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Open letter to the Catholic Church...updated

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Posted on August 15 2018

 updated August 20, 2018 to include a blunt letter from the Pontiff:

 

 

Dear Catholic Leaders,

I should disclose that from a religious standpoint, I do consider myself a Catholic. I struggled and vacillated from do I remain quite or do I just let the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report to speak for itself particularly on the merits of the report. And subsequently determined that I have a few things to say. I’m not a bible thumper and I don’t think I force my religious ideologies on to others. Like many Americans I have a healthy appreciation and respect for other religions. Yet oddly, in most cases, I actually find institutionalized religion to be rather hypocritical.

In the past I have jokingly said: “nuns pretty raised me, so nothing scares me”. I should acknowledge that I was fortunate enough to come from a family with significant financial means and my parents could afford to  send me to a “full time (Catholic) boarding school” which was run by nuns. That might actually explain who I am as an adult.

If I am going to be honest, there are a few things in life that actually scare the ______ out of me. For example: am I being a “good parent”, am I being “Christ-like”,  am I using my life & powers for good or am I just as hypocritical as those I tend to judge. Yes I’ll admit I can be judgemental and occasionally I have super “Judgey-eyes”. But one thing that absolutely terrifies me is the spiritual and intellectual fight of grappling with the undeniable truth of my Church’s inability to address the systemic sexual abuse & the complicit nature of the Catholic Church covering up the heinous sexual abuse of children (both boys and girls) from sexual predators. My Church left hundreds if not tens of thousands of victimized children in their wake.

These children, all of whom are now adults, carried and in some cases continue to carry this intense burden of soul crushing pain. While simultaneously  trying to reconcile what happened to them. None of which is their fault, at all. They are the victims.  They did nothing wrong. Instead the Catholic Church engaged in a decades long institutional cover up. Essentially protecting the sexual predators and casting aside the victims. My Church’s leaders allowed these  predators to have unfettered access to victims and in doing so, their actions and in-actions forever altered the lives of these children.

 It took me 5 attempts to read the nearly 900 page Grand Jury Report and the subsequent accompanying 459 Grand Jury Special Master Report . It is not for the faint of heart. There are some passages where I couldn’t comprehend what I was reading. Only to later realize that the events detailed happened to children. That this is their truth and it’s horrific. Like so many other Catholics, upon reading this Grand Jury report, it is just incomprehensible.

As in how do you even reconcile what these “men of God” did? How do you rationalize the most heinous and perverse acts committed on innocent  children? You can’t, there’s no way to rationalize how the Catholic Church spent decades covering up and protecting these sexual predators. The nearly 900 page Grand Jury Report can found here.

 

The opening paragraph of this Grand Jury report, echoes in my head:

We, the members of this grand jury, need you to hear this. We know some of you have heard some of it before. There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away.

Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.

They contained credible allegations against over three hundred predator priests. Over one thousand child victims were identifiable, from the church’s own records. We believe that the real number – of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward – is in the thousands. (emphasis added)

Most of the victims were boys; but there were girls too. Some were teens; many were pre-pubescent. Some were manipulated with alcohol or pornography. Some were made to masturbate their assailants, or were groped by them. Some were raped orally, some vaginally, some anally.

But all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all 

 

Pages 3-10 of the Grand Jury Report lay out the Catholic Church’s playbook. Stating that even if a Preist admitted to his sexual predatory behavior, as an institution the Church would simply move the Priest to another Church. But there’s a distinction the Grand Jury made, opining that these “conditions” were largely thought of as a “sin” therefore the “sinner” could some how be forgiven. When the correct and moral course of action should have been to treat the sexual assaults as a crime. As in contact law enforcement and have that predator Priest charged. Because the Church had this institutional playbook of hiding and covering up thousands of sexual assault, they effectively ran the Statute of Limitations clock down. And victims could not seek justice in a Court of Law. Their actions are the opposite of Holy or Christ-like.

 

First, make sure to use euphemisms rather than real words to describe the sexual assaults in diocese documents. Never say “rape”; say “inappropriate contact” or “boundary issues.” 

Second, don’t conduct genuine investigations with properly trained personnel. Instead, assign fellow clergy members to ask inadequate questions and then make credibility determinations about the colleagues with whom they live and work.

Third, for an appearance of integrity, send priests for “evaluation” at church-run psychiatric treatment centers. Allow these experts to “diagnose” whether the priest was a pedophile, based largely on the priest’s “self-reports,” and regardless of whether the priest had actually engaged in sexual contact with a child.

Fourth, when a priest does have to be removed, don’t say why. Tell his parishioners that he is on “sick leave,” or suffering from “nervous exhaustion.” Or say nothing at all.

Fifth, even if a priest is raping children, keep providing him housing and living expenses, although he may be using these resources to facilitate more sexual assaults.

Sixth, if a predator’s conduct becomes known to the community, don’t remove him from the priesthood to ensure that no more children will be victimized. Instead, transfer him to a new location where no one will know he is a child abuser.

 

I think of all of the  steps the Grand Jury noted this is by far the most insidious and arguably unforgivable. It is as if the Catholic Church told the men of the cloth, don’t treat child-rape as a crime. That is something I can not wrap my head around. Again we are talking about children, who’s lives were irrevocably altered by sick men who literally preyed on innnocent children, with impunity.

 

Finally and above all, don’t tell the police. Child sexual abuse, even short of actual penetration, is and has for all relevant times been a crime.

 

Keep in mind the 300+ Catholic Priest who are/were sexual predators that victimized at least 1,000 children (the Grand Jury's Report specifically states “the real number” is likely in the thousands) this is only for the State of Pennsylvania.

 

Boston Globe 2002 Spotlight Church allowed Abuse:

 

As you may recall in January of 2002, some fifteen years ago the Boston Globe published an incredible piece of investigative journalism, entitled: Spotlight: Church Allowed Abuse By Preist for Years. 

This article, Part 1 link found here Part 2 link found here. Their 2015 interactive timeline is also worthwhile reading, link found here.

In the newly released Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report 12 Priest had been previously identified in the 2002 Boston Globe articles and yet these sexual predators were allowed to minister and by all appearances had access to new groups of victims at their disposal. The harsh reality is the Catholic Church as an institution has yet to atone for their transgressions. It is disappointing and deeply problematic. Particularly since the Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro sent the reports to the Vactican last month and as of today the Vatican has yet to respond.

Below is a partial list of Preist identified in the Boston Globe’s 2002 Report and in the Pennsylvania 2018 Report. It was an extremely difficult read and often times I felt physically sick to my stomach.

Father Francis J. Fromholzer

pages 20-29 in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report he was assigned to eight different Churches during his nearly fifty years as a Catholic priest. One of Fromholzer’s victims told the Grand Jury:

“You can’t get rid of it. You don’t talk about it. It is always there.” Coming from a broken home, she had counted on the understanding of priests and nuns. The second victim said that, after being expelled for reporting being sexually abused by Fromholzer, she felt “worthless.”

 

Father Michael S. Lawrence

Pages 50-67 of the a Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report

The Church knew of his “sexual tendencies” yet the Church turned a blind eye, Father Lawrence sexual abuse made it all the way to the Vatican and yet the Church sought to protect the sexual predator and ignore the many victims. The handwritten letters from the victims parents, just heartbreaking.

Grand Jury indicate that Lawrence was “a mysterious type who craves the attention of younger students”

Lawrence showed “a little too much interest in younger students.” 

 

Father Chester Gawronski

Pages 70-79 of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, details decades of abuse and dozens of victims. This Preist sexually assaulted young boys under the guise of “a cancer check”  truly vile and criminal behavior.

February 9, 1987, Gawronski provided the Diocese with a list of forty-one possible victims. He confirmed at least twelve children as victims on whom he had performed the “cancer check.”

 

To be fair, shortly after the Boston Globe’s Spotlight 2002 articles the United States of Catholic Bishops (USCB), created the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People”. This governing body established procedures and addresses the sexual abuse of minors by the Catholic clergy. The June 2018 USCB Promise to Protect Report can be found here.

A brief description of their Charter:

Charter directs action in all the following matters:

Creating a safe environment for children and young people;

Healing and reconciliation of victims and survivors;

Making prompt and effective response to allegations;

Cooperating with civil authorities;

Disciplining offenders;

Providing for means of accountability for the future to ensure the problem continues to be effectively dealt with through the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and the National Review Board.

 

Yesterday shortly after the Pennsylvania Attorney General Published the Grand Jury Report the President of the USCB issued the following statement, you can read his full statement here.

The report of the Pennsylvania grand jury again illustrates the pain of those who have been victims of the crime of sexual abuse by individual members of our clergy, and by those who shielded abusers and so facilitated an evil that continued for years or even decades. We are grateful for the courage of the people who aided the investigation by sharing their personal stories of abuse. As a body of bishops, we are shamed by and sorry for the sins and omissions by Catholic priests and Catholic bishops.

 

As a Catholic it bothers me greatly that the Church continues to view the predatory sexual abuse of minors as a “sin” and as a “crime” secondary to the aforementioned sin. Meaning that spiritually you need to forgive the sin versus holding the sexual predator criminally accountable. Not to belabor the point, but the reality is, if a Priest steals from the Catholic Church they are immediately charged and ultimately go to jail, if found guilty by a jury. It is just insane to me that a Priest can rape or molest a child and the Catholic Church’s immediate response is to protect the sexual predator. How can you, as in the Catholic Church preach morality when as an institution you have spent decades hiding Priest or more broadly spending tens of hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying lawmakers on a variety of public policy laws. See Senate LDA Database Report, found here.

Why not lobby those same lawmakers and ensure that the statute of limitations laws are removed from sexual assaults on minors? There’s no redress or judicial justice for these victims. Because more often than not it can and does take victims years if not multiple decades to come to terms with the abuse their endured and publicly share that they were sexually abused by a Priest. A person of spiritual authority and one that is in a position of power. It is the very worst kind of physical and spiritual betrayal.

I’ve previously discussed the Statute of Limitations and current lawmakers -cough- Senator Ron Johnson, yes I’m looking right at you. Because you successfully lobbied the Wisconsin State Legislator to kill a bill that would allow Wisconsin sexual abuse victims (specifically Catholic sexual assault victims) to seek justice from the Priest who sexually abused them. Furthermore you never disclosed to the State Legislator that you served on the Green Bay Archdiocese, specifically the finance committee nor that your Archdiocese was in the midst of a multi-year multi-million dollar litigation dog fight. Because the case docket reads like you were purposefully running down the clock.

See my Sen Ron Johnson entry here

Until the Catholic Church fully comes to terms and offers a contrite apology for the heinous & deprived crimes and the sins perpetrated by the clergy, it will continue to leave Catholics like myself entirely distrustful of my Church. Make me questions my own spiritual commitment to a Church who allowed sexual abuse to occur for decades. These victims deserve so much better than how the Catholic Church treated them and their families. There should never be an expiration date of child sexual abuse victim to seek justice. Again victims of child sexual abuse can take years if not decades to come to terms with what happened to them. How can we as members of the Catholic Church allow this institution to lobby in numerous states to codify laws that limits the “time” these victim can have to seek justice. I can’t understand how we allow the Catholic Church to sexually abuse children but then they turn around and make it impossible for the victims to seek Justice in a Court of Law.   -Spicy Out

 

 

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