Whatever You Do
to the Least of These,
You Do to Me
An Information Resource for Those Advocating
Statutes of Limitations Reform and Windows Legislation to Provide Justice for Survivors of Sexual Abuse and
to Protect Children from Sexual Abuse
To support survivors of sexual abuse by clergy, Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) members have been participating in coalitions working to reform State criminal and civil statutes of limitations (
For the most part, the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) has played a significant role in the coalitions. The objectives of these coalitions are to strengthen the protection of all children from sexual abuse, to afford justice for survivors of child sexual abuse, and to hold accountable any abuser and any individual or institution that aids or abets child sexual abuse.
The purpose of this white paper is to provide an information resource to those who support these legislative reform efforts. It also serves as a summary of, and a status report on what some dedicated members of VOTF have been doing to implement VOTF’s Goal One: To support survivors of clergy sexual abuse.
The authors designed this white paper in a modular fashion so that readers can benefit from parts of the paper without reading it all. We have placed detailed information in appendices. But don’t be fooled; the appendices are not mere afterthoughts. On the contrary, the paper’s most valuable information may well appear in the appendices.
The authors wish to acknowledge the heroic struggles that survivors of sexual abuse by priests experience in dealing with the life-long effects of the criminal acts they experienced as children. We also wish to thank those within SNAP, VOTF, and other advocate organizations for their tireless work on behalf of survivors and on behalf of children in the future who are less likely to face the scourge of abuse because of their efforts.
Tom Byrne, VOTF
David Clohessy, SNAP National Director
Carolyn Disco, VOTF NH, Chairperson of the NH Survivor Support Working Group
Frank Douglas, VOTF National Council, Region 13 (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY)
Tom Doyle, Victim-Survivor Advocate, Canon Lawyer, Expert in the Canonical and Pastoral Dimensions of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Marci Hamilton, Victim-Survivor Advocate, Professor and Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University
Section 1 provides background information. It identifies key conclusions of the John Jay Report, points out that sex abuse of children by Catholic clergy is neither a new problem nor an exclusively American problem, and stresses the importance of the media and the justice system in ferreting out the truth hidden by an institutional culture of secrecy.
Section 2 cites three grand jury reports and two states’ attorneys general reports about criminal activity within the Church.
The American Medical Association has called the sexual abuse of children ''a silent, violent epidemic." Section 3 focuses on the survivors of childhood sexual abuse. It discusses the nature of the crimes and their after effects, summarizes the work of survivor support groups, and presents a selection of professional opinion by psychologists.
Section 4, Hierarchy, analyzes Pope John Paul II’s statement on sexual abuse of children by clergy and discusses the Dallas Charter. It also addresses recent magazine articles by
Section 5 provides an analysis of the laity’s response to the sex abuse crisis. Factors cited in this response are the nature of the crimes committed, the Church’s culture of passivity, a bias against action among Catholics, and the time required for Church reform work.
Section 6, Statutes of Limitations Reform and Windows Legislation, stresses the importance of the legal concept of delayed discovery of injury and in the arguments for windows legislation. The section goes on to discuss the hierarchy’s campaign against
Section 7, Examples of Recent Experiences in the States, identifies the tough, long-term work of advocating for
Section 8 provides an analysis of the hierarchy’s fears of
Section 9 provides a summary of how VOTF supports survivors,
As indicated in the forward, this white paper’s most valuable information may well appear in the appendices.
Appendix A highlights the major conclusion of the scathing Philadelphia Grand Jury Report: retired Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua and the late Cardinal John Krol orchestrated a systematic cover-up that managed, for four decades, to successfully shield from prosecution 63 priests who had sexually abused hundreds of children.
Appendix B presents major excerpts from survivor Daniel Frondorf’s stirring testimony to
Appendix C presents Bishop Tom Gumbleton’s history-making testimony to Ohio legislators where he not only disclosed his own sexual abuse as a teenager by a priest but also stated, “When every bishop in every diocese cooperates in bringing about a genuinely just resolution of every charge of sexual abuse, I believe we will once more be perceived as credible moral teachers. Thus what is good for the victims will likewise be good for the Church.”
Appendix D provides Carolyn Disco’s excellent point-by-point response to an
Appendix E presents a recent draft of the proposed federal Violence Against Children Act of 2006.
Appendix F presents Jeb Barrett’s summary of the
Appendix G presents Chuck Miller’s summary of the
Appendix H presents a summary of the
Finally, Appendix I presents a policy statement passed in May 2006 by the VOTF National Representative Council. The statement’s sponsors were Judy Miller (MD), Chuck Miller (MD), Bob Schwiderski (MN), Tom Byrne (OH), and Frank Douglas (AZ).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 Background …………………………………………….………………..……..……
2 Grand Jury and Attorneys General Reports ………………………….….……..……
3 Survivors ………………………………………………….….……...……….…...…
4 Hierarchy …………………………………….………..….….……......…….....……
5 Laity ………………….………………………...……….………………….…..……
6 Statutes of Limitations Reform and Windows Legislation …….…….……....….…..
6.1 Statutes of Limitation …………………………………….…………..………
6.2 Windows Legislation ……………………….….……….………….….…...…
6.3 The Hierarchy Fights
6.4 What Survivors Want ………………………………..………....….……....…
6.5 The Proposed Violence Against Children Act of 2006 …..….….………..…..
7 Examples of Recent Experiences in the States …….……….….…….…………...…
8 The Hierarchy’s Fears …………………………………….………….……….……..
9 How VOTF Supports Survivors,
A. Appendix A—The
B. Appendix B—Daniel Frondorf’s Testimony in
C. Appendix C—Bishop Tom Gumbleton’s Testimony in
D. Appendix D—Carolyn Disco’s Response to “Changing the Rules” in
F. Appendix F—Summary of the
G. Appendix G—Summary of the
H. Appendix H—Summary of the
In early 2002, at the height of the
VOTF’s founders well understood that the proper lens for viewing the sex abuse crisis is the long-term suffering and after effects of the abuse survivors and their need for support and healing. They correctly discerned the mind of Jesus expressed in Matthew 25:40, “The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”
“It’s History.” The clergy sex abuse crisis is over. That was the message delivered by Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., then-President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at the
''I assure you that known offenders are not in ministry,'' Bishop Gregory said. And, with practiced deliberation and emphasis, he added, ''The terrible history recorded here today is history.'' Thus the bishops’ media spokesman tried to bury the issue of Catholic priests’ sexual abuse of children once and for all. But we all have learned that the issue cannot be buried with a bishop’s sound bite.
No, the scandal is not history; it’s not over. Unfortunately, like a festering, seemingly incurable disease, it lives on in the battles in state legislatures across the country over reform of statutes of limitation (
The Start of the Scandal. For many people,
But 2002 did not mark the start of the scandal.
In 1985, Fr. Michael Peterson, then director of St. Luke Institute in
But 1985, like 2002, was not the start of the sexual abuse problems in the Church.
A recently published book clearly demonstrates that clerical sexual abuse is a deep-seated problem that spans the Church’s history. Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church’s 2,000 Year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse, by three distinguished authors—Thomas P. Doyle; A.W.R. Sipe, a psychotherapist and former Benedictine monk; and Patrick J. Wall a legal consultant on hundreds of clerical sexual abuse cases and also a former Benedictine monk and priest—presents a collection of documents from official and unofficial sources as early as 60 CE and concludes with the contemporary scandal. It reveals an institution that has been plagued by this devastating problem from its earliest years.
A Problem of the
Among the facts revealed were:
- The "inexplicable" failure of Bishop Donal Herlihy to exclude clearly unsuitable candidates from the priesthood
- Bishop Herlihy’s failure to report incidents of proven sexual abuse to the legal authorities and his failure to acknowledge that abusers needed to be kept from children
- The failure of his successor, Brendan Comiskey, to report incidents of abuse and remove abusers from positions where they worked with children
The reports allege that some Catholic clergy exploited their financial and spiritual authority to gain sexual favors from religious women, many of whom, in developing countries, are culturally conditioned to be subservient to men. The reports say priests at times demand sex in exchange for favors, such as permission or certification to work in a given diocese.
The reports indicate that in
The conspiracy of silence could not hold indefinitely. Following an expose publicized in the
The courts ordered the order's assets sold in order to compensate their victims. In December 2000, the Saskatoon, SK, Star Phoenix newspaper reported that senior leaders of the Christian brothers in Rome transferred ownership of some of the teaching order's assets out of Canada in order to prevent millions of dollars from being liquidated and used to pay compensation to the victims.
Importance of the Media and the Justice System. It’s difficult to overemphasize the importance of the media in exposing the continuing scandal. Make no mistake: without the
If the Boston Globe had not told the story of the Church’s horrific failures in
Like the media, the justice system has played a central role in the still unfolding drama of clerical sex abuse and cover-up. In June 2001, Cardinal Bernard F. Law, in a routine court filing made an extraordinary admission that was the tipping point in the Globe’s investigation and consequently in the crisis. The cardinal 17 years earlier had appointed the Rev. John J. Geoghan to an affluent suburban parish, despite having been notified just two months previously that Geoghan was alleged to have molested seven boys. A story about a priest violating children turned into a story about a bishop who protected that priest. From that time forward, the courts, both civil and criminal, have been the focal point in the battle for justice by victims of sexual abuse and their supporters.
A grand jury investigating the
The grand jury’s 418-page report, issued
The report eschewed euphemisms such as “inappropriate touching” favored by Church officials. “We mean rape,” the grand jury report said. “Boys who were raped orally, boys who were raped anally, girls who were raped vaginally.”
Secret Church records, turned over to the
Appendix A provides more details on the Philadelphia Grand Jury Report.
Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly’s Report (July 2003)
- “250 priests and Church workers stand accused of acts of rape or sexual assault.” (p. i)
- “For more than fifty years there has been an institutional acceptance within the Archdiocese of clergy sexual abuse of children.” (p. 16)
- “There is overwhelming evidence that for many years Cardinal Law and his senior managers had direct, actual knowledge that substantial numbers of children in the Archdiocese had been sexually abused by substantial numbers of its priests.” (p. 25)
- “Senior Archdiocese managers remained committed to their primary objectives – safeguarding the well-being of priests and the institution over the welfare of children and preventing scandal.” (p. 54)
- “This was an orchestrated effort to protect abusing clergy members from investigation, arrest, and prosecution by civil authorities.” (p. 7)
- “Within a year, most offenders were transferred back into a local congregation, where they were again given full ministerial duties, including working with children.” (p. 8)
- “There was a concerted effort on the part of the religious institution to mislead the community: defending the abuser while simultaneously attempting to humiliate victims and their families.” (p. 9)
- “After a certain period of time, typically 12 to 18 months, the religious institution routinely discontinued payment for counseling, further demonstrating that the counseling was viewed by the religious institution solely as a means to keep claims of abuse and misconduct against clergy members from public view and the attention of law enforcement authorities.” (p. 11)
- “Priests assigned to and working in the Diocese of Rockville Centre committed criminal acts…. These criminal acts included, but were not limited to, Rape, Sodomy, Sexual Abuse, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, and Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance. Not one priest in the Diocese who knew about these criminal acts reported them to any law enforcement agency.” (p. 172)
- “As an institution they are incapable of properly handling issues relating to the sexual abuse of children by priests.” (p. 173)
- “They conceived and agreed to a plan using deception and intimidation to prevent victims from seeking legal solutions to their problems.” (p. 173)
- “The conduct of certain Diocesan officials would have warranted criminal prosecution but for the fact that the existing statutes are inadequate.” (p. 174)
New Hampshire Attorney General Peter Heed’s Report (March 2003)
- “The Attorney General’s Office was prepared to present indictments … charging the Diocese of Manchester with multiple counts of endangering the welfare of a minor.” (p. 1)
- “The diocese knowingly endangered children.” (p. 6)
The welfare of survivors of clergy sexual abuse is a major focus of VOTF. The victims and their plight provide the best possible portal for setting priorities for structural change in the Church. Unless we change the conditions, including the Church structure and culture that enabled the scandal, we will have failed. Recognizing what happened to the survivors; understanding the short- and long-term effects of what happened to them; and being aware of how they can cope and heal, partially if not completely—these concerns should be the center of our attention.
The Nature of the Crimes and Their After Effects. The American Medical Association has called the sexual abuse of children ''a silent, violent epidemic." Even as Church officials have minimized what happened to victims of predator priests through the use of such euphemisms as “inappropriate touching,” the
Childhood sexual abuse can be devastating and life-changing. When a priest, a trusted servant of God, whom the victim very often looks up to as God’s representative on earth, perpetrates that abuse, the effects have life-long biological, psychological, and spiritual effects. The abuse, in effect, murders the victim’s soul.
As survivors tell us, the pain and betrayal experienced during abuse are intense. As a consequence of the abuse, many survivors have developed debilitating addictions or health problems. Victims had no knowledge of how to cope with the experience of being abused or the resulting feelings that came as a result of the abuse. Yet most but not all victims found a way to survive. Many of their coping or defense mechanisms used to survive the abuse are unhealthy. They include alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction, over-eating, under-eating, other eating disorders, co-dependency, promiscuity, detachment from intimacy, sleep disorders, religious fanaticism, stomach or intestinal problems, and a persistent rage.
Those who know someone who has been violated understand the emotional, physical, and financial toll childhood sexual abuse exacts.
The journey that leads to healing is long, often measured in decades, not in years. It can take one through the depths of addiction, depression, and other physical and mental hardships. Many survivors can find their way to hope and healing with the support of families, friends, and professionals. But their lives are permanently damaged. Given the demands their arduous, personal journeys, it is no wonder that victims often take half a lifetime or more before they can consider seeking justice in a court of law.
And, not everyone makes it. Some take their own lives as a last resort. Janet Patterson, a member of the SNAP Board of Directors and the mother of a clergy-abuse suicide victim, Eric Patterson, has compiled a list of clergy-abuse suicide victims with over 170 names to date.
Listening to What Survivors Say. Every Catholic in
Books by survivors are an additional resource for increasing understanding of the effects of abuse. Examples include Don’t Call Me a Victim by Gary Bergeron and Raped in the House of God by Jim Parker.
Survivors Testify in
Appendix B provides excerpts from Daniel Frondorf’s
Speaking to members of the same Ohio House Judiciary Committee, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of
Appendix C provides excerpts from Bishop Gumbleton’s important and moving testimony.
Survivor Support Groups. Survivor support groups provide invaluable help and support to survivors of sexual abuse.
The Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is a self-help group that supports people who have been victimized by clergy, and helps them try to pick up the pieces of their lives, heal, and move forward. SNAP leaders make themselves available to and cooperate with the news media to help themselves recover and prevent future abuse. SNAP provides leadership in the work for statues of limitation and window reform in state legislatures. A visit to SNAP’s information-filled website is highly recommended. SNAP’s website is http://www.snapnetwork.org/ .
The Healing Alliance is the successor organization to The Linkup, which provided mutual support to victims of clergy abuse. Linking the resources of recovery organizations and those committed to healing, The Healing Alliance is located in the countryside outside
Survivors First, started in
What the Psychologists Say. To understand the long-term, debilitating effects of childhood sexual abuse on the survivors, it is instructive listen to what expert psychologists have to say.
Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea, Ph.D. A strong advocate for survivors of clergy sexual abuse, Dr. O’Dea presented a reflection, "The Experience of the Victim of Sexual Abuse," at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in
…There are those who devalue survivors of childhood and, especially adolescent sexual abuse for not disclosing their victimizations when they were occurring. Secrecy, however, is the acknowledged cornerstone of sexual abuse. Some perpetrators overtly extract secrecy by suggesting that the victim will be blamed for the abuse, then taken from her home and placed in an orphanage.
…minors maintain silence because they accurately perceive that there is no one in their environment who will help them if they disclose.
…the resulting fracture of the victim's mind and experience often leads to a debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder that affects every domain of the victim's functioning and lasts for years and years after the abuse has stopped.
When a young person is being abused, the psychological shock is so great that the normal self cannot absorb or make sense of what is happening to it. In a valiant attempt to cope with the overwhelming overstimulation and sense of betrayal literally embodied in sexual trauma, the self splits using the psychic mechanism of dissociation. Much as the Vietnam Vet who hits the floor during a thunderstorm is, in a very real way, back in the Mekong Delta seconds before his buddy's scull is blown off, so too the sexual abuse survivor may be triggered into a regression by something or someone reminiscent of his earlier traumas. No longer firmly located in the present, the survivor thinks, feels, experiences his body, and behaves as the victim he once was, badly confusing himself and those around him. For victims of priest abuse, a Roman collar, the scent of incense, light streaming through stained glass at a certain time of day, organ music, or most certainly, interacting with priests and bishops about their abuse may well evoke the appearance of usually dissociated self states.
James Jenkins, PhD. A clinical psychologist in private practice, a resident of the San Francisco Bay area, and a Region 11 (CA, HI, NV) Representative to VOTF’s National Representative Council, Dr. James Jenkins testified in Columbus, Ohio, in support of a proposed
Much is made of the fact that many of these allegations of clergy sexual abuse are publicly made and become generally known only years, even decades later. This is a direct clinical artifact of the syndrome called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Especially for children, whose emotional architecture is devastated and laid ruin when they are sexually assaulted by trusted, socially esteemed and privileged adults, such as priests. The protective veneer of their parents and families did not shield them from sexual exploitation in the service of powerful clerical figures. It takes literally years, if not decades to overcome these assaults. Many survivors, left to their own devices because they dare not share their assault, lapse into a multitude of compensatory psychological conditions and states. Dissociate behavior is not uncommon. Some live lives of emotional upset, addiction, severe neurosis, and even psychosis. Personality disorders, the most chronic and unremitting of psychological conditions, are frequent markers for survivors. It is surprising that even a few are able to recover their psychological equilibrium and regain their personal integrity.
Louise A. Douce, PhD. Also testifying in
…there are a myriad of issues that prohibit a child from first identifying and then speaking of the details of a violation that occurs when they are very young. It takes time to remember, time to understand, and time to determine what needs to happen next…
Senate Bill 17 speaks to some of the inherent inequities of childhood abuse scenarios by simply providing the time needed to bring action. It does not convict innocent people or levy financial penalties against individuals, organizations, or churches. Rather it allows that actions can be brought both criminally and civilly. The results of those actions are still up to our courts. The standards of proof are not changed. These types of cases are very difficult to prove. There is little to no physical evidence, medical and dental records may not have full information if the providers did not recognize the need for specific detail, and witnesses who can establish what happened many years before are hard to locate. However, providing options for survivors of childhood abuse helps them to heal and seek justice for what they have experienced.
The official Church’s shameful response to sexual abuse of children by priests is well known thanks to the media and the legal system. The major print media, the National Catholic Reporter, and bishop-accoutability.org have recorded in detail the reports of grand juries and attorneys general indicting bishops’ criminal behavior. Only statutes of limitation have shielded perpetrators and their enablers from criminal prosecution; unjust statutes of limitations also prevent survivors from seeking compensation in civil court for their mental and physical injuries.
The hierarchy has used and continues to use secrecy, denial, minimization, damage control, containment, and cover-up to hide its indefensible role in this sordid morality play.
The institutional Church’s priority has always been protecting the Church’s reputation, the clerical brotherhood, and its patrimony (read: money) rather than responding to the survivors with compassion and remorse as basic Christian teaching demands. You don’t need a doctorate in theology to know that survivors should come first; the parable of the Good Samaritan tells you where your priorities should be. And you don’t have to be an expert on the
Pope John Paul II’s Statement. On
We are personally and profoundly afflicted by the sins of some of our brothers who have betrayed the grace of ordination in succumbing even to the most grievous forms of the "mysterium iniquitatis" at work in the world...[A] dark shadow of suspicion is cast over all the other fine priests who perform their ministry with honesty and integrity...[T]he Church shows her concern for the victims and strives to respond in truth and justice to each of these painful situations.
The timing of the statement, the order of the ideas presented, and the carefully chosen words provide convincing evidence of the hierarchy’s inappropriate, incompetent, and incoherent response to the most serious Church crisis in centuries. The pope focuses on his brother priests, not the survivors who were abused as children. The pope mentions he is afflicted by priests’ sins, (not crimes) before he mentions survivors’ suffering. The evil is a mystery, not a crime, not a consequence of a dysfunctional clerical culture. He reaches out first to his brother priests of honesty and integrity before extending a hand of compassion to the survivors.
As Jason Berry writes in Vows of Silence,
"Mystery of evil" telegraphed John Paul's abstract view of a crisis that since 1985 had gotten little of his attention. At eighty-two, hobbled with Parkinson's disease, a slumped back, tilted neck and sunken lower lip, his very person seemed a sign of the systemic ills. He had censored any discussion of celibacy as a factor in the crisis. Since mid-century 100,000 men worldwide had left the priesthood — more than the number who had entered. A stream of studies on psychological problems in clerical life had appeared since a psychiatrist gave a paper at a 1971
Caring for Priest Abusers. The Catholic Church has spent millions of dollars to quietly treat accused sex offenders at the St. Luke Institute in
Within the more than 10,000 pages from the confidential personnel files of 15 accused priests and teachers, documentation showed the transfer of predator priests from parish to parish and diocese to diocese, as well as efforts to protect them from prosecution while failing to warn parishioners of the danger.
It is significant that the Church hierarchy has set up centers for treatment of pedophile priests, but no counterpart to treat victims of these priests. The focus has always been on shielding and protecting members of the clerical brotherhood. Survivors, the least among us, had and still have no Church-sponsored treatment centers.
The bishops also committed themselves to alerting civil authorities to all accusations of sexual abuse of a minor by members of the clergy. Despite strong objections from some bishops, they initially adopted a broad definition of abuse to include even situations that did not involve force or direct physical contact, but were still coercive. (Later they changed the definition to precise reference in church canon law: “In accord with the Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela (SST), article 4 §1, sexual abuse, for purposes of this Charter, shall include any offense by a cleric against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue with a minor as understood in the Code of Canon Law, c. 1395 §2…” See http://www.nccbuscc.org/ocyp/charter.shtml )
In addition to the policy changes, Bishop Gregory announced formation of the National Review Board (NRB), an outside review panel, led by Gov. Frank Keating, former governor of
Recent Magazine Articles. Recent magazine articles by
The highest profile article was Mr. Nussbaum’s piece, Changing the Rules, which appeared in the
VOTF member Carolyn Disco, Survivor Support Chairman, New Hampshire Voice of the Faithful, provided a forceful rebuttal of Mr. Nussbaum’s article. That rebuttal appears in Appendix D.
Father Tom Doyle’s Assessment of the Hierarchy’s Response. In his role as expert witness and survivors’ advocate, Father Tom Doyle (“call me Tom”) has extensively studied Church files of secret documentation of accused priests spanning the last half century. These files contain letters and memos between bishops and others relative to accusations of abuse. The files document contact with the accused, insurance companies, diocesan lawyers, treatment facilities for the priests (in some but not all cases), and the victims to verify if they have gone public and intend to sue.
Tom points out that, in his review over a period of 20 years, he has never seen any documentary evidence that the bishops ever:
- Contacted victims and their families immediately upon notice
- Extended any form of pastoral care to victims or their families
- Followed up with victims on their situation
- Were even cognizant of the spiritual damage done to victims
Tom, who has had more exposure to clergy sex abuse cases than probably any other person on earth, has never seen:
· Any documented evidence of any concern by any prelate from the pope to local bishops about the pastoral or spiritual welfare of victims
· Any evidence that any prelate from the pope to bishops recommended training for clergy or anyone in extending pastoral and spiritual care to victims
· Any documentary evidence that any prelate, on his own initiative, sought out a victim to inquire as to their emotional and spiritual state
Tom has seen:
· Extensive documentation showing that bishops were very concerned that victims not go public, speak to police or the media, or speak to lawyers
· Extensive documentation showing that bishops proposed contact with victims for the express purpose of making sure they remained silent
Tom Doyle believes that it is essential to consider this track record as we contemplate any communication with bishops, any response to their vicious defamation campaign, any claims that they have performed heroically in this crisis, any claim that they have sympathy and concern for victims, and delusional thinking on our part that they have ever or will ever comprehend the vast damage that has been done.
A Windfall for Bishops’ Attorneys. The cost of legal services to defend the Church’s financial interests runs into the millions of dollars (e.g., just in the bankruptcy proceedings of the relatively small diocese of Tucson, the diocese paid approximately $2.5 million in legal, accounting, and other costs related to the Chapter 11 process from September 2004 though December 2005; see http://www.diocesetucson.org/DoT2K5Finances.html ). Just how many millions is anybody’s guess. The institutional Church’s culture of secrecy extends to finances as well as sexual abuse by its priests.
Cardinal Mahony. One of the really big spenders for legal services is Cardinal Roger Mahony of
“It’s anomalous that any member of the hierarchy would choose to meet with the bishops’ own board only if their own attorneys are present,” said Nicholas Cafardi, the canonist and law school dean at
Bankruptcy. Facing dozens of civil lawsuits, and the prospect of having to disclose how much they knew about and how little they did about abusive clergy, Church officials in Tucson, Ariz.,
But filing for bankruptcy protection requires hefty attorney fees. In the first four months of the Diocese of Tucson Chapter 11 legal process, the diocese amassed bills of nearly $800,000 for attorney and other business fees.
Jeffrey R. Anderson, a survivors’ attorney, estimated
Major factors affecting the laity’s response to the sex abuse crisis include the nature of the crimes committed, the Church’s culture of passivity, a bias against action, and the time required for Church reform work.
Rape of Children by Priests. It’s difficult for most people to come to grips with or even picture a priest slamming a 12-year-old boy face down on the floor of a Church sacristy and ramming his erect penis up the boy’s anus. But that’s the kind of crime we’re dealing with. That 12-year-old boy, those closest to him, and the entire Body of Christ must deal with that rape and its aftermath for decades.
One observer rhetorically asks: Educated in a sexual ethic that attempts to drive from consciousness all thoughts of sex outside of marriage, is it any wonder that many Catholics are not psychosexually mature enough to deal with homosexual activity, oral sex, sex by priests, sex between adults and children, and rape of children by priests? This observer goes on to remark that it’s understandable why there are so few supporters at SNAP meetings.
"Why don't they just get over it?" is the reaction of many Catholics, clerical and lay, when the topic of the victims of sexual abuse by clergy comes up. They can't just get over it because "it" changes the survivor biologically, psychologically, interpersonally, and spiritually. “It,” it’s been said, murders your soul. “It” violates the entire Body of Christ. (See the foreword by psychotherapist Robert Kafes in Raped in the House of God: The Murder of My Soul, by Jim Parker, iUniverse, Inc. 2004)
The Culture of Passivity. As we’ve been often told by the clerics who run it, the Church is a hierarchy. Clearly it is not a democracy. It is an authoritarian, monarchical structure managed by men—no women, thank you—who have taken the vow of celibacy. The pope is an absolute monarch who claims to speak infallibly in matters of faith and morals. In 1906, Pope Pius X issued an encyclical, Vehementer Nos, which described the political structure of the Catholic Church:
This Church is in essence an unequal society, that is to say a society
comprising two categories of persons, the shepherd and the flock....these
categories are so distinct that the right and authority necessary for
promoting and guiding all the members toward the goal of society reside
only in the pastoral body; as to the multitude, its sole duty is that of
allowing itself to be led and of following its pastors as a docile flock
Notwithstanding the documents of Vatican II, this description of a medieval, feudal Church accurately describes the docility, passivity, and deference many lay people show even today to priests, bishops, and the pope. That same docility, passivity, and deference, where loyalty and obedience often trumps compassion and justice, is paid by priests to bishops and by bishops to the pope.
Eugene Kennedy’s article in the
Like a coin, there are two sides to an authoritarian culture like the Church’s. One side is authority; the other side is passivity. Absolute authority—in a Church, in a government—can only be exercised when it is supported by a culture of absolute passivity or submission. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Church reform requires the laity’s self-transformation and emergence from this state of passivity.
Bias Against Action. The culture of passivity results in many Catholics having a bias against action when it comes to reforming their Church. Rather than working hard in a long thankless fight against the dark side of the hierarchy, many Catholics would rather rely exclusively on prayer and kick Church problems upstairs to the Holy Spirit for eventual divine intervention.
The Time Factor. Working to reform
“The Church cannot and should not hide behind its lawyers or the law blindly and in all circumstances.”
-- The “Bennett Report” on the “Crisis in the Catholic Church in the
A statute of limitation is a law that defines an arbitrary, maximum time period, beginning with the date of an alleged crime, during which legal proceedings based on the alleged crime may be initiated and beyond which legal proceedings may not be initiated. The intent of statutes of limitations is to prohibit civil or criminal trials for acts that happened so long ago that evidence and witnesses' memories cannot be considered reliable. There are two types of statutes of limitations, criminal and civil, corresponding to the type of litigation that can be brought.
Because many states give victims only until their early 20s to take legal action and because it sometimes takes decades for victims to become aware of the consequences of the abuse they suffered, many criminal statutes of limitations have the effect of impeding the placement of child sex offenders behind bars.
The key to understanding
Delayed Discovery of Injury. Therapists and survivors stress how important delayed discovery of injury is. Many survivors are able to connect their present-day suffering with their past abuse and come forward only in their 30s, 40s and 50s. "When we're abused as children... we don't even believe it's abuse. We think it's all our fault," says SNAP founder and president Barbara Blaine. She says, "By the time we begin to understand that we're suffering from the implications of the abuse, we're well into adulthood. By then, the statute of limitations has run out and the perpetrator has moved on and goes on to hurt others. We're not able to bring any charges against him, and he gets away with the crime. It’s very important to understand that the result of archaic and dangerously restrictive statutes is not only that survivors don't receive justice, that enablers don't get exposed, and that festering wounds keep festering, but it is also that more innocent kids get hurt.”
A study by victim-survivor attorney Carmen Durso, cited in an op-ed piece in the
The Argument for Windows Legislation. SNAP has been the Number One advocate for
Thanks to the tireless efforts of hundreds of caring Catholics and dedicated survivors, lawmakers in several states are considering civil windows (like California's) to expose the predators, protect the vulnerable, and heal the wounded.
And because of Bishop Thomas Gumbleton's recent disclosure [in January 2006 during
Years and years of our own research, experience, and advocacy (along with history, psychology, and common sense) convince us that a civil window is the single most effective step toward preventing future abuse. Here's how:
1. Exposing predators. The window enables victims to publicly expose the predators who hurt them, through the open, impartial, time-tested American judicial system. It means that parents, neighbors, and employers will know about potentially dangerous men.
2. Exposing enablers. Through the balanced judicial process—depositions, discovery, interrogatories, and sworn testimony—anyone who ignored a sex crime, shielded a molester, destroyed a document, or deceived a victim's family may also be exposed. Families deserve to know whether their pastor or day care center director or athletic association harbored a sex offender, stonewalled a prosecutor, or lied to a parent. Citizens deserve to know whether a diocese or a summer camp director knowingly hired child molesters.
3. Fear of litigation. Without the "window," a supervisor who's been lax about child safety has no incentive to change bad habits or work harder. With the "window," decision-makers will know that if they insensitively shun a victim or recklessly endanger a child, they may be exposed in court and face consequences for having done so.
4. Fear of financial consequences. Passage of the window will prod defense lawyers, public relations staff, and others to beef up child sex abuse prevention and education. Concerned employees will start asking their supervisors "Do we do background checks on everyone here?" and "Are we ready for a potential lawsuit?" Smart organizations will start or expand efforts to train adults about reporting abuse and teach kids about "safe touch," knowing that
· Victims are less inclined to sue an institution that seems to take abuse seriously
· Judges and juries are more lenient with institutions that are already addressing the problem which led to a lawsuit.
6.3 The Hierarchy Fights
“We who have been given the responsibility of shepherding God’s people, will … continue to work to restore the bonds of trust that unite us. Words alone cannot accomplish this goal. It will begin with the actions we take in our general assembly and at home in our dioceses and eparchies.”
