CTA Leadership Award 2009 - Recipient speech

By: David Clohessy

Thank you for your generous spirit for this very thoughtful award. The award is a wonderful honor of course, but it is an honor just to be among you, to be in the same room.

It feels odd, in this crowd especially, to quote an old dead white male politician. But here goes: Calvin Coolidge- “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

That is what you have done and are doing - pressing on. And I for one admire you tremendously for doing so. It makes all the difference.

There is enormous talent and brain power in this organization. But persistence carries the day.

In the face of Fabian Bruskewitz and Charles Chaput and Raymond Burke and hundreds of misguided bureaucrats like them, you have persisted and are persisting. That's an enormous achievement. It's the quintessential David v Goliath struggle. And you all keep showing up. That is huge. I hope you feel very proud of yourselves. You absolutely should.

It's a real challenge in seven minutes to tell you how wonderful you are, how grateful we are and how awful bishops are, but let me quickly try. Let me recap the very recent situation Linda described.

A Newark priest admitted to police that he molested a child.
The priest was convicted at a criminal trial of molesting that child.
The conviction was overturned on a technicality.
The priest, his bishop and the DA made a sweetheart deal.
The DA would not re-try the case, if the bishop agreed to keep the priest away from kids.
Three months after the case was resolved, without telling anyone, the bishop quietly put the priest to work in a hospital.
Not a parish, where kids are conscious and healthy, able to run away, and in familiar surroundings.
In a hospital, where kids are semi-conscious, bed-ridden, in unfamiliar surroundings with a dozen or two unfamiliar adults coming and going from their rooms all night long.

A reporter got wind of it. The hospital was shocked. They insisted the bishop remove the priest.

But here is the kicker:
Instead of being outraged and filing charges, the DA is silent.
And the bishop is now "evaluating" where to assign the priest next.

This is 2009.

With particularly egregious situations like this, we are always tempted to believe, "This has to be a bizarre aberration. This can't be happening elsewhere. . . ."

It's time for audience participation. Please answer this question: "Surely, since this crisis surfaced in 2002, no other bishop who would be so reckless and callous as to put back into ministry a priest who was found guilty of abuse after a jury trial, right?" Raise your hand if you really think Newark's bishop is the only one in recent years to be so deceitful and dangerous.

Smart group.

A nearly identical situation happened three years ago in Fresno California. The bishop put the child molesting cleric back into parish ministry, after the trial. A year later, the priest was promoted to pastor.

So if bishops are putting proven predators back to work. . .priests deemed guilty in jury trials, after all the evidence is heard. . .what does that tell you about whether kids are truly safer in the church these days?

So let me second Barbara's request - please sign the petitions. Please ask just five Catholics you know, "Did a priest, nun, seminarian, or bishop ever touch you inappropriately?" And please please please keep persisting in your heroic struggle to make this a healthier, safer, more welcoming church for everyone.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests