Open Letter to Pope Francis
By Mary Dispenza
Dear Pope Francis,
Time is begging you to do the right thing. There have been too many apologies from you and other Popes through the ages with little to no significant reform. The Catholic Church remains seemingly unable to conquer its demons. And yet, if you don't, the Catholic Church may perish - never becoming the great Church it could be.
Neither you, your bishops or priests appear serious about ending the torture and clergy sex abuse of children, minors and vulnerable adults. The silence of so many priests and bishops including yourself speaks complicity in one way or another.
Why aren't you taking any concrete steps to assure your flock that you mean business? Why would you not write a letter immediately to the faithful to be read at Sunday services throughout the United States, offering assurance and specific steps to clean up this mess? A friend wrote, 'I've heard nothing but justification, minimization, obfuscation, etc. from two different parishes in the past couple of weeks. I can no longer continue to attend.'
If you are serious, Pope Francis, with a stroke of your pen wipe out the 'Pontifical Secret' written into Canon Law, known as the Secreta Continere. Why would you not remove this stumbling block, which prevents bishops from disclosing child sexual abuse allegations and imposes strict secrecy on the investigation and handling of child sex abuse?
If you are serious, Pope Francis, why not throw open the vaults and doors of all the secret Vatican files? Provide authorities and attorneys access to the secretly guarded information so needed to uncover crimes against children and those who are responsible. Your bishops could follow suit because you have shown and approved the way forward.
If you are serious, Pope Francis, refuse to simply accept resignations from your bishops and priests complicit in covering up crimes and/or guilty of rape and torture. Mandate that these offenders leave their positions. Release their records to the authorities. Is a life of seclusion, prayer and penance consistent with the Bible's definition of punishment for those who commit crimes against the 'little ones'?
If you are serious, Pope Francis, instead of procuring lobbyists to defeat statute of limitations reform in the United States, instruct your bishops to use the same resources to abolish the statute of limitations, not only for victims of clergy sexual abuse, but for the millions of victims who were raped and molested as children. The power and money of the Catholic Church has devastated too many victims, their families and communities for too long. Support a theology of restitution by working for changes in these laws.
If you are serious, Pope Francis, instruct your bishops to do everything possible to give victims of clergy sexual abuse a two-year window of opportunity within these statute of limitations reforms and allow them to come forward and be given the chance they deserve for justice and healing.
If you are serious, Pope Francis, you will stop pinning the sordid reality of priest sex abuse and torture of children, minors and vulnerable adults on priests who are homosexual. Healthy gay men do not rape or sexually violate children just as healthy heterosexual men do not rape and molest children. Scientific research provides no evidence that gay men are any more likely than heterosexuals to molest children. In 2002, the bishops, no less, commissioned and paid for an extensive study by the John Jay College from 2002 to 2009, on the roots of clergy sex abuse. The researchers found no evidence that gay priests were more likely than heterosexual clergy to molest children. Margaret Smith, a lead researcher, stated, 'What we are suggesting is that the idea of sexual identity be separated from the problem of sexual abuse.'
There is so much more I wanted to tell you, Pope Francis, about my own journey from childhood priest abuse to healing and justice - how the parish priest, Father George Neville Rucker, raped me and how he was passed on from one parish to another for over four decades to rape and abuse over 35 little girls in Los Angeles and surroundings. All the while Cardinal James McIntyre, Cardinal Timothy Manning and Cardinal Roger Mahoney and at least 5 Popes knew this. I wanted to tell you about the window of opportunity that saved my life. I wanted to tell you about the loss and betrayal of the Catholic Church that broke my heart. You still have time to do something about the mess the Catholic Church is in. You can be a different kind of Pope. Change the trajectory. Make a different history. It's still not too late.