This article was printed in the August 19th bulletin.
“It’s like déjà vu all over again!”: This line is attributed to the late, great Yogi Berra; & it comes to mind upon the recent release of the grand jury report that investigated clergy sexual abuse & its consequent cover-ups within 6 dioceses in the state of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia & Altoona-Johnstown had prior investigations & so are not involved in this current report). Berra’s quip is humorous, but there is nothing akin to humor & only horror to be found in the scathing, almost 900 pages of documents that were released.
For me personally, it resurfaces older wounds that had only begun healing & leaves me feeling once again extremely disgusted & sick/tired that nothing seems to have been learned from the fiasco that our own archdiocese was exposed to by the 2005 & 2011 grand jury investigations. I learned after reading the 1st report that (23 years earlier) a high school freshman whom I trained as an altar server & who took his own life was abused by a priest living & working with me in the same rectory — who had the further audacity to preside at the boy’s funeral Mass, which I preached. From the 2nd report, I learned that my own dear nephew who died from drug abuse as a young adult was likely molested by our home parish priest while serving as an altar boy—this man who, until his death this past June, still freely walked the streets of Philadelphia, having suffered no consequences except losing his Roman collar. Thanks be to God that my conscience prevented my acting upon the murderous rage I initially felt, & have since confessed, when all of the puzzle pieces began to show a clearer picture of things.
Please take the time to review the statement from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia regarding this recent grand jury report—it is posted in full on our parish website. As a local church, Philadelphia has taken important steps both to offer assistance toward healing for those victims of clergy abuse; as well as putting into place multiple procedures to safeguard & guarantee (as best we can) our precious young ones. This recent investigation shows that no place is immune from the monstrous predation of warped individuals whose perverse behaviors with innocent children & youth would poison & even steal their souls. If ever the hand of the Evil One was suspected, its involvement herein is abundantly clear in this awful debacle that so hurts & compromises the Body of Christ.
Here is what I would hope & like to see happen as a result of all this: 1) Our bishops may no longer exempt themselves from the Dallas Charter’s zero-tolerance policy that now applies to all priests & church ministers. 2) An outside, investigative body that is comprised of expert laypersons needs to comprehensively investigate the USCCB—the administrative body that represents the U.S. bishops. 3) The Church’s Code of Canon Law must be amended, giving the national bishops conferences some leverage to require individual bishops to implement the safe environment/child protections policies that are determined to govern everyone. Currently, a bishop is autonomous within the confines of his own diocese—answerable only to the Holy See. 4) Any bishop who is implicated either in actual abuse himself or in covering it up for those under him should step aside & resign, so that real leaders may be appointed who will be authentic shepherds of their people—after the pattern of Christ, the Good Shepherd. Please pray with me that our church will fix its defects & promote the healing & safety of all its members, especially the young & most vulnerable among us. May God help us!