by Kristine Ward, September 24, 2015
We welcome sexual abuse survivors and their families and all men and women of goodwill to our pages today as a safety spot, a haven, a place to know that you are not alone in the midst of the massive news coverage of the visit of Pope Francis to the United States.
We chose the images of the good people of BishopAccountability.org Terry McKiernan, Anne Barrett Doyle, Suzy Nauman for the images today because of BishopAccountability.org’s relentless, vital, intense, hard work in building the repository of the documents that chronicle this crushing crisis.
The truth lives in the documents.
The truth is sacred.
Without the documents, and the depositions, and the testimonies of the survivors, the scandal would remain as bishops and the Vatican intended for it to remain: hidden.
We believe this because it is in legislative bodies across the breadth of this country and in United States territories that Roman Catholic bishops and many of their Church’s adherents have blocked, sucker punched, delayed, watered down and deep sixed statute of limitation reforms for victims of sexual abuse – not only those raped and sodomized by Roman Catholic clergy and religious sisters and religious brothers but any citizen of the United States and its territories who have been so violated.
The largest lobbying group against statute of limitation reform is the band of brothers that Pope Francis calls his own and to whom he addressed these incredulous words yesterday at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC:
I am also conscious of the courage with which you have faced difficult moments in the recent history of the Church in this country without fear of self-criticism and at the cost of mortification and great sacrifice. Nor have you been afraid to divest whatever is unessential in order to regain the authority and trust which is demanded of ministers of Christ and rightly expected by the faithful. I realize how much the pain of recent years has weighed upon you and I have supported your generous commitment to bring healing to victims – in the knowledge that in healing we too are healed – and to work to ensure that such crimes will never be repeated.
This, dear readers of NSAC News and all persons to whom these words reach, is a fairy tale.
The word courage should never be used to describe the actions of bishops in the United States – or anywhere else in the world – regarding this crisis.
This word should be reserved for the survivors alone.
No bishop has suffered the debilitating sharpness of the all of the wheel spokes of the wounds of sexual abuse: torn and rent asunder personal relationships with spouses, children, parents and siblings, devastating afflictions of mind, body and spirit, the death of a molested child by suicide, the ravages of not being able to hold a job and all that it spirals out to in a family, the soul searing haunting of what a parent could have done to prevent this damage to a child.
What the bishop have shown is cowardliness.
Ask the survivors of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee alone how much the bishop or the previous bishops who include the Cardinal Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan were willing to “divest” themselves and their dioceses of in order to regain trust. Not much, that’s for sure. And nowhere near the $60 million that now Cardinal Dolan moved into the cemetery trust fund in an attempt to hid it from availability for settlements with survivors.
If Pope Francis meant the words he said that he would work with his brother bishops to “ensure that such crimes would never be repeated” he should have asked for a laying down of red hats, beginning with Cardinal Roger Mahony followed by Cardinal Dolan and Cardinal Sean O’Malley and on down the line.
Until there are dire consequences for protecting criminal activity there will be a continuation and repeats of the sexual abuse crisis – and no lovely words in a pretty place will stop it.
Patting bishops on the back is not a firm purpose of amendment.
High fives to the troops does not make a sexual abuse commission work.
Feel good words, even those from a popular Pope, do not bind wounds, protect children or provide justice to survivors.
The Pope should never have said these words.
The fact that he did is evidence that he believes them, and that it is his intent to push the argument that the crisis is history, the bishops are put upon heroes, and the victims are afterthoughts mentioned only to give lip service while wrapping them in the envelope of the healing that never comes.
All the more reason to be grateful for those who keep, seek out and tend the documents.
— Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) KristineWard@hotmail.com 937-272-0308.