God May Weep For Church Sexual Abuse, But Bishop Chaput Prefers to Bark

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When Pope Francis met with five victims of sexual abuse this past weekend it made headlines, not only because he confessed that he “deeply regret[s] that some bishops failed in their responsibility to protect children,” but because it was the first time he met with survivors on American soil.

The Pope’s post-meeting remarks to the assembled Bishops, that “God weeps,” may be a hint of what the next phase of the sexual abuse scandal holds. In his words to the Bishops gathered, Pope Francis said, “The crimes and sins of sexual abuse of minors may no longer be kept secret; I commit myself to ensuring that the Church makes every effort to protect minors and I promise that those responsible will be held to account.”

The very next day, in response to a question about the attendance of Cardinal Justin Rigali at the papal mass, Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia testily told reporters that, “In some ways, we should get over this wanting to go back and blame, blame, blame. The church is happy to accept its responsibility, but I’m really quite tired of people making unjust accusations against people who are not to be blamed—and that happens sometimes.”

Some Bishops never learn.

I’ve been covering sexual abuse on RD for a few years now, and I’m consistently shocked and stunned by clergy members and administrators who don’t seem to understand what a soul-gutting experience it is for people who have been sexually abused by those in religious authority. To chastise people for wanting to uncover the truth is almost as bad as moving perpetrators around without caring that they molested children.

Chaput’s statement about “making unjust accusations against people who are not to be blamed,” belies an understanding of both the newly formed commission, and the responsibilities of reporting child sexual abuse. Currently, the Catholic Church, along with several other organizations, is lobbying to prevent a two-year extension of the statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for child abuse cases. House Bill 2067 to extend the statute was introduced by Representative Mark Rozzi, who was raped at 13 years of age. The rapist, Rev. Edward Graff, was moved to several churches until he was arrested in Texas and died in custody.

So when Archbishop Chaput callously says that we should all “get over” wanting to go back and blame, read that statement in the context of current lobbying by the Catholic Church not to extend the statute of limitations. The Archbishop isn’t new to this fight, having contested statute of limitations laws as Bishop of Denver. He knows exactly what he’s saying.

Not going back in Philadelphia means not opening up more litigation in an Archdiocese that has been broken by sexual abuse, two grand jury investigations, and the first Catholic administrator sent to jail for child endangerment by pedophile priests. Not going back means that even though the Archdiocese just settled with “Billy Doe” they wouldn’t have to sit through the civil trial, which is still scheduled for November 9, 2015. It would also mean that any other cases outside of the current statute of limitations wouldn’t be heard.

So forgive me if I conclude that Archbishop Chaput was more than just testy. His words were deliberate, and weren’t really about Cardinal Rigali being back on the altar for the Pope’s visit. He wants Philadelphia to forget and move on.

The real issue is what else lurks, not only in Philadelphia but worldwide, now that bishops will be held accountable? If Pope Francis and the commission he has appointed do their jobs, a third wave of scandals could be coming to the church that has the potential to eclipse the previous ones. If bishops are going to be held accountable for moving sexual predators and rapists, then it’s quite likely that there will be more than a few bishops in the same predicament as Bishop Finn in Kansas City.

For example, in Minneapolis, where prosecutors have brought criminal charges against the archdiocese for failure to protect children, three Bishops are involved, including Archbishop John Nienstedt, who has resigned amidst the allegations, along with Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piché.

On the flight back to Rome, Pope Francis was asked why he felt the need to offer consolation to the Bishops over the sexual abuse scandal in America. Clarifying his comments, he said that his words of comfort were not meant to downplay the situation but that “It was so bad I imagine you cried hard.” He also reiterated “those who covered this up are guilty. Even bishops who covered this up are guilty.”

God might be crying, but given Archbishop Chaput’s tone, the bishops haven’t cried enough.

To add a bit of irony, the next World Meeting of Families will be held in Dublin, Ireland. If Pope Benedict XVI wanted to save Philadelphia, Pope Francis heading for Dublin to talk about family after the sexual abuse scandals they’ve suffered will surely be an exercise in raising a Catholic country from the dead.

While the biannual World Meeting of Families is intended to sustain and promote the Church’s ideal of the family, until the Church can fully understand that its failure to reckon with its sexual abuse scandal has destroyed families, how can it hope to speak theologically or pastorally to the pressing issues of the family?

Going back to repair and repent seems to be a logical part of the process of going forward. Attitudes like Archbishop Chaput’s are the reason why the church continues to struggle with that necessary process. The weight of the abused bodies of children, the suicides, the drug addictions, and the terror of those who have been silenced, still speak. It will be a very long time before the past is the past.

  • skiadvocat

    It becomes more difficult with each passing day
    here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to remain civil and respectful
    in one’s comments regarding the local RCC leadership, their statements,
    conduct and decision-making, past and present, relative to the abuse,
    destruction and devastation visited on child and young adult clergy
    abuse victims. Deliberate and deceitful obfuscation and
    hypocrisy……..Chaput asks “what more do they want us to do?”

