PA - Guilt is now clear, so Archbishop Chaput must act
The newly-established guilt of two Philly Catholic employees should be a clarion call for Philly's Catholic hierarchy. After hearing and seeing voluminous evidence, an impartial jury has found that Fr. Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero are child molesters. What now?
Now, Archbishop Charles Chaput has two choices. He can break with the long-standing, selfish and destructive practices of the Catholic hierarchy, and aggressively seek out others who were hurt by these two predators. Or he can do what he and his brother bishops have done for decades, and essentially be passive.
We urge Chaput to act like a compassionate shepherd, not a cold-hearted CEO. We urge him to personally visit every church or school where these two convicted child molesters worked or lived. We urge him to beg any victims, witnesses, and whistleblowers to step forward, call police, expose wrongdoers, and deter wrongdoing. We urge him to print prominent and clear appeals in every parish bulletin and on the archdiocesan website, prodding others who have been victimized to step forward. This is an inexpensive and non-controversial way to help those who were violated as kids but are still in pain as adults.
This isn't rocket science. It's common sense. It's what any responsible religious figure would do.
Does Chaput honestly think "Billy" is the only child these two convicted Catholic employees assaulted?
Over the past two decades, we in SNAP have seen, over and over again, that when public figures plead with victims to speak up, it can have a positive impact. Chaput isn't shy. He speaks up often. Why won't he beg deeply wounded and still suffering child sex abuse victims to do the same?
In archdiocesan fundraising appeals, Chaput puts on the full court press. In clergy sex cases, Chaput sits on the sidelines, even when guilt is clear and when his voice could help.
Has he forgotten what Pope Benedict has promised: that Catholic officials will "do everything possible" to help those who were assaulted as kids by clerics?
Though Mr. Shero and Fr. Engelhardt have been found guilty, they have not been sentenced yet. If Chaput acts responsibly, he may find other victims whose voices might impact whether and for how long these two criminals are imprisoned. And if others with information or suspicions about these clergy sex crimes and cover ups step forward, maybe more criminal charges could be filed - either against these two men or against other church staffers who may have helped conceal their crimes, destroy evidence, intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, discredit whistleblowers or committed other offenses.
Promises ring hollow when they are not followed with action. In this new year, starting now, we hope Chaput will turn over a new leaf and use his vast powers to seek out and help the lost and wounded sheep in his flock, especially those hurt by Mr. Shero and Fr. Engelhardt.
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