“I am sorry!” “I am guilty of sex abuse” “I have hurt many young children!” “I have ruined lives!” “We are sorry for hiding sex abuse in the Church!” “We are criminals!” “We want to make amends!” We, in the pews, have yet to hear true contrition, instead we hear how the Church needs healing. True, but where is remorse from those who perpetrated and covered-up the crimes? To heal, we must hear from them.
Remorse, a contrite heart, admitting grave sin, deceitfulness, criminal behavior, the global Catholic Church has not yet confessed this loud enough. Why? Why is male clerical privilege so deeply ingrained in the construct of In Persona Christi that none of these guilty perpetrators of crime are able to directly tell Catholics worldwide that they truly, in their hearts grieve for our church and grieve for what they have done to our children? Where is their sensitivity for children?
The first weekend of September I heard and felt perhaps a beginning. How long will it take to hear what we need to hear to heal –again — from major abuse and systemic, criminal cover-ups?
This story might turn a page in the disgusting horrors of this long-standing cover-up that has faith-rocked and shocked us. The first Saturday of September, I attended a healing Mass, at the annual Southern California Renewal Communities (SCRC) conference, that was con-celebrated by priests and deacons who are part of the charismatic renewal in the Los Angeles archdiocese, led by Bishop David O’Connell. During his homily, he told everyone in view of the abuse report in Pennsylvania all parishioners need to grieve but use our authority to change the Church. He pleaded for us to do it because it is needed. This was as a genuine cry for help. Afterwards there was Eucharistic Adoration again led by Fr. O’Connell. As we prayed, and chanted into a deeper spirituality with Christ, he began to sob uncontrollably for several minutes.
There are good priests who feel the profound pain of the victims, and those they shepherd. That is as it should be. There can and should be no other response! At this solemn time, we need, as John Foley’s song resounds, “to hear the cries of the poor,” of the harmed victims, those abused, violated, without concern for consequences.
Between 1985-2004, the Los Angeles Archdiocese addressed abuse in its region because reports were beginning to pour in. On February 17, 2004, the Archdiocese produced the document, Report to the People of God: Clergy Sexual Abuse, Archdiocese of Los Angeles,1930-2003. This twenty-seven-page document begins to unravel what was happening in Los Angeles and how reporting systems and parish checks for clergy and lay ministry were put in place back then. A Zero Tolerance policy was instituted, and retired FBI personnel was hired to investigate.
In the opening statement of the report, the head of the Archdiocese, Cardinal Roger Mahoney, stated:
In early 2002, I told you of my personal sadness that, tragically, some who have ministered in the name of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have preyed upon the most vulnerable members of the flock and caused them incalculable harm. Since then, it has become apparent that the greatest betrayal in the Church is for one who has committed his life to minister to God’s People after the model of the Good Shepherd, has used his spiritual position to abuse or injure any member of that community.
Again, I sincerely apologize to anyone who has suffered from sexual misconduct or abuse by a priest, deacon, lay minister, employee or volunteer of the Archdiocese. I acknowledge my own mistakes during my eighteen years as your Archbishop. Apologies are vitally necessary but are insufficient. My goal is to do all in my power to prevent sexual abuse by anyone serving our Archdiocese now and in the future.
Moving the healing and reconciliation process forward requires the fullest possible disclosure of what happened over the years. The victims deserve nothing less. This Report has been made available today on our Archdiocesan website.
The Report represents our best understanding and information of the history of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese, our efforts to eliminate this scourge, and about the number of priests and religious who have sexually abused minors and the number of victims of such abuse.
How did this the lack of taking consequential responsibility happen? The power of a reified priest can cause more ill in the destruction of those who in faith trusted in his holiness. What went wrong, how could they have betrayed for so long and no one blew the whistle earlier? If we are supposed to be a ‘relational people’, how could those who are supposed to be most relational, most pastoral fall so far from grace?
In the LA Archdiocese, anyone in ministry is fingerprinted and attends mandatory Virtus training every four years.
“These programs and policies do not take away from the very real harm that was done and the trust that has been broken. They are a testament to the commitment of the people of the Archdiocese, the majority of whom are lay Catholics having worked for three decades to implement and carry out these programs to ensure:
- abuse is reported to the police and investigated regardless of the statute of limitations;
- victim-survivors and their families receive healing support;
- anyone found to have abused a minor at any time, regardless of whether a member of the clergy or a lay person, is not allowed to serve in any capacity in the Archdiocese under zero tolerance.”
Many are calling for transparency (Cardinal Cupich, NCR, Aug 27, 2018), for an ‘overhaul,’ (Mary Hunt, NCR, Aug. 21, 2018 and Aug. 29, 2018), total involvement of lay parishioners and other professional agencies to open any closed doors bringing in clean and fresh air that has been stale for too long. Once implemented, then healing can begin…
Part II coming next week.
Janice Poss is a Ph.D. student at Claremont Graduate University in Religion and Women’s Studies, holds MA.Th. from Loyola Marymount University and BA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, sits on the parish council at her church and whose interests are in theological, philosophical and spiritual aspects of religion as they are expressed aesthetically in the visual arts.
http://www.la-archdiocese.org/org/clergy/Documents/Clergy%20With%20No%20Faculties%202017%2012%2015.pdf (Clergy with No Permission to Minister in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, 2017)