Recently many hierarchs have been on the offensive fighting against proposed
Proposals to ease the statutes of limitations in
Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput fought with bare-knuckled ferocity when
The archbishop’s focus on abuse cases in public schools sparked a strong reply from a key legislator. "They've been molesting children, and now they say, everybody does it? It's morally repugnant," said Gwyn Green, a Democratic state representative and Catholic who has sponsored one of the reform bills.
The Hierarchy’s Position. The bishops say they oppose
Here’s the way Mark Chopko, the bishops’ general counsel, spins it, “But is the just thing basically to make the patrimony or the treasury of the Church vulnerable? We do want to assist victims, and encourage healing, and even do some kinds of financial assistance if that’s warranted. But the idea that ‘let’s all go to the mattresses here and fight about this in the law courts’ -- we think that’s unjust to everybody.”
Bishop Gumbleton. One voice cries out from the episcopal wilderness. Detroit Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton in January 2006 said statutes of limitations should be eased to allow victims time to come forward. Acknowledging that he had been abused by a priest as a teenager, Gumbleton said victims are often embarrassed and intimidated about coming forward. He petitioned the
The hierarchy placed the long-term viability of the Church in jeopardy more than 20 years ago when, facing early and critical choices in the scandals, many bishops made the regretful strategic decision to turn their backs on their instincts as pastors in order to protect the Church’s treasury, its reputation, and their brother priests at the expense of children and parents. That same flawed, anti-Catholic strategy continues to pillage and dismantle the moral fiber of the Church by the words and actions of the likes of Archbishop Chaput, and Cardinals McCarrick and Keeler.
What’s Needed. Genuine healing requires accountability, and in
Justice, peace, and healing require the bishops to abandon their failed strategy of acting like CEOs, to embrace gospel values, and to listen to the clerical equivalent of parental instincts.
At VOTF’s convocation in
Bishops’ attorneys and others claim that it is money that motivates survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file a claim in court. But, as Carolyn Disco points out in Appendix D, even bishops acknowledge that money is not the main reason. According to the 2004 National Review Board (NRB) report, one prelate admitted that victims told him they would not have sued if only bishops had said they were sorry. He blamed diocesan attorneys for bad advice, and said, “We made terrible mistakes” because of them. In addition, the NRB itself diplomatically but sharply chastised Church lawyers for their hardball tactics that only compounded the abuse.
According to therapists, advocates, and plaintiff attorneys, the primary motivation of most survivors is to publicize the name of their perpetrators so that they may never abuse again, and to have the truth known after decades of corrosive secrecy. Survivors want validation more than money, to know what bishops knew, when they knew it, and to hold them accountable for their inactions and cover-ups. There is safety in coming forward when the sheer volume of accusations means they will more likely be believed.
Additionally, it has become clear to Voice of the Faithful members as we have listened to survivors that in most cases their decisions to file suits come only after exhausting all other avenues of seeking bishops' acknowledgement of the depth of the problem. Money is clearly not the reason for the lawsuits. Listen to the voices of two survivors and a psychologist.
Joelle Casteix was one of 90 plaintiffs who settled with the Orange County, CA, diocese in 2004 for a total of $100 million. She said she had been sexually assaulted by a teacher when she was a student in a Catholic high school. But Casteix said more important than her $1.6 million settlement were the Church documents she got in the settlement, which she said show the diocese knew about the abuse and did nothing to stop it. "I didn't care about the financial part," Casteix said. With the documents in her possession, "the Church can't touch me now. The Church can't say that I'm crazy." Casteix said that without the feeling of validation that such documents bring, a cash settlement "turns into blood money. Who wants blood money? We want justice and accountability."
Barbara Blaine accepted a settlement from the Church in 1994 over her allegations of sexual abuse by a priest, but she said the money didn't bring her happiness.
Her alleged abuser did not apologize, and after attorney fees, she estimates the settlement didn't cover the cost of her therapy. She said Church officials typically try to negotiate settlements to keep allegations quiet. "It's somewhat insulting to victims to hold out this carrot 'Here, come and get some money.' It's never been about the money," she said. "What the victims want is full disclosure. They want the names of those predators and who sheltered those predators," Blaine said.
Here’s what Dr. James Jenkins, a clinical psychologist from
Most survivors I have met are not motivated by rapacious greed seeking to empty a Church’s coffers, nor are they consumed with blind revenge.
Professor Marci Hamilton of the Cardozo School of Law, firstname.lastname@example.org , has been a tireless national voice championing the legal rights of survivors. Professor Hamilton has provided significant pro bono legal support for survivors and has led the campaign for the national Violence Against Children Act of 2006. The act’s purpose is to better protect children from childhood sexual abuse, to better inform and warn the people of sexual predators who prey on children, and to better ensure that perpetrators and those who facilitate such abuse are deterred and punished.
Supporters of this initiative include SNAP President Barbara Blaine; John Harris, President of A Matter of Truth; and Pauline Salvucci of Voices of Outrage. Appendix E provides a draft of the proposed new federal law as of
The tough, long-term work of advocating for
The experience in
Appendix H documents how SNAP, VOTF members, and their partners in
Donald Cozzens in the introduction to his book Sacred Silence says that a U.S. Archbishop asked him rhetorically, “What are we afraid of?” Cozzens says the question is anything but rhetorical. He goes on to say there are deeper questions:
“Why are we afraid? Why is the institutional Church so defensive? Why is it so controlling? How is it that a Church that is the bearer of the Word and the champion of the oppressed can maintain unholy silences while denying that obvious pastoral and ecclesial problems, indeed crises, even exist?”
The list of the hierarchy’s fears is a long one. Issues that come immediately to mind: scandal, truth, blame, shame, reprimands from Rome, the laity’s perceived lack of capacity for forgiveness, the demands for women priests, criticism by reform groups (including VOTF), the consequences of acting responsibly, criminal prosecution, the glare of the media, exacerbating the vocation crisis, and, ultimately, the loss of credibility, trust, and authority.
All this fear leads to a bunker mentality: they—the media, courts, the liberal laity—are out to get us.
Is the loss of money or of Church financial and real assets the primary fear of the bishops? Dr. James Jenkins, a clinical psychologist from
Church authorities have made the argument that they are being unjustly persecuted and pursued by “gold-diggers.” If this were true, there is scant evidence of this, at least in the experience in
No, the primary fear is not loss of money or Church financial or real assets. The primary fear of the bishops is the disclosure of the scope of the abuse and their role in its cover up. The truth will make them and the rest of the Church free, but they are not willing to pay the steep price of confronting and communicating that truth. Evasion, deflection, and outright lying continue. For an interesting insight into the way bishops operate, see Thomas F. Roeser’s interview with Justine Anne Burke. Burke is the former interim chair of the bishops' National Review Board and recipient of VOTF's Catherine of Siena Award in 2005 at VOTF’s
The Legal Discovery Process. The timing of bankruptcies has always been at the 11th hour, just before trials were to begin, trials that would bring the disinfecting power of the sunlight of the American judicial system to a culture steeped in the darkness of secrecy. The primary fear that drives many bishops in their fight against
Discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party can request documents and other evidence or can compel the production of evidence by using a subpoena, a deposition, or other discovery devices. In practice, most civil cases in the
In his testimony to the
By having a court proceeding which decides the veracity of these allegations and attempts to remediate past wrongs has a value beyond anything that is merely intrinsic to the process itself. Especially the Catholic Church takes the long view of history. In their thinking, someday in the future all the survivors, all the perpetrators, all the advocates and adversaries will be dead. And, as has been the case through history, the Church will apply its reconstructed memory, perhaps even denying that sexual abuse of children ever took place. Preventing this future rewrite of history, the courts will have a written, published record which will not be easily challenged or explained away, and which will be available to historians and scholars for research. 100 years from now no Church official will be able to deny that these assaults did take place. I believe that this will probably be the most important tool to preventing this atrocious scandal, on such a grant scale, from happening again.
9 How VOTF Supports Survivors,
SOL Reform, and Windows Legislation
VOTF’s Goal 1 is to “To support survivors of clergy sexual abuse.” Implementation of this goal takes many forms within VOTF including the work of the Survivors Support Working Group; the Protect Our Children campaign, which is part of VOTF’s Campaign 2006/2007; a recently passed policy resolution of the National Representative Council; and a Yahoogroup, Protect Children Through Legislation, supporting those working on
VOTF Survivors Support Working Group. This group facilitates communications among its members at national, regional, and local levels and provides a forum for sharing ideas and concepts relative to the support of those abused by clergy.
The use of the group email and message boards allows easy transmission of schedules of survivor-oriented events and programs and information relative to meetings, fund-raisers and conferences.
The national Survivor Support Working Group is in constant communication with individual survivors and national organizations such as SNAP and the Linkup as well as numerous local groups. The group’s Yahoogroup listserv provides a means of relaying information readily between VOTF and these independent organizations. To view the listserv, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/VOTFSurvivorSupport/ . To subscribe to the group’s listserv, send an email to VOTFSurvivorSupportemail@example.com .
Protect Our Children. A major VOTF initiative, Protect Our Children, is part of VOTF’s Campaign 2006/2007 (see http://www.votf.org/2006/ ). The campaign objectives are to reform state laws to strengthen the protection of children from sexual abuse, afford justice for survivors of child sexual abuse, and hold accountable any abuser and individual or institution that aids or abets child sexual abuse. Specific legislative goals will be determined on a state-by-state basis, based on laws already in place and on the goals established by Voice of the Faithful members in each state. Kinds of legislation pursued may include extending criminal statutes of limitations, extending civil statutes of limitations, and putting windows legislation into place. This work is already underway in several states, and slated to get underway in other states soon. Each state’s leadership team and volunteers discerns their campaign objectives and timelines.
Legislative Accountability Advisors. To provide expertise in
- Provide resources and “on-call” support that will bolster affiliates’ campaign efforts
- Share campaign successes and lessons learned with other involved affiliates
- Make suggestions on revising campaign plans as new information presents itself
The following link identifies persons to help or advice with regard to a legislative campaign:
Details on the campaign can be found at http://www.votf.net/2006/poc.html .
National Representative Council Policy Statement. In May 2006, VOTF’s National Representative Council passed a policy statement supporting
Protect Children Through Legislation. Setting as its ultimate objective the protection of children from abuse, particularly sexual abuse, the Protect Children Through Legislation (PCTL) Yahoogroup website/listserv provides a clearinghouse for information about current and recent initiatives aimed at reforming state laws dealing with sexual crimes against children. Typical reform efforts are mandatory reporting requirements for clergy and changes to statutes of limitations, including the application of windows for cases where the statute of limitation has already run. This website/listserv is open to the public. This transparency means anyone can access the e-mail messages, databases, and files posted here.
To view the website/listserv, go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/PCTL/ . To subscribe to the listserv, send an email to .
