Essay, Speech


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

The Survivor's Voice
Op-Ed, Essays, Speeches

Heroes vs. Cowards

Speech by Boston SNAP Leader John Harris, delivered February 2, 2003, at Worcester, Massachusetts

"Good morning and thank you for coming here today.

"Before we begin our demonstration, it is only right to reflect on the tragedy of yesterday, when 7 NASA astronauts, aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia, STS 107, lost their lives.

"Just 17 days ago, my friend Robert, his parents, and I sat at the banks of the Banana River in Titusville, Florida. Across the river, we saw the Shuttle Columbia soar into space on a perfect day, with a perfect view. It was a truly exciting moment for us.

"Robert, on two previous occasions, had attempted to see a shuttle launch, only to have those launches rescheduled. I had never seen a launch before. Robert's parents had seen many launches, having lived in Florida for the winter months for many years. Yet this time was special for them: they had their son and his friend with them. You see, Robert and his folks had been estranged for several years after he informed them of his molestation by a
priest. But, now, on that day of the launch, nothing else mattered to any of us as lift-off began. I shouted, "look at it go!" Robert marveled at the puffy plume of smoke, calling it a "trail of cottonballs." His parents expressed satisfaction at how well the whole morning went.

"Yesterday, I spoke with Robert, who is now visiting friends in Dallas. We briefly exchanged thoughts on what had occurred to the crew and shuttle, and we had some bittersweet recollections. We had witnessed such brave, unselfish, and heroic men and women conquer earth's gravity, only to have it end so badly as gravity once again became a force for them to overcome. In that battle, there were no survivors.

"Speaking to you today as a survivor of clergy abuse, I can't help but think of the dichotomy of those truly heroic acts of those 7 astronauts compared to the truly cowardly acts of the bishops. For what is a hero, but one who faces danger, yet willingly does what is rightly necessary for the betterment of others. A coward, in contrast, is one who hides from danger, will do what he thinks is right for himself, yet avoids doing right by others.

"So here we are today, briefly paying tribute to people who sacrificed their careers and their lives so that others may live in a better world, and then demonstrating for truth, justice, and accountability from bishops who don't know what true sacrifice is, and would save their own careers and lives at the expense of others.

"I'm reminded of Jesus's words in John, chapter 15, versus 12 & 13: "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends." And so, yesterday, we witnessed that greatest of loves by Husband, McCool, Brown, Clark, Chawla, Anderson, and Ramon: the crew of Columbia.

"Let us now have one minute of silence as an expression of our love for their ultimate sacrifice....

"Thank you."

John Harris
STTOP! co-founder/Boston
Survivor's Advocate/SNAP Norwood

Copyright © February 2, 2003

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Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests