Editorial: John Wojnowski, by Kristine Ward

January 4, 2013

Sunday, January 6, brings us to the 11th anniversary of the breaking of the sexual abuse scandal in the United States in its Boston incarnation.

It’s the day the first news story ran in the series that would ultimately net the Boston Globe a Pulitzer Prize.

It is, as we have sadly learned and re-learned through this decade plus one, not the beginning of the sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. Those roots go very, very depth and strength very, very long into the Church’s history.

The movement of response to this crisis which ballooned considerably with the Boston explosion of news that rippled throughout the country and now throughout the world, has produced heroes and villains.

Many of the heroes and heroines are unsung. Many of the villains remain unknown.

john wojnowski_1 - Copy - CopyToday, approaching the Boston anniversary, NSAC salutes, applauds and stands in solidarity in spirit with one of the staunchest and most unsung of the heroes: John Wojnowski.

John, who is a victim of sexual abuse by a Roman Catholic priest, has been outside of the Vatican Embassy to the United States, the Apostolic Nunciature, every day for 14 years. Here’s there today. He will be there tomorrow. No matter the weather. No matter the day. No mater the holiday. No matter the year.

John’s story is heartbreaking but his courage is fierce.

His life could have been so much different but he has taken the shattered pieces of it and built a place to stand for justice. He will not be silenced. He is a witness in his very flesh and bone for the vulnerable, the weak, and the innocent.

His lonely but determined and undaunted vigil recently was invaded by an ugly episode in this ugly scandal.

He was spat upon by an aide to the Vatican’s ambassador to the United States.  Tata 053 - Copy - Copy - Copy

He took his grievance to the Secret Service agent posted across the street from the nunicature at the country’s residence for the Vice President.

The Secret Service and has opened an investigation.

First and foremost, we believe it must be said, no matter what the private opinions, thoughts and attitudes of a diplomatic aide are – and particularly one who is a priest – there is no justification for spitting – of all things – on a person with a sign who is outside the diplomatic building of the power that lays claims to moral leadership on the planet.

Let us remember that this diplomatic aide is representing a Church that preaches respect for life – cradle to grave.

We value our NSAC News readers. We believe in your endurance, your perseverance and your support for the survivors of sexual abuse by priests and nuns.

So, on this eve of another major anniversary in this long, long, long crisis, we ask you for action.

First, let John know he is not alone. You can read about him and what propels his longstanding solo vigilance outside the embassy and reach him through the Minnesota SNAP page set up to receive comments for him. Here’s the link. http://mnsnap.wordpress.com/john-wojnowski/

Second, make your stand known to his boss, the nuncio. The Pope appointed this man to represent the Roman Catholic Church within the temporal order of business among countries. This man is the Church’s representative to the United States. He is not a passing stranger. He’s a man whose been given a position of trust and influence.  He holds considerable sway over who is appointed a bishop in this country and how the affairs of the Church are conducted here. He’s a conduit between this country and the Vatican.

As an American or refugee or asylee seeking to become an American citizen, let him know what you think about the conduct of his diplomatic aide and his conduct as a nuncio in not publicly responding to it.

Here’s his contact information:

Archbishop Carlo Mario Vigano
Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See
3339 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington D.C. 20008 United States
Phone: 202-333-7121
Fax  202-337-4036
Email:  nuntius@worldnet.att.net (if you reach a rejection on this email address, call and ask for the workable one). 

Third, make this a local issue. Take it up with the Victim Assistance Co-ordinator in your diocese.

Not in a meek, “thought you might be interested in this” email with a link.

No, with a real intent to find out if the Victim Assistance Coordinator in your diocese, believes that it’s okay for a Vatican diplomatic aide to behave in this manner while the Church touts that it’s leading the way in handling sexual abuse in this country.

Don’t take a lukewarm brush-off response that Victim Assistance Co-ordinators are not involved in this matter.

Of course, they are.

The Vatican’s global attitude is the role model and the gold standard for how the issue is handled locally.

So think globally, live locally doesn’t just apply to food – it’s imminently applicable in the situation of a universal church.

Here’s the link to locate your diocese’s Victim Assistance Co-ordinator:  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/victim-assistance-coordinators.cfm

For too long the Church has succeeded in this battle by a divide and conquer approach that runs many gamuts and gauntlets.

One of the tactical divide and conquer approaches is the dealing in one media market when an abuser is charged, named, sued, removed or laicized when the diocese or archdiocese’s territory spans a number of markets. Only in the largest of the dioceses does the media market reach all of the members of the archdiocese.

That also aids and abets the news about what happened on the nuncio’s lawn: it’s a Washington story. Not on your life. It’s a world story. This is a universal Church.

One of the most often used divide and conquer tactics is the way dioceses cocoon themselves when they want the outside world to go away and open themselves up in full butterfly fashion when they want to: Catholic universally some days, and other days, — such as in the criminally convicted Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri situation – not so much.

We know the continuing crisis carries a weariness.

We know as the calendar turns once again there is a weight to it.

We know it is difficult to read the continuing flow of stories in NSAC News Monday through Friday and those chronicled everyday on the Abuse Tracker. We know that a depression can set in with the constant drip of this coverage.

But we also know that John  Wojnowski, his vigil – and his face upon which the spittle of a priest ran — calls us to more.

If the Vatican Ambassador and your diocese’s Victim’s Assistance Coordinator tell you that the scandal is history, the Church is leading in the reform, and everything would be hunky dory if victims and their advocates would just shut up and sit down please ask them if they read NSAC News and/or the Abuse Tracker?

When you find out they don’t, let them know how to subscribe to NSAC News and find the Abuse Tracker so they can better converse with you on the topic.

Let them know they can’t have a real conversation with you until you know you are talking with people who have knowledge – broad and open minded knowledge, — not edited knowledge that serves to protect the diocese and re-victimize survivors and their families and the families of those who committed suicide. Victim Assistance Co-ordinators should search everywhere for the truth.

In tribute to John Wojnowski, we begin this new year with the words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and we challenge our readers with them:

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.” -Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

Welcome to 2013.

The day, the hour, the year is upon us. Let us seize the days for they will not come again.

— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition, NSAC Kristineward@hotmail.com

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