A. Appendix A—The
Grand Jury Report Philadelphia
A grand jury investigating the
The grand jury’s 418-page report, issued
The report eschewed euphemisms such as “inappropriate touching” favored by Church officials. “We mean rape,” the grand jury report said. “Boys who were raped orally, boys who were raped anally, girls who were raped vaginally.”
Secret Church records, turned over to the
Cover-up by Cardinals. The report noted the behavior of archdiocesan officials who oversaw the priests was “not as lurid” as that of the sex abusers, “but in its callous calculating manner, the archdiocese’s handling of the abuse scandal was at least as immoral as the abuse itself.”
“What makes these allegations all the worse, the grand jurors believe, is that the abuses that Cardinal Bevilacqua and his aides allowed children to suffer -- the molestations, the rapes, the lifelong shame, and despair ... were made possible by purposeful decisions, carefully implemented policies, and calculated indifference,” the report said.
“The evidence before us established that archdiocese officials at the highest levels received reports of abuse,” the report said. The diocese, according to the report, “chose not to conduct any meaningful investigation of those reports” and “left dangerous priests in place or transferred them to different parishes as a means of concealment. ... They chose to protect themselves from scandal and liability rather than protect children from the priests’ crimes.”
Statute of Limitations. The grand jury said that because of the statute of limitations in
“As a result, these priests and officials will necessarily escape criminal prosecution,” the report said. “We surely would have charged them if we could have done so.”
The grand jury -- addressing what it called a “travesty of justice” -- called for the elimination of all statutes of limitations in
Church Officials’ Response. The archdiocese released a 69-page formal response through its law firm that called the grand jury report “a vile, mean-spirited diatribe” that seeks “to convict the Catholic Church and its leadership in the court of public opinion, if not in a court of law, based upon an unfair and inaccurate portrayal of facts.”
The response quoted Msgr. William Lynn, Cardinal Bevilacqua’s former secretary of the clergy, who appeared before the grand jury 13 times, as saying, “There was a definite anti-Catholic bias throughout the proceedings,” even though many of the prosecutors and detectives who investigated the archdiocese were themselves Catholics. The archdiocese’s formal response also claimed that although the archdiocese cooperated fully with the investigation, the grand jury tried to “bully and intimidate” Cardinal Bevilacqua. The retired cardinal, at age 80, was called to testify before the grand jury on 10 separate days, and faced “hostile and unnecessarily combative” interrogation from two and three prosecutors at a time, according to the response of the archdiocesan lawyers. The formal response of the archdiocese also decried the “secrecy” of the grand jury process and the “tremendous power” of the district attorney.
In response to the archdiocese’s formal response, the district attorney issued a 30-page rebuttal that accused the archdiocese’s officials and lawyers of attempting to continue the cover-up during the grand jury investigation: “The archdiocese and its lawyers obstructed the grand jury’s investigation at every turn,” the district attorney said. The district attorney was also blunt about the alleged harassment of Bevilacqua: “Any persistence in the questioning of Cardinal Bevilacqua may have resulted in part from his evasiveness and claimed forgetfulness on the witness stand.”
The grand jury, in its report, addressed the issue of its motive. “Many of us are Catholic,” the report said. “We have the greatest respect for the faith, and for the good works of the Church. But the moral principles on which it is based, as well as the rules of civil law under which we operate, demanded that the truth be told.”
The following excerpts are from the
Thank you for this opportunity to be heard by this body and to participate in my government. I am Daniel George Frondorf, a lifetime citizen of
By now all of you have been overloaded with stories of the horrible effects of sexual abuse that continue well into adulthood for victims and survivors like me. I too have a familiar story about how I was taken under the wing of a Catholic priest during my high school years, about how my parents were so proud that their son was looked upon so favorably by such an icon in the west side Cincinnati neighborhood, and about how one day the trust and admiration I had for my priest were used against me in the name of his own perverted sexual gratification. Indeed my story is familiar, as I also told no one of my abuse, primarily out of fear of not being believed and secondarily of possible social, academic, and religious retribution. And because of one other thing: my belief that I was the only one against whom Fr. Strittmatter committed his perverse acts. Let me clear about this, however – had I known then what I know now, that Strittmatter had been and was then currently abusing several other teenage boys, I would have squealed like a stuck pig.
Who else knew of Strittmatter’s abusive behavior at that time? At least two dozen other guys just like me who thought they were the only ones, and also the Archbishop of Cincinnati.
Now that this problem has come out of the dark, not just here in
He will tell you about the millions of dollars that he and his brother bishops have paid to victims and families of past abuse, and about how he has apologized to the household of the faithful to the best of his ability. He will tell you that in the 1980s and prior, members of the psychological profession considered pedophilia and ephebophilia (the sexual attraction of adults for children and teenagers) treatable and that offenders could be successfully rehabilitated in treatment centers such as Servants of the Paraclete in
Here is what he will not tell you: the whereabouts of past abusers, suspended from the priesthood, who while being paid by the Church have no obligation under the criminal, civil, and even Canon law to make themselves known to potential employers or even the parents of children and teenagers in whose neighborhoods they decide to live. He will not tell you why he did not report these offending priests to law enforcement officials upon discovery of their crimes. He will not tell you why he decided that criminal and civil statues did not apply to Catholic priests, rather that sex abuse by priests was solely an in house Catholic matter. And lastly, he will not tell you the real reason he does not want you to pass SB17 as it is currently written – he does not want the secrets of the Church revealed, and he knows that if these incidents of PAST sexual abuse by his priests were to make it to court that he would be forced to tell the truth about the extent of the scandal and the names of those who covered it up and made it possible for guys like me to be on the receiving end of an unwanted penis attack by a sick and tormented and perverted so called man of God.
He would have you think that this whole issue is about money. He will tell you how greedy, unforgiving, and money hungry victims and survivors are. He is trying to scare you and his spiritual constituency into financial panic. He uses the financial arguments differently to suit his needs.
When he wants to protect his secrets from being revealed by guys like me, he cries poor and says that Dan Frondorf … will cause dire financial hardships if SB17 is passed as it stands currently, because he holds all of the assets of the diocese in trust for all of the parishes and their members. However when defending claims from victims and survivors in places like Portland, Oregon, his brother bishop uses the bankruptcy process to his benefit, claiming that he does not hold trust over all of the assets of the diocese, rather that individual parishes are the individual owners of their assets and that they must be sued individually for victims and survivors to seek justice. The desired effect of all of this is to frustrate victims and survivors and to lengthen the time needed to work the claims through the courts, hoping many will likely give up out of hopelessness. I am attaching to my written testimony an article from the Cincinnati Post from
He indicated that bankruptcy will likely never be an issue for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, indeed that the Archbishop has not even considered bankruptcy an option. He is quoted as saying “We have assets that far exceed our liabilities.” I think and hope you will too that the financial ruin argument against SB17 is bogus and without merit.
It is now a given that all other provisions of SB17 are agreeable to all parties involved, other than the retroactive part of it. You have heard what I consider favorable testimony about its constitutionality and what I consider unconvincing testimony about its unconstitutionality. You have heard from dozens of people like me who have had to deal with a lifetime of personal demons brought on by our undeserved sexual assaults. I wish to compel you to consider that the only unresolved issue about SB17 is the matter of past abusers and their victims and survivors. We all can agree that we have made future instances of sexual abuse perpetrated upon children by future perpetrators much more unlikely. Unresolved are those perpetrators walking this earth, unencumbered by justice and accountability, free to prey upon your kids or grandkids and my nieces and nephews, all due to the fact that they have no public record of the crimes they have committed following them through the rest of their miserable lives.
SB17 offers a way to hang a label on these criminals and to force them to behave within the confines of the law. All the retroactive window does is allow civil cases to proceed without dismissal due to the current statues of limitations, which we all agree are outdated and obsolete. Even the Catholic Church says so. At the end of the day, a survivor like me still has a 23-year-old civil case with no physical evidence that I am obligated to prove beyond a preponderance of the evidence. Passage of SB17 will not automatically require the Church or my perpetrator to write me a check and possibly bankrupt them. The bishops and their lobbyists from the Ohio Catholic Conference would have you believe that, but it is not true.
It will simply allow me and dozens of men and women like me to have our day in court, which is essentially all that we are seeking. The civil procedure is time tested, impartial, and bears no cost on the taxpayers of this great state. The alternative that the bishops are championing (civil registry with claims paid by the existing Ohio Victims of Crime Fund) is untested, possibly unconstitutional itself, and requires the taxpayers to pay compensation for crimes and cover-ups committed by the bishops and their unholy employees. Plus it puts an enormous financial and workload burden on
It is outrageous for these men to come before this body and to ask the State of
Please tell these men no. Say yes to protecting children and to providing equal access to the civil justice process in the State of
Daniel George Frondorf
Speaking to members of the same Ohio House Judiciary Committee that Dan Frondorf did, Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of
I am Thomas Gumbleton, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of
… I come before you as a priest of the Catholic Church for almost 50 years and a bishop for almost 38 years. …
I also speak from my experience of listening and attempting to be responsive to the tragic stories of victims of sexual abuse. Finally, I speak out of my own experience of being exploited as a teenager through inappropriate touching by a priest.
I know you have listened for hours to the grim stories of many victims and their family members of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy. I thank you for doing this.
And, if I may, I extend a very sincere apology to the men and women in this room who were sexually assaulted by Catholic priests and other Church leaders. I also apologize to the parents, spouses, siblings, and other family members and friends of the victims. I know you, too, have suffered. I am so sorry for what each of you has endured. I know that there is no way to repair shattered innocence or to restore stolen childhoods. But I do offer my sincere apologies to all of you for what you have suffered.
Let me take just a short time to explain why I feel it is important to modify the statute of limitations in order to provide an opportunity for these victims of sexual abuse to have their "day in court."
First of all, I am here because there is still the strong likelihood that some perpetrators have not yet been brought to account. That is why I support the one year civil window. I do believe that the abusers need to be exposed. I also believe that this can only be assured if the possibility exists to bring these matters into a civil court of law. By doing this we will increase, as far as humanly possible, the protection from becoming victims of sexual abuse that all children have a right to.
Secondly, I am persuaded that this is the most effective way to make all those responsible, bishops who protected priest-perpetrators as well as priests themselves, truly accountable for this tragedy and to deter similar recklessness or wrong-doing in the future, by any decision-makers, inside or outside the Church.
Thirdly, by bringing these cases to full exposure and full accountability we have a better possibility of restoring credibility in Church leaders as moral teachers and guides.
In a recent issue of
This has been exactly my experience. It reinforces the statement from the 1971 Synod of Bishops on Justice in the World: "anyone who ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just in their eyes."
When every bishop in every diocese cooperates in bringing about a genuinely just resolution of every charge of sexual abuse, I believe we will once more be perceived as credible moral teachers. Thus what is good for the victims will likewise be good for the Church.
Those are my reasons for supporting the window. To allow this may cause pain, embarrassment, and sacrifice for our Church, especially in the short term. It may cause some hardship for us financially. It might seem easier to keep the evils hidden, to move on and trust that the future will be better. But I am convinced that a settlement of every case by our court system is the only way to protect children and to heal the brokenness within the Church.
I urge you to approve this proposed legislation so that justice will prevail, abuse will be prevented, and the healing of victims will proceed.
D. Appendix D—Carolyn Disco’s Response to “Changing the Rules” in
In a high-profile article, Changing the Rules, in the
* * *
Certain charges by L. Martin Nussbaum in his article “Changing the Rules” (
Mr. Nussbaum is an attorney who has represented at least nine dioceses and archdioceses, and leads a national website and archive dedicated to defending the Church’s legal interests. What is so disquieting though is his rendering of the sexual abuse scandal as an injustice to his clients. He attacks the repressed memories of clergy abuse survivors as “junk science,” their motives as mainly economic, their lawyers as opportunists who unfairly hold bishops to contemporaneous standards of care, their opposition to statutes of limitations as subverting the rule of law, and their cooperation with the media as feeding anti-Catholicism. Let’s examine a few of these points.
Repressed Memories. Mr. Nussbaum supports Dr. Elizabeth Loftus’ research that debunks repressed memories as myth, claiming traumatic events should be more memorable, not less. As it happens, Loftus, a controversial professor at the
Dr. Loftus has never conducted experiments with deep trauma because of the questionable ethics of doing so. Suggesting traumatic sexual abuse is far different from her traditional work of suggesting people were lost in a mall as children, or that they saw Bugs Bunny at Disney World when Bugs Bunny is a Warner Bros. character, or that they got really sick as youngsters on either hard-boiled eggs or dill pickles.
While testifying to the inauthenticity of repressed memory, the prosecutor confronted Dr. Loftus with the psychologist’s own statements affirming the opposite: “This is not to say that people cannot forget horrible things that happen to them. Most certainly they can." Dr. Loftus also acknowledged in a PBS interview that it is possible for a victim to forget being raped. The prosecutor further drew admissions from her that she is not an expert in the sexual abuse of children, indeed has never treated anyone with therapy for anything, and has no expertise in child development.
Shanley was convicted and is serving a 15-year prison term.
Money as Motive. Mr. Nussbaum asserts that it is money that motivates survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file a claim in court. He cites the large number of claims in
But even bishops acknowledge that money is not the main reason. According to the 2004 National Review Board (NRB) report, one prelate admitted that victims told him they would not have sued if only bishops had said they were sorry. He blamed diocesan attorneys for bad advice, and said, “We made terrible mistakes” because of them. In addition, the NRB itself diplomatically but sharply chastised Church lawyers for their hardball tactics that only compounded the abuse.
Mr. Nussbaum recounts a SNAP representative claiming to have “three dioceses so far, with a lot more to come,” and assumes he or she is speaking of those in bankruptcy. That is a gratuitous comment without foundation, since bankruptcies are highly disliked by survivors. Once a diocese files, all discovery in litigation ceases. They cannot pursue their cases to obtain documents, unbearable delays follow, and the emotional toll of being blamed for causing hardship is most unwelcome. It is one more draining burden.
According to therapists, advocates, and plaintiff attorneys, the primary motivation of most survivors is to publicize the name of their perpetrators so that they may never abuse again, and to have the truth known after decades of corrosive secrecy. Survivors want validation more than money, to know what bishops knew, when they knew it, and to hold them accountable for their inactions and cover-ups.
There is safety in coming forward when the sheer volume of accusations means they will more likely be believed. And though bishops now repeatedly say they are sorry, the words ring hollow when they refuse to release documents and post the names of all accused priests. Bishops repeatedly invoke the statute of limitations as a defense, and continue harassing legal tactics that prevent the disclosure of the truth.
Unscrupulous Lawyers. Most plaintiff lawyers, unlike diocesan attorneys, work on a contingency basis and have to use their own capital to pay for depositions, lengthy investigations, and the research, writing, and filing of complaints. One firm was near insolvency after ten years of protracted litigation and stalling by a diocese. Many plaintiff lawyers have contributed significant pro bono work to help survivors.
Those who developed an expertise and large practices were fueled by the injustices they encountered, from bishops who blamed survivors for contributing to their own abuse, to those whose depositions revealed callous and chilling indifference to justice. It does not take long to get very angry and decide as a matter of principle that you will see that the Church gets the message.
Filing lawsuits against the Catholic Church was not an area of practice most attorneys sought. They were the only ones survivors could turn to after their betrayal by bishops or law enforcement. Many survivors were disbelieved, promised that predators would be removed, and pressured not to cause scandal.
Bishops have never to my knowledge thanked survivors for their extraordinary courage in fighting to reveal the “filth” that invaded the Church, in the words of Benedict XVI; or the “smoke of Satan,” in the words of the NRB Report. And it is the plaintiff attorneys who through their dogged persistence in opening secret documents exposed the rot for all to see.
Contemporaneous Standards. The question of the role of doctors and therapists in how bishops handled accused priests is a fair one. What are the standards of judgment now compared to earlier decades?
Mr. Nussbaum uses 1970 as an example of a time of ignorance about the true nature of abusers. Fair enough. But bishops became aware of the prevalence of recidivism by the 1980’s and still acted otherwise. David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center of the
Yet, many priests were reassigned throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. The Gauthe case cited by Mr. Nussbaum was in 1984, and the Porter case broke in 1993. Those two cases were not, however, how the bishops learned zero tolerance. It took another decade and the public outrage resulting from the Boston Globe’s expose of the cover-up of clerical sex crimes before that policy developed. Delayed response indicated how intractable the bishops were in their denial. In the end, some 700 priests were removed as a result of the 2002 Dallas Charter.
Even more damaging, bishops did not report the full case histories of abusers to doctors. That dishonesty, and the shopping around for compliant professionals, compromised the integrity of any treatment. Staff at The Institute of Living in
So, standards, whether contemporaneous or not, were highly suspect. As Larry Siewert wrote in the [
Statutes of Limitations. Even if the statue-of-limitations clock does not start ticking until age 18, approximately 25 years are needed before survivors reach a level of coping that enables them to come forward. That is a reality, much as anyone prefers otherwise. Healing cannot be force fed to meet an unreasonable legal deadline.
It is not right to deny access to justice because someone was either trapped in addiction, enduring emotional rages, or too numbed or broken to endure what is involved in filing a lawsuit. A training session for plaintiff lawyers at Cardozo Law School a few years ago cautioned advocates on how vulnerable survivors can be, how difficult it is sometimes to respond helpfully, requiring them to relive every detail in writing, triggering flashbacks or relapses, preparing them for harsh diocesan countermeasures, and being willing to accept numerous phone calls at every turn. Anyone caught in the maw of a lawsuit needs emotional stamina and courage to withstand the stress, but especially when it involves something as cutting as sexual molestation. The payoff, despite the stress, is moving from powerless victim to empowered survivor.
Let the court system sort out the issues, however stale, as it does in murder cases. And let justice roll down like the mighty waters. We as Catholics owe that much to survivors. Pitting their very real need for healing against those of other ministries ignores the fact that Church personnel caused the horrific problem.
Media Focus and Anti-Catholicism. Anti-Catholicism is often the unthinking, flawed response when Church officials encounter stern criticism. Mr. Nussbaum tallies the number of press articles the scandal generated as proof of its presence in media coverage.
Interestingly, Walter Robinson, the head of the
The Philadelphia Grand Jury’s report was strongly attacked by Church officials as biased, but that did not get much traction as people simply saw for themselves the depth of the hierarchy’s negligence and complicity. You cannot fail when you supply detailed facts, and the facts spoke powerfully. The Church achieved notoriety by dutifully earning it.
The Future. When referring to the “Church,” popular understanding often means the clergy and hierarchy. And therein lies a tale. The future will involve the laity to a much greater degree than before. The decline in the number of clergy provides that opening.
There is hope that all will act as disciples and can work together productively; such a trend is the apparent solution. It is a learning curve, though, with many sharp edges. Already, multiple Diocesan Review Board members in San Francisco; Seattle; Richmond, VA; Davenport, IA; and Orange County, CA, have resigned in protest, or been removed, over obstruction of their work by bishops.
The involvement of the Gavin Group in the USCCB audits is another example of charting new waters. They were not allowed to see personnel files, a severe handicap. That may now be changed, but the sharing of information and collaborative power is a very slow process.
The National Review Board itself began with a stronger shadow of independence, whether implied or not, but is now apparently strictly advisory.
Trust. The bottom line is mutual trust, in very short supply right now. Articles by Mr. Nussbaum and others that reflect a defensive and adversarial stance toward survivors deplete whatever goodwill may have been growing. Bishops cannot earn the laity’s trust with such tactics by their paid legal counsel. When we see bishops who speak truth from the heart, who become shepherds first, then and only then is a new day possible.
* * *
Professor Marci Hamilton of the Cardozo School of Law, firstname.lastname@example.org ,has been a major national voice championing the legal rights of survivors. She has provided significant pro bono legal support for survivors and has led the effort for the national Violence Against Children Act. Supporters of this initiative include SNAP President Barbara Blaine; John Harris, President of A Matter of Truth; and Pauline Salvucci of Voices of Outrage. Here is a draft of the proposed new federal law, The Violence Against Children Act of 2006, as of
Purpose: To better protect children from childhood sexual abuse, to better inform and warn the people of sexual predators who prey on children, and to better ensure that perpetrators and those who facilitate such abuse are deterred and punished.
(1) Establishment of an easily accessible national register of those who have been convicted of the crime of childhood sexual abuse, or related crimes, and of reported civil cases involving claims of childhood sexual abuse. [The Relevant Federal Department/Agency/ Department of Justice] shall create and maintain a database of information on all persons in the United States convicted of or charged with crimes of childhood sexual abuse, which will be funded by Congress on an annual basis with an amount sufficient to make the database comprehensive and easily available to the public, including:
(a) information on the identity of those who are convicted of crimes of childhood sexual abuse.
(b) information on pending charges or indictments involving crimes of childhood sexual abuse.
(c) tracking of interstate movement of persons convicted of childhood sexual abuse crimes, including the transportation of underage girls for the purpose of marriage and statutory rape.
(d) a register of all civil cases filed involving charges of childhood sexual abuse.
(2) Conditions on federal spending for health to encourage states to enact legislation necessary to protect children from childhood sexual abuse. The effects of childhood sexual abuse cost the
(a) abolition of statutes of limitations under state law for all criminal prosecution and all civil claims arising out of incidents of childhood sexual abuse;
(b) retroactive abolition of statutes of limitations under state law for a minimum of two years for all civil claims arising out of past incidents of childhood sexual abuse, to be effective through at least X years from the date of enactment of this act;
(c) mandatory reporting by all professionals, including clergy, of any personal knowledge of child abuse gained within the scope of their employment; and
(d) reporting of data on all persons convicted of or charged with child abuse crimes and on relevant civil cases to the agency referenced in (1).
