Stockton’s Catholic bishop is threatening to seek bankruptcy protection. Shame on him.
It’s a selfish cop-out when Catholic institutions misuse the Chapter 11 process to protect their secrets and deny child sex abuse victims a chance to expose predators in court. Make no mistake about it: that’s the real motivation here. It’s a lack of courage, not a lack of funds. It’s to protect reputations, not assets.
When bishops seek bankruptcy protection, all lawsuits, depositions, discovery and trials come to a screeching halt. The court plays no role in exposing wrongdoers or preventing wrongdoing. It just divides up money. So Catholics and citizens learn nothing about who is committing and concealing clergy child sex crimes.
This isn’t about protecting church assets. It’s about protecting the power and reputations of powerful church officials who desperately want to keep their complicity in child sex cases under wraps.
We hope every single man, woman and child who is being or has been molested by Stockton Catholic employees – past and present - will step forward, call police and protect others. And we hope every single person who saw or suspected crimes by Stockton Catholic employees will do the same.
Please consider this issue from the perspective of the victims. In the days ahead, we ask that Stockton Catholics and citizens:
--Be skeptical - For decades, bishops deceived us about how many priests abused kids and what was done with them. And for years, dozens of bishops have used threats of potential bankruptcy to try and force victims to keep the truth from emerging in court and accept unjust settlements. Given bishops' track record on this horrific scandal, any prudent person would be skeptical now when a bishop suddenly claims to be experiencing financial hardships.
--Urge Stockton’s bishop to open up his books - Before we even begin to think about not helping those who've been sexually assaulted by clergy and suffered immeasurably because of it, we should insist that church officials disclose information regarding allegations of sexual abuse by priests. Church officials should fully disclose the truth about what they knew, when they knew it, and what they did with the information. Almost every one of us has been told that we were the first victim to come forward. Common sense tells us that is just not so.
--Prod witnesses and victims to come forward - Whether intentional or not, publicity surrounding the bankruptcy filing can discourage people who suspected, witnessed or experienced sexual abuse from coming forward. Yet kids are safe only when victims and others break their silence and report these crimes to police.
--Recognize that we, the victims, are Catholic sons and daughters - Talk of bankruptcy portrays victims as enemies of the church. Please bear in mind that we were Catholic children from Catholic families who were raped and sexually assaulted by trusted priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians and other church staff. Our lives and our faith have been shattered. Our families and parish communities are still hurting. If we had kept silent most of our perpetrators would still be in ministry today. More children would have been abused. Victims should be thanked for coming forward and speaking the truth. By speaking out about the abuse we are providing a gift to the church. The truth must be acknowledged before genuine healing can take place.