Hope for the Future

John’s passage describing his “revelation” succinctly explains the perspective of the Church and the reason why things have been so slow to change.

Catholics4Change

Click here to read: “I Was Once a Victim,” by John Salveson, class of ’77, ’78 M.A., Notre Dame Magazine, Summer 2013

Excerpt:

Slowly, eventually, I figured out the reason for the lack of progress within the Church. It really was simple. I had long believed the Roman Catholic Church considered the child sex-abuse crisis to be a moral issue. So I expected clergy to care about the victims and to do the right thing.

But the simple truth I had learned over time was this: Much of the Catholic leadership does not view this as a moral issue. They view it as a risk-management issue. The focus is on managing settlements, keeping the topic out of the media, telling the faithful everything is taken care of and, most of all, doing everything humanly possible to ensure none of these cases ever make it into a court of law.

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Catholic guilt; Catholic shame

Guilt and shame. Staples of a Catholic education in the 50’s and early 60’s. The very foundation of Catholic moral instruction in this era, especially in the area of human sexuality.

So how is it that the priests themselves did not seem to feel the guilt and shame they preached?

Young boys were tormented with threats of hell if they masturbated, but chasing altar boys was the topic of dinner time jokes in seminaries and rectories. For teenage boys touching yourself was a shameful and guilt ridden exercise in self damnation; but for priests, touching young boys was an exercise in power and control.

What about when they were found out? The boy victims were beaten by their fathers or by another “Father.” “How could you say such lies? You are going to hell for such sins.” And the priests were told by their bishops “We will pray for you, my son, that you can overcome this temptation from the devil. Remember he strikes hardest at the holiest among us.”

Oh, so if priests are tempted that is a sign of holiness; If young boys “give in” and “allow” themselves to be touched, that is a sign that they are agents of the devil. The shame and guilt is theirs. The priests deserve our support, our pity, our prayers; the victims deserve our condemnation.

So, the problem lies in the lack of shame and guilt on the part of the priests, and their bishops. And their complete lack of compassion for young children molested, raped, and sodomized by members of the clergy.

We won’t get anywhere in the search for justice unless the Church begins to teach its priests about shame and guilt.

Philly grand jury recognizes the truth

Too many times victims are re-victimized by the victims advocate. The Philly grand jury clearly understands why church sponsored advocacy doesn’t work.

“….the present process is burdened by misinformation and conflict of interest. The Archdiocese’s “victim assistance coordinators,” for example, mislead victims into believing that their discussions with the coordinators are protected by confidentiality. That is not the case. In Pennsylvania, licensed rape counselors are indeed required by statute to maintain confidentiality, like lawyers. The church’s victim assistance coordinators, however, are not licensed counselors to whom the statutory mandate applies – and they do not keep victims’ statements confidential. They turn the statements over to the Archdiocese’s attorneys, who of course have an ethical obligation to protect their client from potential civil and criminal liability.”

Their recommendation:

“First, experience now demonstrates that programs for aiding victims of clergy sex abuse cannot be operated by the church itself. Victims should be assisted by the state Victim Compensation Board, or by a completely independent non-profit organization that is not subject to Archdiocesan control. In either case the church must provide the necessary funding. The church, through its lawyers, is of course entitled to defend itself against civil or criminal claims; but it can no longer try to play both sides of the fence with its victims.”

Cardinal Law leaves Rome!

“The Vatican says the Pope accepted Law’s resignation from Saint Mary Major Basilica.” Did his birthday party upset the leaders in Rome? Was it too much bad press? I would have thought that Rome was immune to bad press by now. But maybe not?  Read the whole article here:

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/11/21/disgraced-ex-boston-archbishop-cardinal-law-leaves-rome-job/

Cardinal Bernard Law partying in Rome with the “good ol’ boys.”

Party Boy in Rome

“Who, me?”

VATICAN CITY — (As reported in the Boston Herald on 5 November 2011) Cardinal Bernard Law was treated to a lavish birthday party, the company of high-ranking clerics and even the music of a mariachi band in a four-star Italian hotel. Bernard Law’s guests rolled up in Vatican Mercedes sedans and left singing the praises of the fallen prelate, promoted to his Vatican post after decades of covering up clergy sex abuse back home in Boston….

For the complete post visit blog, Another Voice.

For Boston Globe article click here.

Collateral damage

“Collateral damage is damage aside from that which was intended.”

