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Press Release For Immediate release

VOTF National Statement: Pope's New Commission a Positive Step on Clergy Sexual Abuse
March 25, 2014

When Vatican initiatives involve clergy sexual abuse, Catholic Church reform-minded, survivor-supporting movements like Voice of the Faithful® react with guarded optimism. This is the case once again regarding the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which was instituted this past Saturday, Mar. 22, having been originally announced Dec. 5, 2013.

A major reason for optimism this time is the commission’s initial composition. Five of the eight members are lay people, and four of those are women. One, notably, is an outspoken, internationally known clergy sexual abuse survivor, Ireland’s Marie Collins. In addition, the sole American on the commission, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston has one of the better records on clergy sexual abuse among the Church’s hierarchy. He also has considerable experience supervising settlements and trying to clean up dioceses damaged when the extent of clergy sex abuse was revealed.

According to the Vatican, the eight newly named members of the Pontifical Commission are to prepare its statutes and define its tasks and “competencies.” From VOTF’s point of view, the principal tasks of the commission must include full transparency, a reckoning of all those involved in the scandal. Also, the commission’s statutes must guard against future secrecy and provide discipline for offending hierarchy. 

VOTF has been working to accomplish these goals for 12 years; SNAP, the international abuse survivor group, has called for justice for the past 25 years; and canon lawyer and survivor supporter Fr. Thomas Doyle presented his first report on clergy sexual abuse from his position in the Vatican embassy as long ago as 1984. Announcement of this new Vatican commission is long past due. 

The Vatican announcement also stated that Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI had declared the importance of rooting out such scandal, establishing the full truth and taking necessary steps to prevent such crimes from ever being committed again. Pope Francis, the announcement said, is following in their footsteps, and he “has made clear that the Church must hold the protection of minors amongst Her highest priorities.” 

Perhaps this time the Vatican will match action to its rhetorical support for justice. VOTF sees the use of lay specialists on sex abuse and the inclusion of a survivor on the new commission as a critical first step. Next steps will be equally critical. VOTF will continue its part in healing the Church. 

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, nickingala@votf.org

Press Release For Immediate release

VOTF National Statement: Catholics Concerned Controversial Prelate's Presence Sends Wrong Message
March 13, 2014

Voice of the Faithful®, a movement of Catholics gravely concerned about the Catholic Church’s clergy sexual abuse scandal and Church structures that permit it, said today that Cardinal Edward Egan’s prominent role this Saturday in a celebration featuring a children’s choir is ill-advised considering controversial involvement in that scandal.

Cardinal Egan is scheduled to preside at a Mass following a festival featuring the Pueri Cantores Children’s Choir, with more than 200 children from New York and surrounding communities participating. The festival takes place at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in New York City.

The juxtaposition of Egan’s statements and attitude about the clergy sexual abuse scandal with a liturgical celebration featuring children is at least insensitive.

Secret Church documents, since made public, show Egan hid clergy sexual abuse crimes during his long tenure in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut, and was accused of doing the same as archbishop of New York. Many of these transgressions are detailed at BishopAccountablity.org.

In 2009, The New York Times reported that, “In one case, (then) Bishop (of Bridgeport) Egan kept an accused abuser working for five years after receiving a warning and did not suspend him until after a lawsuit was filed. In another, the diocese did not report potential allegations of statutory rape of a teenager impregnated by a priest.”

As recently as 2012, in an interview with Connecticut Magazine, Egan took back an apology he previously made for failing promptly to remove accused priests. He said, “First of all, I should never have said that. I did say if we did anything wrong, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we did anything wrong.”

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.-->

Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, nickingala@votf.org.

Press Release For Immediate release

VOTF National Statement: Deeply Disappointed in Pope Francis' Recent Comments on Clergy Child Sex Abuse
March 6, 2014

We are deeply disappointed in Pope Francis’ comments on clergy sexual abuse as reported recently in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Pope Francis said: “The Church has done so much on this road, perhaps most of all. The statistics on the phenomenon of violence against children are impressive, but they also show clearly that the vast majority of abuse occurs in the home environment and the neighborhood. The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have moved with transparency and accountability. No one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to be attacked.”

Hearing the Pope use the abuse-occurs-elsewhere excuse is truly disheartening. We hope he was referring only to the recent U.N. criticism when he made these comments because much work remains to be done. We hope that the work of his commission on clergy sexual abuse will produce true steps toward healing and reform and the fulfillment of Francis’ obvious commitment to mercy and compassion towards all the suffering in the world.

When considering clergy sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic Church, the Church surely cannot expect the claim that abuse occurs elsewhere to be taken seriously. Of course, child sexual abuse occurs in the home, in families, in the neighborhood and in other institutions. Does that excuse the Church’s failure to report such crimes and its decisions to shield the abusers, as it has done for many decades?

That the Church may have been the only institution attacked, as in the recent U.N. report, does not matter. What matters is that child sexual abuse occurs in the Catholic Church. The evidence from multiple sources over many years and from around the world is that the Catholic Church has a huge problem with clergy sexual abuse. Tens of thousands of children have been abused by thousands of clergy. Instead of being transparent about these crimes, the bishops kept the abuse secret and reported the crimes within the Church instead of to civil authorities.

Worse, the fact remains that the Vatican has never removed or censured in any way any member of the hierarchy involved in the scandal. Those who covered up crimes of clergy sex abuse remain in their positions or were allowed to retire with a dignity that was never accorded to victims. Pope Francis’ comments, made during an interview covering several subjects, seem to continue to defend the institutional Church and the hierarchy rather than to express any concern for the victims of abuse within the Church or to focus on the need for concrete steps to foster the healing of these thousands of victims.

The Vatican claims that the Catholic Church has done more than any other institution in the world with regard to child protection. Yes, the Church has put many policies and programs into place and trained tens of thousands of adults and children to recognize and act upon clergy sexual abuse. But where is the will to see these procedures through to their end? The National Review Board, established by the U.S. bishops to monitor the execution of these programs, for example, remains hampered by the way parishes and dioceses have administered the procedures and by the Church hierarchy. The board’s top administrators have borne witness to this.

In addition, the Church hierarchy, again testified by many around the world, has victimized the abused by accusing them of lying, of somehow causing their own abuse, of “tarnishing” the Church. Victims also were forced time and again to sign confidentiality statements to protect the Church. As adults, these survivors may receive apologies from the Church, but they see no attempt to discipline the bishops who cared more about the abusers than the abused and who chose to hide assets rather than help the victimized.

We are disappointed that Pope Francis, with his care for the marginalized, desire for social justice and focus on clericalism and reform of the Curia, does not see that holding bishops accountable for coverups and a full release of all secret files are essential for true reform and healing.

Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.

Contact: Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, nickingala@votf.org

 

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