The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to Detroit Cardinal
Oct. 29, 2004
Adam Cardinal Maida
Dear Cardinal Maida:
We understand that you keep using, like so many of your brother bishops, the same old discredited and hurtful hardball legal tactics. On Tuesday, your well-paid defense lawyers will try to help you evade justice and accountability by taking advantage of the archaic and dangerously restrictive statute of limitations. Doing this, of course, also means delaying healing and closure for victims who have already suffered immeasurably. Your goal is clear: you want to deny victims their day in court, keep the truth hidden, and protect your assets and reputation.
We beg you to reconsider. There's still time to chart a new course, live up to your promises, and, in the interest of healing and justice and prevention, withdraw your legal motion. We urge you to do so.
Time and time again, victims have given your archdiocese an opportunity to do the right thing.
Sadly, after repeatedly calling and writing and meeting with your staff, many victims were bitterly disappointed and still hurting. Some, in desperation, turned to the time-tested, impartial American judicial system to warn others about dangerous predators and get some degree of healing and validation.
But you want to deny them this opportunity.
Remember that many victims were devout and trusting Catholics. They devoted years of their lives to supporting and serving the church. They come from very devout Catholic families. They attended Catholic schools. They did what bishops and other church leaders beg victims to do: report to church officials. They have patiently given you and your colleagues more than ample time to respond with decency and compassion.
Their reward for all this: to be treated as the enemy, and to be met with stiff-arm, scorched earth legal defense maneuvers.
You have a legal right, of course, to hide behind the statute of limitations. You also have a legal right to seek to keep disturbing secrets hidden. But religious leaders possess many legal rights that they wisely choose not to exercise: to go to topless bars, to support abortion clinics, to sell pornography, to carry concealed weapons. Just because you can do something does not mean you should do it.
Common decency tells us that you cannot hold yourself out as a Christian leader while using technicalities to evade your responsibilities. Nor can you take actions that can only hurt the already-wounded, while publicly professing to care about abuse victims.
So we plead with you to act as Jesus would toward these courageous victims. Learn from the mistakes and ultimately self-defeating hardball tactics of the past. Take a different course. Respond with compassion, not combativeness.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests