this time of year. I would love to bend your pontifical ear for a few hours. You may have indeed heard what you were told, but did you listen? You have acknowledged suffering, WOW! What is missing in the letter is the passage that says (and this is what I wish I saw, not what was written): “I have removed from ministry all credibly accused priests, deacons, nuns and laity in the church to protect children. Where there were substantiated instances of abuse, I removed the offending perpetrator from church service and turned over to the civil authorities all evidence held by the local Diocese or by the Holy See relevant to the case, regardless of the statutes of limitations. I have directed (ordered) bishops to go to the parishes to seek out other victims and inform the parishioners of the predator that was in their midst, even if it was 20, 30, 40 years or more ago. I have removed from positions of authority all representatives of the church who enabled the predators to continue to target children by either ignoring credible reports, hiding evidence, unduly influencing or coercing victims, moving predators from parish to parish or moving known dangers out of one diocese to another to stay one step ahead from law enforcement.”

 This from the man who headed up the Congregation for the Dorctine of the Faith during the papacy of his predecessor, John Paul II. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is the arm of the Vatican that, among other things, investigates Sex Crimes committed by priests under its mandate to oversee matters of canon law. More importantly it is the propaganda arm of the Vatican. The spin on the sex crisis is mastered from the office once held by Cardinal Ratzinger, now the successor to the See of St. Peter.

 We will see this “expression of papal sympathy” again and again. Coming soon to Germany, perhaps? One must wonder about then Cardinal Ratzinger’s knowledge of predator priests in the Archdiocese of Munich. It will also manifest itself in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Western Europe, Africa and South America. This is a global crisis that will not be dealt with effectively as long as the Papal strategy in dealing with the crisis is based on trying to get people in the pews for the Sunday Morning Magic show, money in hand for the offering plate. It will not be solved until the Pope takes immediate and decisive action to remove predators and all the bishops and high level officials that have had a hand in covering up the criminal activities of predators in priestly garb.

 This crisis will not end until civil authorities take criminal and civil action against predators and their protectors. As long as civil authority bows down to the church and allows them to “deal” with the predators internally, the environment of secrecy will prevail, the abuse will continue and church will go merrily down the path of denial, distraction and deception.

 Oh by the way, if the Pope or his advisors are reading this, I would still like to nominate St. Rita as the Patron Saint of Victims/Survivors of Church Sex Crimes. Thanks….