ME-- Victims blast bishop's "healing mass”
For immediate release: Thursday, March 3, 2016
Maine Catholic officials have scheduled a “healing mass” for abuse victims. At worst, this is a cynical public relations move. At best, it misses the mark. (See details below.)
Bishop Robert Deeley's focus should be on real reforms that actually make kids safer, not symbolic gestures that make him seem nicer or that make a few adults temporarily feel better. And events like this imply that the crisis is past when in fact it’s not. By focusing on “healing,” Deeley wants us all to believe that prevention is no longer needed. That’s backwards. Only when every cleric who has committed or concealed child sex crimes are identified, punished and kept away from kids should bishops concentrate on healing.
Deeley’s first job should be protecting the vulnerable. And much remains to be done on this front. There are 49 publicly accused Maine predator priests. Where are they now?
Deeley should permanently and prominently post – on parish websites – the names, photos, whereabouts and work histories of these proven, admitted and credibly accused clerics. (About 30 US bishops have done this.)
Deeley should discipline – publicly and harshly - those who hid or ignored clergy sex crimes, to deter such irresponsible behavior in the first place.
He should support – not oppose – reforming Maine's secular child safety laws, especially the archaic, predator-friendly statute of limitations.
He should house – in remote, secure, independent treatment centers – every proven, admitted or suspended and credibly accused child molesting cleric, so that kids will be safer.
He should stop using past tense language – like “forgiveness for past harm” – which promotes complacency, not vigilance, and suggests that kids are not still at risk today from child molesting clerics and complicit colleagues and supervisors.
We could go on and on and on.
Quite frankly, adults can heal themselves, with or without action by Deeley. (It certainly helps when church officials provide therapy to victims of course.) But kids need bishops to take strong action to protect them from child molesting clerics.
Consider the continuing reckless secrecy in the case of Fr. Joseph W. Cahill.
A year ago, Deeley let Fr. Cahill “step down” (instead of suspending him) due to what the bishop called a “boundary violation.”
(Fr. Cahill worked at Our Lady of the Snows Parish and St. Anne Church in Dexter; St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Dover-Foxcroft and SS Francis Xavier & Paul the Apostle Church in Milo).
Despite decades of Catholic officials pledging “openness” about clergy sexual crimes and misdeeds, Deeley refuses to even say what a “boundary violation” is, much less disclose that Fr. Cahill did. Did he sexually exploit adult parishioners who sought counseling from him? Was he caught giving backrubs to youngsters who had just turned 18? Given the Catholic church’s long, sordid, widespread and well-documented history of clergy committing and concealing sexual crimes and misdeeds, we believe skepticism is appropriate and complacency is dangerous.
Bishops often talk of persuading parishioners to trust them again. Yet bishops act in ways that undermine trust in them.
Some might argue that many Maine predator priests are elderly and thus somehow “safe” now. That’s wrong.
It takes only seconds for a man to shove his hands down a boy's pants or his tongue down a girl's throat. And who would parents or kids trust more than an elderly, balding, stoop-shouldered, grandfatherly-looking figure?
It's irresponsible for anyone to assume that because a child molester is older, he's somehow safer.
We urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Maine diocesan priests, nuns, seminarians, brothers and other church employees to come forward, get help, call police, expose wrongdoers, protect kids and start healing.
But Deeley should be doing this. And he should have started years ago.
Again, we encourage anyone who saw, suspects, or suffered child sex clergy sex crimes or cover ups to immediately come forward, report what you know, and start healing.
This kind of action is what truly safeguards kids, not gestures like “healing” masses.
Finally, it’s frustrating to watch prelates like Deeley posture about clergy sex crime and cover ups. By shrewdly using words like “forgiveness,” he perpetuates the comforting but irresponsible myth that most of this is “in the past,” when he knows that’s just not true.
No one ever asks “Do teachers still molest kids?” Or day care workers. Or Scout leaders. We know child molesters always have and always will seek out those jobs. It’s the same with priests.
Deeley knows that last month, Vatican officials lifted the suspension of a priest who pled guilty to molesting a girl last year. (Fr. Joseph Jeyapaul)
Deeley knows that in January, two US bishops who’d resigned for hiding child sex crimes were quietly put back on the job in different states. (Bishop Robert Finn and Archbishop John Nienstedt)
Deeley knows that seven year old girls and 12 year old boys don’t ride their bikes downtown to the prosecutors’ office to report current child sex crimes. There always has been and always will be decades of delay between when child sex crimes happen and when they’re reported. So years from now, we’ll hear from the kids being assaulted today by priests. It’s silly to assume otherwise.
Deeley knows that last month, a high-ranking Catholic official told bishops in Rome they need not report child sex crimes to police.
Deeley knows that no bishop on earth has been defrocked, demoted or disciplined for enabling child sex crimes.
Yet instead of aggressively being open, prodding his colleagues to reform, and denouncing those who won’t, Deeley insists on gestures that comfort adults instead of action that protects kids, while pretending that the crisis is over when he knows it is not.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)