(3) Revocation of tax-exempt status for organizations furthering child abuse. Tax-exempt status for a charitable organization under the Internal Revenue Code shall be revoked by the Internal Revenue Service from any organization if it is found by a court of law in a civil or criminal case that the organization:
(a) Fostered the abuse of children,
(b) Took steps to conceal the abuse of children within the organization, OR
(c) Failed to report knowledge of childhood sexual abuse to the relevant law enforcement authorities.
(4) Civil RICO amendment to deter organizations from harboring pedophiles, hiding child abuse, or recklessly disregarding child abuse. The first sentence of Section 1964(c) of the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961- 1965 is amended to read as follows:
‘Any person injured in his business, property, or person who is a victim of childhood sexual abuse by reason of a violation of section 1962 of this chapter may sue therefore in any appropriate United States district court and shall recover threefold the damages he sustains and the cost of the suit, including a reasonable attorney's fee, except that no person may rely upon any conduct that would have been actionable as fraud in the purchase or sale of securities to establish a violation of section 1962.’
(5) Criminal RICO amendment to deter organizations from harboring pedophiles, hiding child abuse, or disregarding child abuse. The first sentence of Section 1961 (1) (A) of the Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1961- 1965, is amended to read as
'As used in this chapter [18 USCS §§ 1961 et seq.]--
(1) "racketeering activity" means (A) any act or threat involving
murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion,
dealing in obscene matter, childhood sexual abuse, or dealing in a
controlled substance or listed chemical (as defined in section 102 of
the Controlled Substances Act [21 USCS § 802]), which is chargeable
under State law and punishable by imprisonment for more than one
F. Appendix F—Summary of the
SOL Reform/Windows Experience in Colorado
This article and another about a victim who broke a confidential agreement he signed in the early 90s to tell of his abuse prompted Colorado Rep. Rosemary Marshall (D-Denver), Rep. Gwyn Green (D-Golden), and Senate President
Archbishop Chaput’s Aggressive Campaign. Immediately, Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput and the Colorado Catholic Conference, the lobbying group for the three Colorado dioceses (Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo), began an aggressive campaign against the bills and sponsors of the bills, using the pulpit at Masses, the Denver Catholic Register diocesan newspaper, the Rocky Mountain News, the Archdiocesan website, a professional lobbying firm (Phase Line Strategies), an expensive public relations firm, and costly full-page newspaper ads featuring Archbishop Chaput’s claim that these bills were “bad law.”
In a letter to Denver Catholics read at Masses in early February, Archbishop Chaput said that the bills under consideration in the state General Assembly ignore “the serious problem of sexual abuse in public schools and other public institutions, and focus instead on religious and private organizations.” This was the beginning of the archbishop’s all-out attempt at deflection, obfuscation, and damage control.
As originally written, Representative Marshall’s bill (HB-1088) removed the 10-year statute of limitations for civil lawsuits as well as criminal prosecution for crimes committed against children as of
With that, Church officials fully endorsed the bill and now cite this as evidence that they support legislation for the protection of children. Of course, this bill is really about perpetrators and has little to do with the protection of children and justice for victims. The institutional Church in
After calling for a level playing field between private and public entities in committee hearing, L. Martin Nussbaum, attorney for the Colorado Catholic Coalition, refused to say that the Catholic Conference would endorse legislation even if it did treat public and private institutions comparably. SNAP’s National Director, David Clohessy, described this argument as “a ruse, a diversion designed to derail the effort.”
House Bill 1090. HB-1090, sponsored by Rep. Gwyn Green, D-Golden, was eventually amended to include public schools in any change of the statute of limitations, and place the same cap on damages that currently applies to public entities. Currently, a minor victim has 6 years to sue an individual and 2 years to sue a public institution, and an accuser against a public entity has 180 days to file a formal complaint against a public entity, and damages are capped at $150,000.
HB-1090 was originally written to eliminate statutes of limitations that currently apply to both criminal prosecution and civil claims arising from sexual crimes against children, but was later amended to remove criminal prosecution. This allowed those who were sexually abused as children to bring lawsuits against both those who violated them and those who contributed to the abuse by failing to provide proper supervision. In its final form, it would have extended the civil statute of limitations on child sexual abuse to 35 years past age 18, established a higher limit on liability for both public and private institutions’ vicarious liability, and eliminated silent settlements and the withholding of records. For sexual abuse occurring from 2006 forward, the caps for damages against a private entity and individual offender would be $322,000. The class-action cap would be $732,000.
In testimony on HB-1090, R. Christopher Barden, a psychologist and attorney from
Senate Bill 143. Senator Fitz-Gerald’s bill (SB-143) would have provided a two-year window for reporting abuse cases where the current statute has already run. The
The measure prompted a spirited three-hour debate between Senate President
After the Senate amendments to HB-1090, it was returned to the full House, where Republican after Republican came to the microphone to attack Fitz-Gerald's amendments and motives. Their arguments included the statement, “the bill could allow false claims that ruin lives,” and a description of the legislation as a “sledgehammer to solve what is not a huge problem.”
Fitz-Gerald argued that victims of long-ago cases would still have to prove the crime. "We are not changing the burden of proof," Fitz-Gerald said. "We are not making it easier to prove cases of sexual assault."
One argument that was never fully stated against the Church’s call to “level the playing field” between public and private entities, was the fact that public entities can also be sued under the Civil Rights Act of 1871 [42 U.S.C. § 1983], where there is no cap on damages and no statute of limitations for the violation of one’s rights. Private entities are immune to such action, but the bishops were obviously not bidding for that kind of equal treatment and liability.
Deflection, Deflection, Deflection. In another attempt to move the focus from the crimes of pedophiles and their enabling protectors, Archbishop Chaput in the
Diverting lawmakers’ and the public’s attention from the protection of children and justice for survivors was the Church’s primary strategy to continue protecting its secrets and predators. A most blatant example was when an attorney for the Colorado Catholic Conference presented lawmakers with files on 85 teachers since 1997 who have been disciplined for everything from sexual assault to showing pornography to students, while disclosing absolutely no evidence of the Catholic Church’s or schools’ removing or otherwise disciplining any of its teachers, priests, or other workers for misconduct. The availability of teacher’s files was of course not remarkable since these came from public records, and public schools have policies and procedures in place for handling abuse complaints. However, unless records are volunteered, the public has no access to such information from private schools.
"I think they have had an absolutely masterful art of deflection," Fitz-Gerald said of Church officials in
Escalation. With the prospect of lifting the
Tim Dore, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, said 25,000 postcards were distributed to churches to be mailed to legislators. The card declared SB-143 is "bad law and bad public policy" because it focuses on private institutions, would allow lawsuits against dead priests, and would bar the Church from defending itself by arguing in court that it provided counseling services to sex abusers.
Local newspapers reported that Archbishop Chaput described the impact of current and proposed sex abuse legislation around the country as nothing less than "the systematic dismantling and pillaging of the Catholic community nationwide," calling the legislation hostile to Catholics. In an interview with the Catholic publication Our Sunday Visitor, he even went so far as to scold his brother bishops for not fighting back hard enough.
Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald. In response, Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald said, "This bill has never been about money. It's about the victims having their day in court. It helps get information in the courts about the perpetrator so the community will know where they are now." Fitz-Gerald's dogged pursuit of the bill won praise from her supporters, who said she had given a “taste of justice'' to those who say they were abused by priests. At the same time, opponents suggested she was too emotionally entangled in the issue. Oh, that more politicians would listen to that inner voice!
The final version of HB-1090 eliminated future confidentiality agreements. The bill required that any civil settlements reveal the names of the accused, what the sexual act was, and where the accused is living. "This goes to the heart of what we want to do here," said Fitz-Gerald, who folded her own sex-abuse bill into HB-1090. "We want to know who these sex predators are."
The Bill’s Demise. Fitz-Gerald, a lifelong Catholic, blames both the insurance industry and the Church for the bill's demise, but it is the Church's position she objects to most. She also regrets that some people viewed her as fighting the Church, but she drew a distinction between Church leaders and principles for which the Church stands. “I’m fighting for a Church that views itself as a higher moral authority, rather than as a corporation. . . .I'm fighting for a Church that believes in 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.'''
Fitz-Gerald said the bill was not anti-Catholic, but when the Church fought hard against it, she raised religious concepts as she tried to focus debate on what she saw as the central issue: justice. In one debate, she said the Church is the Body of Christ and must take responsibility for everyone in it. On another day, she read a passage from the prophet Micah instead of holding the Senate's regular morning prayer: “You have been told, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you. Only to do the right and to love goodness and to walk humbly with your God.”
Hours Talking. Fitz-Gerald said her determination strengthened after abuse victims told her about the shame they felt, about their fears that no one would believe them, and how they were in their 40s or 50s when they were able to come to terms with what happened.
Fitz-Gerald spent hours talking to dozens of victims and attended at least one support-group meeting. SNAP members sought Fitz-Gerald out after her bill lost a key vote in the House. They circled Fitz-Gerald as she sat on a bench outside her office, one person sitting on the floor in front of her as they spoke. “By opening her heart and her time, she gave them a taste of justice that is the most many of them have ever had, and for some, the most they will ever have,'' said SNAP founder Barbara Blaine, who was herself abused by a priest as a teen.
“We Will Be Back.” Although opposition to the amended bill was largely along partisan lines, Senator Ron Teck, a conservative Republican from
To supporters, the Church’s use of heavy-handed, highly-paid testimony from attorneys, lobbyists, and “expert witnesses,” says much about the guilt of the Church’s hierarchy and their refusal to embrace and deal with their own shame. These bills were all focused strictly on justice and protecting children. It was truly heart-breaking to hear the Church officials’ arguments, as they presented themselves as the real victims, attempted to devalue the clear memories of victims, and attacked the integrity of the people like Senate President Fitz-Gerald and Representative Green, all in the name of the Church.
What many survivors really want is for the archdiocese to fully support the elimination of statutes of limitations for prosecution of any sex crime against a child, and to establish a public registry of the names and locations of priests who have been barred from ministry because of sexual misconduct.
Recent Allegations. Data released by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops revealed that six priests were reported as alleged sexual abusers to Catholic Church authorities in
Essence of the Statute of Limitations. Barton Aronson, an Assistant U.S. Attorney General summarized in 2002 the essence of the statute of limitations for sexual crimes against children: “Precisely because child abuse occurs when victims are at their most impressionable, the habit of hiding pain and humiliation lasts well into adulthood. Because the very commission of the crime of child abuse diminishes the likelihood that the victim will come forward, the statute of limitations becomes in such cases more a sword for abusers than a shield.”