There are many ways in which collateral damage has been and continues to be caused by the bishops of the Catholic Church as a secondary effect of its treatment of victims:

  • When the Church acts like a sexual offender, re-abusing innocent victims in its attempt to avoid more court cases and settlements
  • When bishops attempt to silence victims through lies (by applying the doctrine of “mental reservations”), intimidation, or threat of prosecution for court costs
  • When they protect, defend, and re-assign credibly accused and even admitted sexual offenders who cannot be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations
  • When they refuse to follow the guidelines they themselves have

… when they do any of these egregious things, they hurt not only the victims, but many, many others.  

First of all there are the victims families, whose trust in the Church and in God is violently assaulted not so much by the original abusive behavior of one sick priest but by the ongoing systematic, cold-blooded, legalistic, un-Christian, sometimes illegal behavior of the organization which purports to be led by God’s representative and to be Christ’s presence in the world.

Then there are our friends, our co-workers and our clients, these people all become personally, if indirectly, exposed to the evil perpetrated by the Catholic bishops and the  Vatican . They all become part of the collateral damage. If they remain faithful to the Church they will feel a conflict of loyalties, and may find it necessary to cut us out of their lives. If they are family this will cause a fracturing of the family unit. On the other hand if they are Catholics and remain faithful to us, they may find their support of and participation in the Church becomes untenable and their faith in God questionable.  They may, like us, suffer spiritual trauma.

What happens when you rip the soul out of someone’s life? What happens when you destroy someone’s hope in a loving God? What happens when you tear someone from their support community, from their rituals of comfort and consolation, renewal and restoration? What happens when you emotionally or physically lock someone out of their spiritual refuge?

What happens is that people die — from the inside out.

Their soul shrivels, their hope disintegrates, their sense of belonging evaporates. It feels as if the hand of God that was holding them through life’s trials and losses is withdrawn, and they can fall into an abyss of depression, alcohol and drug abuse, relationship-destruction, self-destruction.

There have been many physical deaths among the community of victims and victims’ families, but there are many more spiritual deaths. One aspect of survivor support needs to be a spiritual outreach of some kind. We need to find ways to foster hope, dialogue about our understanding of God, share rituals of renewal and enrichment. We need to combat the spiritual death that is part of the collateral damage of the sexual abuse crisis.

Priests sharing victims…not just in my family

Five charged in church sex scandal

February 11, 2011|By David O’Reilly, Inquirer Staff Writer,  Philadelphia Inquirer
According to the grand jury report, Lynn (Msgr. William Lynn, former secretary for clergy) was aware of credible abuse allegations against the three priests, but did not bar them from contact with minors, thus enabling four rapes of the two boys.

The accused include the Rev. Charles F. Engelhardt, 64, an Oblate priest most recently a parochial vicar at the Church of the Resurrection of Our Lord in the city’s Rhawnhurst section. He is charged with orally sodomizing a 10-year-old altar boy in 1998 in St. Jerome’s sacristy.

Despite the boy’s resistance, Engelhardt allegedly told the Rev. Edward Avery, a diocesan priest then assigned to St. Jerome’s, about the assault. Weeks later, Avery, now 68 and defrocked, assaulted the boy in the same way, according to the report.

Bernard G. Shero, the boy’s sixth-grade teacher at St. Jerome’s parish school, allegedly learned from one or both of the priests about the assaults and one day offered the boy a ride home. Instead, the grand jury said, Shero, now 48, orally and anally raped him in his car and then left him to walk home.

One of my struggles has been getting my head around the fact that two priests knowingly conspired in the abuse of members of my family, and confessed and absolved each other.  Even if I can admit the fact that two different priests abused us, the thought that they knew each other, supported each other’s behavior, covered for each other … it was just too grotesque, too evil to be true. But in Philadelphia the grand jury uncovered just such a story of collusion, of victim sharing.  Priests really can be that evil.

To be fair, the third abuser was not a priest, just someone they included in their little circle of pedophiles. How nice of them not to be selfish but instead to share information about an easy mark, a child who would be desperate to get the support of a safe adult.  Child rape … just a game they played with children’s bodies and with children’s lives.

But the rape is never just of the body it is rape of the soul too. The faith in their priests, their Church, their sacraments, their God is ripped apart and bloodied along with their bodies.  And too many of these children will die, perhaps not at 11 or 15, perhaps at 35 or 55, because the violence done to them then continues to be compounded by the violence inflicted on them today through the indifference of bishops and advisory boards, through the adversarial tactics of lawyers, and through their ostracisation by parishes and support structures within their Church.