    He’s a learned, mature and educated man and he most assuredly “knows”
    what must be done to protect our children now and in the future. He
    also “knows” what must be done in Harrisburg to give past victims a
    voice, legal access and redress (ALL CHILD VICTIMS here in the
    Commonwealth of PA, regardless of the venue of the alleged
    abuse…..public or private, religious or secular, in the home or in the
    community). It doesn’t work, it doesn’t sell, and it is unconvincing when a
    man such as Charles Chaput feigns ignorance on what steps needed to be
    taken to address the protection of ALL of our children.

    He has NO RIGHT to stand in the way of the protection of other
    children in the Commonwealth of PA even if he wishes to defend his
    institution, leadership and its finances from legitimate legal action
    from victims and families that have suffered so terribly. Get out of
    Harrisburg, get out of Marsico’s office and LET THE PEOPLE have an
    opportunity to hear what the legislative proposals are about and what
    they can do for our children. How dare you, your leadership or anyone
    else, elected in Harrisburg or elsewhere, subvert and/or hijack our
    system of representative democracy.

    The last several clergy abuse matters under YOUR watch, Archbishop
    Chaput, are clearly demonstrative of your style of leadership relative
    to the dangers to children in archdiocesan facilities throughout the
    region. Very little information re the allegations, risks in place in
    parishes for extended periods before notification of parents and
    families, and little if any information (facts, details, outcomes)
    regarding the disposition of the cases. What more can be done? Such a
    statement cannot be from ignorance, that we know. I believe it is from
    arrogance and a smugness that says “how dare the parishioners here in
    Philadelphia question my conduct, decision-making and actions in these
    issues?”

    It is always appropriate to end a presentation on a positive note and
    theme. I want to “thank you” Archbishop Chaput for allowing many, many
    people in the region and beyond, both Catholic and non-Catholic, to
    come to know and love the special, unique, faithful, prayerful and
    compassionate nature of two very remarkable catholic women in this area.
    You know who they are; if not, then it is your loss that you do not
    know the depth, sincerity and beauty of their commitment to the Catholic
    faith. Yes, Archbishop, I am referring to Margie Winters and Andrea
    Vettori. I have read several of the statements and letters offered in
    the media by these two genuine Catholic women since the Waldron Mercy
    issue in the summertime. I just can’t remember reading any finer
    expressions of one’s Catholic faith, commitment, sensitivity, caring and
    compassion for those in our community, especially the children. Ms.
    Vettori’s letter to Pope Francis should be read by every parishioner in
    the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, exemplifying how her faith and love of
    Our Lord literally fills her life and the work she does.

    Archbishop Chaput, unless you have not noticed yet, you are no longer
    in Denver. Citizens in the Delaware Valley, Catholic and non-Catholic,
    will never rest until all of our children are protected in the best way
    possible from the risks and dangers of sexual predation as well as the
    highest level of legal access and redress for those who should be
    victimized by such evil and criminal acts. Quite simply, either join us
    in these efforts or please, or just get out of the way and stop using
    PARISHIONERS’ contributions and donations to fight against the
    protection of ALL the children of the Commonwealth of PA.

    Michael Skiendzielewski
    Captain (retired)
    Philadelphia Police Dept.

  • Whiskyjack

    The Catholic Church teaches (or at least used to – who knows these days) that the just punishment for disagreeing with their doctrines is torture for eternity. However, when it comes to the abject moral failure of their priests and bishops, we should get over it already and let bygones be bygones.

  • AileenUSA

    +Chaput is a company man, and that is how he has climbed the RCC corporate career ladder under two previous popes who valued that priority. That is his primary and fully indoctrinated allegiance every time he opens his mouth. I’m not surprised that he is tone deaf about the suffering of others, and that their cries are a nuisance to him, sad to say.

  • khughes1963

    Chaput is there as a fixer and keeper of church assets, not as a spiritual leader. He is disappointingly typical of the bishops appointed John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Philly was his reward for playing the role of Vatican hit man in removing Australian bishop William Morris. The bishops are oblivious to the fact that it is their two faced behavior, lack of compassion for victims, and misconduct that drives people from the church, not poor catechesis as they claim.

  • apotropoxy

    F1: “God weeps.”
    _________________-

    Omniscient and omnipotent entities are free to do what they wish, including change conditions in their creations which might cause them displeasure. If a deity of this sort wished to weep then it must be pleasing to it.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    So when Archbishop Chaput callously says that we should all “get over” wanting to go back and blame, read that statement in the context of current lobbying by the Catholic Church not to extend the statute of limitations. The Archbishop isn’t new to this fight, having contested statute of limitations laws as Bishop of Denver. He knows exactly what he’s saying.

  • JimColby

    Return Cardinal Law to American soil to face the child abuses that he caused.

  • m d fisher

    it is ridiculous for a Christian cleric to protest going back in the past to blame the perpetrators of child abuse. The religion is centered around distressing events that happened almost two thousand years ago.

  • ObscurelyAgnostic

    Thank you for being the moral voice of local law enforcement on the critical matter of our children’s safety and welfare … we forget sometimes that the police are not neutral observers or enforcers in the battle against evil — especially in the corrupted halls of power in of the RCC …