Archdiocese of Newark Revises Pastoral Counseling Policy to Deny Victims their Chance in Court
The Archdiocese of Newark has revised their policies around assisting survivors with sexual abuse and made them significantly more restrictive, especially for survivors who are seeking truth and justice via the court system. We think that this change is a strikingly un-Christian move and call on Catholic officials in Newark to undo these new restrictions.
The recently updated guidelines appear to be a response to New Jersey’s Child Victims Act and are designed to punish those survivors who are using the opportunity provided by this law. These new guidelines now say that therapy services will be refused to any survivor who initiates a lawsuit, a vindictive move that will only further hurt the men and women who have already been abused by Catholic employees ordained, trained, and employed by the Archdiocese of Newark.
The simple fact is that victims of sexual violence need therapy through no fault of their own. They were abused by members of an institution that was supposed to care for them and are subjected to a lifetime of pain because of those actions. Now, the Archdiocese of Newark is twisting the knife, forcing survivors to choose between their therapy and their right to pursue justice for the crimes committed against them.
Another simple fact is that Catholic officials would much prefer that the experiences of survivors stay hidden and out of public view. This is proven by their efforts to overturn the Child Victims Act, their lobbying expenditures to prevent this kind of reform in the first place, and their misuse of bankruptcy court to keep facts about abusers and enablers secret. To us, this policy change in Newark is simply the latest evolution of efforts to keep victims scared and silent and to ensure that information about enablers and cover-ups stays internal.
This is more smoke and mirrors from Catholic officials who pretend to have compassion for victims of clergy abuse but ultimately resort to hardball legal tactics to protect their interests and their secrets. Church officials in Newark should examine their conscience and think about the implications of their policy – is it Christlike to withhold medical care from people who you hurt? Apparently the answer from the Archdiocese of Newark is yes.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)