NEWTON, Mass. – More than 130 people had come forward to tell their stories of childhood sexual abuse by Roman Catholic priest Fr. John Geoghan, reported The Boston Globe on Jan. 6, 2002. Over the next decade, around the world and as recently as last month in The Netherlands, came revelations that thousands of Catholic priests had abused tens of thousands of children in the last half of the 20th Century.
Voice of the Faithful, comprising thousands of concerned mainstream Catholics, has dedicated the last decade to supporting survivors and conscientious priests and trying to change Church structure and governance to help prevent scandals like child sexual abuse.
“Sadly, in spite of the Church hierarchy’s numerous apologies to survivors and wide variety of mandated programs, we cannot be sure our children are safe,” says Mark Mullaney, incoming president during VOTF’s 10th anniversary year.
First, Mullaney points out, the Church’s agencies for reporting and handling sexual abuse allegations are not independent of Church control or influence and their processes are not transparent. Second, the Church has not censured or removed any official or bishop discovered to have been involved in keeping clergy sexual abuse secret or to have transferred accused abusers instead of removing them immediately from ministry.
The Church deserves credit for enormous strides in improving its vigilance of child sexual abuse, and attitudes have changed dramatically, according to Mullaney.
“But the Church has been implicated in stealing the innocence of thousands of children, irreparably ruining the lives of most of them,” he says. “VOTF will continue its struggle until the Church does at least two things. First, improves child protection guidelines to mandate specific disciplinary action for violations. Second, makes diocesan review audits more effective by ensuring unrestricted access to personnel files and complete independence of auditing agencies.”
Mullaney adds, “When it comes to the Church’s abuses, the Church hierarchy has been like the proverbial broken record. The record has been playing for 10 years now. Our firm desire is that it stops now.”
Voice of the Faithful
Voice of the Faithful is a worldwide movement of concerned mainstream 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 http://www.votf.org.
Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, 617-291-3495, firstname.lastname@example.org