Dear Pope Francis, To Know Is Not The Same As To Do
By Rob Dreher
March 24, 2014
Pope Francis on Saturday made his first appointments to a special commission intended to signal the Vatican’s new resolve in tackling the clerical sexual abuse problem, a group that includes an equal number of women and men, more laypeople than clergy and an outspoken Irish activist who was abused by a priest as a child.
In recent months, Francis has been criticized by advocacy groups for abuse victims, especially after an interview in which he strongly defended the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of the sexual abuse crisis. Last month, a United Nations commission issued a stinging report on the church’s handling of abuse cases, and some advocacy groups have considered the pope’s appointments to the commission a telling signal of his commitment to combating the problem.
This is tentatively good news; John Allen is certainly excited by it. But this is a key point:
Abuse victims and their advocates ranged in their reactions from hope to skepticism. They noted that previous panels appointed by bishops to showcase the participation of lay experts on sexual abuse ultimately had no ability to carry out the recommendations they made. …
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a group founded in the United States that has now become international, said the panel “perpetuates the self-serving myth that Catholic officials need more information about abuse and cover-ups.” It added: “They don’t. They need courage. They know what’s right” already.
Exactly. That cannot be said often enough.
Still, maybe this time something will change. Here’s something for Pope Francis and his panel to look at: Fr. Carlos Urritigoity, a priest who left the US in disgrace after the then-Bishop of Scranton, Pennsylvania, suppressed the corrupt religious order he led, is now rising in power and influence in a Latin American diocese.Here’s the latest from a local Pennsylvania newspaper:
A Roman Catholic priest who was accused of molesting boys in Shohola and Moscow, Pa., has been promoted to the No. 2 position in his diocese in Paraguay.
That is according to a database released this week, listing Catholic clergy from Argentina involved in sex abuse cases. The database was compiled by BishopAccountability.org, an organization that aims to keep a record of sex abuse in the Catholic Church.
Former Bishop Joseph Martino of the Diocese of Scranton allowed the Rev. Carlos Urrutigoity to transfer to a parish in the South American country of Paraguay after multiple witness statements in several court cases claimed that Urrutigoity routinely slept in bed with and had sex with boys in his care, calling it spiritual guidance.
Currently, Urrutigoity is vicar general of the Ciudad del Este diocese in Paraguay. That makes him the second in command, just under the bishop there. Part of his job is to investigate any claim of sexual abuse that might come to the diocese.
“Now he is in a position of power. I’m concerned for the children of Paraguay. From everything I’ve learned, Father Carlos has not stopped. This is a basic child protection issue,” said Patrick Wall, a former priest who is now a Minnesota-based advocate for victims of sexual abuse by clergy.
“This is a grand example of a worldwide policy that a priest can sexually abuse kids in another country and go somewhere else and become vicar general of the diocese,” Wall said, adding that Bishop Plano, Urrutigoity’s superior, should report him to the police and kick him out of the priesthood.
I wrote several times about the scandal with Urrutigoity and his culty, creepily homoerotic Society of St. John back in 2002. If you follow the link to the Pocono paper, you can get the basics on this scandal. Believe me, there is much, much more, if you have the stomach for it. It’s not hard to find more info about this case on the Internet. The Pocono Record has a good backgrounder here.
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.