A Doctor’s Letter to the Editor of
The sexual abuse of children is a worldwide problem of enormous magnitude, and L. Martin Nussbaum is correct in pointing out that it is not merely a Catholic problem. Perhaps the press’s “obsession” with the scandal resulted from the discovery that an institution claiming ultimate moral authority is represented by more than a few leaders who were criminally negligent in repeatedly enabling child abuse, sometimes in clear violation of expert advice. Priest pedophiles have apparently been known since the early days of the Church. What is a newsworthy scandal is the response of some bishops and other Church leaders to the victims who, instead of pastoral concern, apology, and offers of necessary therapy were met with disbelief, denial, broken promises, and hardball legal tactics. Had it not been for a diligent press and aggressive prosecutors the extent of their perfidy would be yet unknown.
It does the Church no service to rail against the accepted concept of repressed memory following life-changing trauma. Some do not realize what has happened to them for many years. In addition many victims have lived most of their lives believing, as they were groomed, that the abuse was their own fault. The guilt and shame cultivated by the perpetrator is deeply imbedded. Victims are subject to alcohol and drug abuse, serious depression, and multiple failed relationships. Many develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which requires ongoing therapy. Clearly, in the interest of justice the rules need to be changed and statutes of limitation eliminated or vastly expanded.
Jeb Barrett’s Statement on Archbishop Chaput’s May 2006 Mediation Offer. Like most of his colleagues, Archbishop Chaput desperately fears having to disclose, under oath and in open court, how much he knows and how little he's done about pedophile priests. That's why he offers mediation.
Some more desperately wounded victims may— because of unemployment, addictions, depression—be in essence forced to accept mediation. Although we hope they'll find such mediation helps them to move forward, others want the truth about the cover up exposed and they will continue pursuing justice in the courts.
This public relations move is intended, in part, to “soften” the justifiably harsh public perception of Chaput as a bare-knuckles politician who played vicious hardball with lawmakers in thwarting child sex abuse reform legislation.
Everyone benefits when the time-tested, impartial American justice system is open to child sex abuse victims just like it is to other crime victims.
Protecting deeply held Church secrets— that's why Chaput fought against our child protection bill at the Capitol, and that's why Chaput wants to resolve child sex abuse cases out of court.
The archbishop pretends this is about money. For most of us, it's about exposing serial criminals and the Church officials who shield them. It's about getting the truth revealed so the dangerous men are known and so the innocent kids are protected. That's why many of us have turned to the courts for help, justice, and prevention. That is what Chaput ignores.
We challenge Chaput to do what is right, to stop hiding behind legal technicalities, to quit invoking the statute of limitations, and let us tell our truth to an objective judge and jury and to the public.
G. Appendix G—Summary of the
SOL Reform/Windows Experience in Maryland
For the past four years the four VOTF affiliates in Maryland and Washington, D.C., have collaborated on reform of child protection legislation with SNAP, the Coalition to Protect Maryland’s Children, which includes some 20 child advocacy organizations, and other child advocacy groups and individuals, including, in 2003 and 2004, the Maryland State Council on Child Abuse and Neglect, whose members are appointed by the governor.
2003. In 2003, four bills were introduced to (1) raise the statute of limitations (
The VOTF affiliates initially got involved at the request of Marc Serrano, a regional director of SNAP. The Montgomery County Maryland affiliate was formed in December 2002 and testified for the bills in March.
The primary, if not the sole, opponent of the
When the hierarchy realized there was a chance that the legislation might be passed, they, through the
The bill to clarify and narrow the confidential communication exemption for clergy on reporting child abuse and neglect created a real donnybrook. Admittedly the bill overreached by excluding only confessional communication by a penitent (e.g., a pedophile) but not similar communication in the confessional by an innocent victim of child abuse. The
The only opponent of the bill to require reporting of child abuse and neglect occurring outside the state was the institutional Church, and especially Saint Luke’s Institute, a Catholic treatment facility near Washington that specializes in treating priests, including the infamous serial pedophile John Geoghan from the Boston archdiocese, who was “treated” twice at St. Luke’s. St. Luke’s succeeded in having the bill amended so that out-of-state child abuse would only have to be reported if the victim was still under the age of 18 at the time the abuse became known to the mandatory reporter. This would greatly reduce the need to report, especially for St. Luke’s, which treats many out-of-state pedophiles. The amended bill passed.
The bill to subject mandatory reporters who knowingly and willfully fail to report child abuse and neglect to misdemeanor charges and a possible fine of up to $2,000 was also strongly opposed by the hierarchy. It died in committee.
2004. In 2004 identical bills were introduced in the House and Senate to again try to clarify and narrow the broad confidential communication exemption of clergy from reporting child abuse and neglect. Learning from the previous year, all confessional communication by either a perpetrator or an innocent victim was excluded from reporting, except if the priest or minister shared the information about abuse with a third party. Despite testimony favoring the bills from VOTF, SNAP, the Maryland State Council on Child Abuse and Neglect, internationally respected canon lawyer Father Thomas Doyle, numerous child advocacy organizations, several survivors, representatives of Conservative Jewish congregations and the Episcopal Church, a Methodist minister, and several others, the bills failed in committee. Only the
Proponents of the bills offered clarifying amendments to appease the
Some supporters of the legislation speculated that the real reason for the institutional Church's opposition was not protection of the seal of confession but concern that if a priest or his superiors failed to report abuse under a clarified law, there might be a cause of civil action by abuse victims.
A bill was also introduced, similar to the bill in 2003, to subject mandatory reporters to a misdemeanor charge and a possible fine for knowingly and willfully failing to report child abuse and neglect. The fine was reduced to $1,000 in this bill, but still it died in committee.
2005. In 2005, a bill was introduced to raise the
Again Church officials relied on their enormous influence with the legislature and argued that its policies and procedures for protecting children are among the strongest of any to be found in the nation, and that there is no need to extend the
2006. In 2006 two bills were introduced: HR 1147 to suspend the
Lobbying by proponents of the bills was much stronger and effective in 2006, leading to the
H. Appendix H—Summary of the
SOL Reform/Windows Experience in Ohio
The coalition of victims, experts, and activists from SNAP, VOTF, and other organizations fought the good fight in
SB17. In March, 2005, the Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 17 (SB17). In a remarkable moment for clergy abuse victims, victims who were in the chambers received a standing ovation from the Senators. Then one Senator after another said that churches must be held accountable when the issue is childhood sexual abuse.
If enacted, SB17 would have extended the statute of limitations for all current and future childhood sexual abuse. In addition, like
The window provision would have allowed victims to sue the Church for incidents dating back as far as 35 years. The law also would have mandated that clergy, like others who come into contact with children in their jobs (e.g., teachers, scout masters, psychologists), must report childhood sexual abuse.
Coalition advocates maintained that such a window would make children safer by exposing dangerous predators who have "run out the clock" on possible criminal charges and are still molesting kids today.
"The window is the only part of the bill that really protects kids today," said SNAP President Barbara Blaine. "Hundreds of predators are walking free, having outlasted the short, arbitrary statute of limitations. Civil action lets parents, neighbors, and employers know who these dangerous men are."
Bishops’ Political Power. But a year later, the Ohio House Judiciary Committee gutted SB17.
What happened? The Ohio Catholic Conference, the bishops’ lobbying arm, and the
Professor Marci Hamilton of the Cardozo School of Law in
For months, all six Ohio Catholic bishops quietly but vigorously fought victim-survivors who strongly supported the one-year "window."
SNAP wanted Cleveland Bishop Anthony Pilla and Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk to testify in the House. These prelates have headed their respective dioceses for nearly 25 years and thus know where the skeletons in the closets are. SNAP asserted they were afraid to face lawmakers and take questions about their cover ups of clergy sex crimes. Only one bishop, the newest bishop in the state, in
"Bishops will twist arms and make threats behind closed doors in
"It's sad that parishioners' donations are going to block reforms that protect kids," said Christy Miller, SNAP’s Cincinnati Co-Leader. "And it's even sadder that bishops are too cowardly to admit and discuss this openly."
In the final analysis, the
In May 2006 VOTF’s National Representative Council passed the following policy statement:
RESOLUTION OF THE NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE COUNCIL
WHEREAS, Goal 1 of VOTF is "to support victims of clergy sexual abuse" and Goal 3 is "to shape structural change within the Church"; and
WHEREAS, supporting past and current victims of clergy sexual abuse naturally extends to prevention of future sexual abuse of children; and
WHEREAS, many states have laws pertaining to the protection of children from sexual abuse and governing the ability of child abuse victims to sue in civil court that are insufficiently effective in protecting children or providing justice for survivors; and
WHEREAS, in many of these states the statute of limitations for criminally prosecuting perpetrators of child sexual abuse is only a few years following the abuse, and the time limitation on a victim's ability to file a claim in civil court against the abuser and any abettors is so short that most victims are not emotionally, psychologically, or financially capable of filing a claim within the limitation period, thus many victims currently are already beyond the limitations age; and
WHEREAS, temporarily suspending, or permanently eliminating retroactively, the statute of limitations on civil claims is permitted under the US Constitution; and
WHEREAS, both the retroactive suspension or permanent elimination of civil statutes of limitations and the prospective elimination or extension to a reasonable age would allow
· Abuse survivors to have their day in civil court
· Expose pedophiles and any who aided or abetted them
· Alert parents and the general public to the abuse threat and spur them to take action to further protect their children
· Put Church officials and others on notice to strengthen their child protection efforts or face further civil action and unwanted publicity
THEREFORE IT IS RESOLVED THAT:
1. It is the policy of VOTF to support the reform of state and federal laws to strengthen the protection of children from sexual abuse, afford justice for survivors of child sexual abuse, and hold accountable any abuser and any individual or institution that aids or abets child sexual abuse.
2. Prospectively, VOTF supports legislation either to eliminate civil statutes of limitations on current or new child sexual abuse cases or to extend the limitation to an age when most survivors would be emotionally, psychologically, and financially capable of filing a suit, such as age 50 or older.
3. To allow survivors of child sexual abuse who are already beyond the age allowed by statutes of limitations for filing a civil suit, VOTF supports legislation to either eliminate such statutes retroactively or suspend them for a period long enough to allow these survivors to have their day in court .
* * *
Judy Miller, Chair
Member, Legislative Accountability Advisors, VOTF
Chuck Miller, Chair, Legislative Committee
Member, Legislative Accountability Advisors, VOTF
Bob Schwiderski, Member
Twin Cities Voice of the Faithful
Member, Legislative Accountability Advisors, VOTF
Tom Byrne, Member
Cleveland-Akron Voice of the Faithful
Member, Legislative Accountability Advisors, VOTF
Frank Douglas, Region 13 (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY) Representative
National Representative Council, VOTF
 The legislative session in
 See “Cardinal Error or Doing the Right Thing,” National Catholic Reporter
 “Religious Strain on Child Sex Abuse Bill,” Joan Murphy Special to the Jewish Times,