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!

 

Promoting Pedaphiles

According to an article in the Pocono Record on 14 March 2014, a priest who was credibly accused of molesting boys in Shohola (Pike County) and Moscow (Lackawanna County), Pennsylvania has been elevated to the post of Vicar General of Ciudad del Este Diocese in Paraguay.  Now a Monsignor, Carlos Urrutigoity will be in charge of investigations into claims of abuse or misconduct by priests in the diocese.   (Anyone else see this as the church taking a stand against the sexual misconduct by priests?)

Back in 2002 a lawsuit claimed that Urrutigoity and one of his henchmen, Father Eric Ensey had been “sleeping” with boys as part of their ministry.  Protected by the Diocese of Scranton Bishop James Timlin, the priests escaped prosecution by sending them for “psychological evaluation” in Canada.  The Diocese has a long-standing process where they send predator priests outside of the jurisdiction that could prosecute them. Timlin and his diocesan risk managers settled the lawsuit but did nothing else.

Now Monsignor Urrutigoity is operating in Paraguay and is in charge of protecting the people of his diocese from predator priests.  Despite Bishop Martino’s letter to the diocese in Paraguay, there really has not been anything done.   Had Bishops Timlin and Martino had the ability to discern right from wrong or even if one of them had a spine, they would have taken action in accordance with canon law and sought to have these and other predator priests that operated in the Diocese of Scranton defrocked and exposed.   But we all know that is not part of the risk calculus for the Catholic Hierarchy.

This crisis continues for three reasons.  First, bishops are still protecting the predators at the expense of the vulnerable.  Second, coward politicians who are under the cassocks of the bishops refuse to pass any meaningful legislation to hold the institutions that protect child rapists. Third, Catholic parishioners are not holding their hierarchy accountable.    I put the most blame on the last group.  For all the lip service from lay Catholics about the ongoing crisis, there is no real action to fix the problem and hold people accountable.

Catholics are not doing what they need to do to protect the innocent.   I am sure if their Saviour came back today, he would not want anything to do with these frauds.

 

 

 

FACSA President’s Recent Article in Notre Dame Magazine

I am providing this link  to John Salveson’s article in Notre Dame Magazine.   As President of  Foundation to Abolish Child Sexual Abuse (FACSA), Mr. Salveson is leading the charge to change laws to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual predators and the institutions that have protected those predators.  His frustrations are very similar to frustrations that I and other survivors have experienced.

FACSA is an organization that is doing a lot of good, tangible work supporting survivors of child sexual abuse.  They are doing so without a lot of fanfare and self promotion.

I encourage you to read Mr Salveson’s article and then go to the FACSA website to support their efforts to protect children.

I want to thank everyone who sent this article to me, especially my Dad.

I am working on posting articles on this blog more regularly.  With furloughs ongoing at work, I am going to have more time to spend here.

Crickets, silence on the net…

“When one goes looking for something, one rarely finds it, but when you least expect it, the object of your search tends to fly up in front of you.”

This is  a hard topic to write about.  What happened all those years ago, the coverup by the church, the discord in the survivor community.  I find myself both drawn to writing and wanting to put all this down and walking away to something else, anything else.  I have had people recommend both courses of action, some more profane that others.

I wrote a piece not too long ago looking for the “Survivor Community”.  There was no response from the “community”.  I know someone is reading “Off My Knees”.  I see readership  numbers that mystify me everyday. I am even more perplexed when I have not had a post for a little while and the numbers start to climb into the hundreds per day.   Usually that is the indicator that something has stirred in the universe and another person in authority (priest, coach, teacher, cop, relative…)  has been identified as a molester/rapist of children or that a major piece of legislation has come to a head or that someone has died.  When I see random peaks in readership, I go to the analytics that I track for my blog looking for an explanation.

I do get emails from survivors or people close to a survivor looking for answers, advice or a conversation with someone who understands all too well what happened all those years ago.  I am very wary of requests for phone conversations and even more concerned about requests for face to face meetings.  I am also hesitant to offer advice, mostly because I still have more questions than answers.

The other night I was tracking activity in this blog that turn out to be  someone who was reposting a blog post I had written.  That is when the thought came to me.  As Survivors, we don’t trust each other.   Is it possible that what we have in common also alienates us from each other?  Our vulgar initiation into this universe of survivors makes us ever vigilant and doubtful of the motives of our correspondents.  We will read each other’s posts on blogs and message boards, but there is a hesitance to respond, to act, to come together.   For many, we have not really given up the great terrible secret that we have carried for so long.   We may be silently watching from the comfort of our own world.  Many are not engaged.  Many are not ready to be engaged.  Many are too tired of all of it to be engaged.

While we may have a great deal in common, we, as a group, do not really talk very much.  I kept quiet for well over 33 years.  All that silence keeps things from happening.  It keeps the well-organized people who protected the criminals who preyed on us strong.  It keeps them on the street, it keeps them from being called to account for their complicity.

Our silence also fails to shape the message of our community.  Silence is seen by consent by groups that are putting forward an agenda.  Those agendas are not always in our collective interest.  Within our community there are bitter divisions.  Some of the worst vitriol I have seen spewed at survivors has come from other survivors.  Discourse between us is not only discouraged, it is often attacked when the message does not support the “national position” .

