Today, as best we can tell, there was no mention of:
- putting suspended predator priests- for the sake of public safety- in remote, secure treatment facilities
- stopping the use of Catholic therapists and using independent and experienced therapists (who specialize in pedophilia) instead
- revamping or expanding review boards to be more independent
- training parishioners in how to appropriately respond to abuse allegations, in ways that don’t deter or scare victims, witnesses or whistleblowers from coming forward.
In the report on the charter today, time and time again, promises were depicted as facts. Again and again, pledges that have been repeatedly violated were described as realities that are undeniable.
It’s sad, too, that before America’s bishops, the “zero tolerance” pledge was described as “controversial.”
“Many dioceses,” it was said have “safety plans” for suspended predators. Sadly, we rarely see a real plan that’s effectively enforced.
We’re appalled that sex crimes are still being called “boundary violations” and that when committed by foreign-born priests are being explained away as “cultural differences.” Priests are highly educated men. They know what’s appropriate. Rarely, if ever, are sex crimes by clergy due to “misunderstandings” or cultural differences.
Notzon also repeated the disingenuous claim that pedophile priest cases “peaked” years ago. He knows that it always has and likely always will take decades before victims can speak up. So he knows it’s at best premature to claim abuse by clerics is going down.
Finally, we are grateful that vulnerable adults were at least mentioned. Sadly, however, in reality, bishops rarely treat those who were victimized as adults with any real dignity or respect. (Just last week, San Diego’s bishop quietly put back into a parish Fr. Jose Davila, even though Davila pled guilty just two months ago to battery and inappropriate touching of a 19 year old.)
Regarding the tiny, tweaking suggestions given to bishops today at their Atlanta meeting, here's the real test: does the proposed change limit a bishop's power? If not, chances are it won't be effective. Until bishops are punished for violations, their pledges are largely meaningless
That's why, for example, we push for secular reform, like statutes of limitations. Those DO take away bishop's power and give it to police, prosecutors, judges and victims. And that's why we push to have bishops pick only the first two or three review board members, then let those board members pick the rest of the panel. That reduces a bishop's power over the board and makes the board more effective.
We're in this mess largely because bishops are monarchs who answer to virtually no one. Their power must be reduced and shared. Unless that happens, tweaking an already vague, weak and largely unenforced policy won't change a thing.
Well written article Barbara. Thank you.
Annette Nestler-SNAP Southern New Jersey
We must become a church that is child centered, not hierarchial centered.