by Kristine Ward, September 25, 2015
On this day, when Pope Francis will address the United Nations in New York, we present the images of courageous people who have preceded him in dealings with this international body.
See in the faces of leaders in the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) Mary Caplan and Megan Peterson the nobility of rising from the hopelessness that molestation can impose as rigid bondage to the conquering of fear and rising to a summit place knowing that the foundation for the rise is truth.
See in the face of Pamela Spees, an attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, the combination of steel determination for justice and the honing of intellect to bring to bear on a world power, one which claims to be a moral guide for the planet, no less than accountability for what has happened and continues to happen to children by men and women in its ranks.
We place these images in our pages today in the hope that we may give strength and comfort to the survivors of sexual abuse who have been so cruelly treated by the pontiff by his choosing to pay tribute to the bishops of the United States in their handling of the sexual abuse crisis and to characterize them as being men of courage. Men, he said, who are selfless in divesting themselves of all unessentials in order to right the wrongs of the scandal.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
With his words, the Pope abandoned the survivors to the barrios of inconsequentiality – the very place into which he reaches to lift all others up and to encourage and urge others to follow him.
He did so before the United States Congress on Wednesday and it is an easy prediction that he will do so before the world powers assembled before him today.
The Center for Constitutional Rights and the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) preceded Pope Francis to the United Nations to advance the cause of the protection of children.
Because of shadow reports by these organizations, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child investigated the sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, including the cover-up of the crisis by bishops, cardinals, popes and Vatican personnel.
The United Nations determined the Vatican “has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and to protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which have led to the continuation of the abuse by, and the impunity of, the perpetrators.”
The UN committee condemned the Vatican for “for adopting policies that allowed priests to rape and molest tens of thousands of children over decades.”
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UN Committee Against Torture made the following recommendations about what a pope should do to end the “epidemic of sexual violence,” including:
(1) Immediately remove all known and suspected child sexual abusers from assignment and refer the matter to relevant law enforcement authorities for investigation and prosecution;
(2) Hand over files containing details of cases of sexual violence to civil authorities for investigation and prosecution of abusers as well as those who who concealed their crimes and knowingly placed offenders in contact with children;
(3) Make reporting to civil authorities mandatory everywhere the Catholic Church operates;
(4) Develop comprehensive procedures for the early identification of child victims of sexual and other forms of abuse;
(5) Ensure accessible, confidential, child-friendly and effective reporting channels for children who are victims or witnesses of sexual abuse, and that child victims and witnesses of crimes are provided with unconditional psycho-social support for their rehabilitation and reintegration.
(6) Fully cooperate with the UN Committees and provide all data requested.
Men of courage would do this.
A leader of men of courage would do this.
At the very least a man who speaks of courage and his band of brothers who are now shielded by an umbrella of his praise would fraternally correct the wrongheaded and dangerous belief of the Bishop of the Diocese of Syracuse (NY) Robert Cunningham.
Cunningham asserted in a 2011 deposition that the teenager victim in the case in which he was being deposed was partly to blame for the crime that was committed against him in a molestation by a priest.
2011, dear readers, is not long ago. It is the length of a high school journey, the timeline of gaining a college education.
A New York courtroom is not some galaxy far, far way.
2011 is a year shy of a decade beyond the Boston eruption of the crisis.
It is nine years from the zero tolerance solution of the United States Bishops, the men praised by the Supreme Pontiff for their courage.
No bishop of the United States has spoken out, distanced himself from, or called for action against Bishop Cunningham.
This should not be mistaken for courage.
This should be named what it is: complicity.
The survivors of sexual abuse are the marginalized and the suffering who in every other circumstances Pope Francis fixes his intellect, his pulpit, and his gaze on.
Look out upon the world today, Pope Francis, and see your brothers and sisters who suffer.
See those who were made to suffer by agents of the Church. See the perpetrators and the protectors of the perpetrators.
To the survivors of these heinous crimes belongs the first pledge and the lived commitment of loyalty, love, and liberation.
—- Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC) KristineWard@hotmail.com 937-272-0308