We still need to find our collective voices, we still need to learn to network.   Most importantly, we must understand that, while there is a common thread, we all have very unique experiences that don’t always fit nicely into the general picture being painted of the community.   Just as I am amazed at the inability of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church to tell the truth, I am amazed at the sometimes vicious tactics used between survivors.

Differences in points of view should be expected.   But the infighting and the polarization in the survivor community are doing nothing but helping the people/organizations/institutions who desperately want us to remain silent and subservient.

…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.

And they will know we are Christians by our love…

It never fails to amaze me that the some of the nastiest comments that come into this blog are from self-proclaimed good Catholics.  A case in point, in the last week I have had two comments come in from “Ted Conley” (NDHS East Stroudsburg class of 83?).  The first comment I will assume is for me, the second was directed at a person who has commented on posts in the blog before.  I don’t always agree with that individual’s comments but I have put many of them up on this blog.  The text of this “Good Catholic’s” comments go like this:

Yup, “The Church is the Real Victim!” is so unfortunately true. This bottom-dwelling scum drags down the greatness of God and Jesus. Makes me nuts on a regular basis. Always hoping there is a special place in hell preheated and waiting for these soul-stealing a-holes.

and…

{name deleted}, do you sift the web for chances to bash Catholicism? Most all Catholics I’ve ever met are wonderful caring people. Please peddle (sic) your tripe on the heathen websites where you’re surely appreciated.

 

You are a class act, Ted!  I am sure you sit in your pew piously on Sunday morning (or perhaps on Saturday evening because you like sleeping in on Sundays!)  It is your particular level of vitriol that sets you as one of the more stereotypical Catholics who are in denial about what is going on in your church.  Go ahead and drink the Kool-Aid, make excuses for the hierarchy of your church protecting pedophiles, using parishioners’ money to keep their dirty little secrets and vilify the victims of pedophile priests. 

What you seem to miss is that many people like me do not attack your faith or your fellow Catholics, we simply are amazed at the fact that, in spite of overwhelming evidence of wrong doing, you either put your head in the sand or go for character assassination.   The latter being the first sign of a weak argument.

The title of this post is from a hymn written by Peter Scholtes with additional words and music by Carolyn Arends.  The lyrics to the hymn are:  (Hey Ted, sing along!)

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

We will work with each other, we will work side by side
We will work with each other, we will work side by side
And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

By our love, by our love

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

By our love, by our love

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love

Love is patient, love is kind
Never boasts, not full of pride
Always hopes, always trusts
The evidence of Christ in us

This is my commandment that you love one another that your joy may be full

 

It is ironic that every time I have heard this hymn it reminds me of the hypocrisy of many (not all) Catholics.  Ted is a prime example.  I am sure he is a pillar of his church.  But outside of the church he seems to be a little different based on the words and tone of his acidic comments. (He must be a lawyer!)   I can tell you are a Christian by your love, Ted.  You are a real sweetheart!  

I hope there is a special place in hell for preheated for heathens like me.  I am sure it will be a damn spot cooler than where Ted and his “lovable” Catholics will be heading.  Bring it Ted, be another mindless Catholic automaton! Perhaps it is the lack of “evidence of Christ” in people filled with hate, Ted for instance, that makes people like me cringe at hymns sung by hypocrites.  Is it any wonder that people are leaving the church in droves?

First Conviction of a Catholic Bishop…

Robert W. Finn

Buried in the news, during this political season, was an article in the New York Times that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Kansas City was convicted at a bench trial on one misdemeanor charge and not guilty on a second charge, for failing to report a priest who had taken hundreds of pornographic pictures of young girls.  He was sentenced to two years of probation.  He could have been sentenced to a year in jail and a fine of $1,000.

But here is the kicker (there always is one in these cases)… His conviction can be expunged (“Process by which record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from the state or Federal repository.” Black’s Law Dictionary) if he complies with all the conditions of his conviction. Those conditions, outlined by the presiding judge, include strengthening training for clergy and administrators on child abuse reporting and recognizing child pornography; creating a $10,000 victim counseling fund (surely that will be paid for by the parishioners who are still donating money and not by the convicted prelate); drawing up an approved list of treatment providers (Servants of the Paraclete?); and maintaining an ombudsman (job title change for the Victim’s Assistance Coordinator?).

Finn’s case was set for a trial by a jury.  That changed yesterday when the prosecutors and defense attorney avoided the jury trial yesterday when the  submitted 69 paragraphs of stipulated facts in a bench trial.   The bench trial allowed for victims to be spared the pain of testifying and will help protect their identities.  In exchange for his cooperation in the case, authorities agreed not to file an indictment against a second-ranking diocese official, Monsignor Robert Murphy, who had reported his suspicions to the police.

My question…  Since he has been convicted, will the hierarchy of the church remove him from his position?   Will he do the right thing and step down?  Don’t hold your breath!  When they move to expunge his record, it will be like nothing ever happened and they will act accordingly.

Read the article at:

New York Times

The Kansas City Star – Kansas City.com

Boston Globe