Praise for Rejects
US Church under fierce attack at abuse survivors conference
- Leaders are a bunch of criminals
- Hierarchy has lied and lied
- 7,500 priests accused of sexual abuse.
Abuse survivors are teaching the church "how to be moral."
More than 20-years after the dramatic revelations of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy followed by institutional cover-up in the Archdiocese of Boston, attorney Terence McKiernan, co-founder and president of BishopAccountability.org, said their organization was working to compel more dioceses to release lists of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse and to also include the names of priests belonging to religious orders.
"What has changed in the world is absolutely remarkable," said McKiernan, who added that his organization today has a database of more than 7,500 Catholic priests credibly accused of sexual abuse. He said that such a list did not exist in 2002. He went on to claim:
- The church has still not changed its ways.
- Church leaders are a bunch of criminals.
- Abuse survivors are still teaching the church "how to be moral"
Called, "Pivot to the Future: Marking 20 Years of Confronting Clergy Sex Abuse," the conference in Quincy, Massachusetts was attended by survivors, relatives, lawyers and others both in person and via Zoom to listen to keynote talks, presentations and panel discussions that reflected on two decades of scandals, what the future may hold for the crisis hit church and the potential for reforms.
Speaker after speaker attacked the Church
- for giving the issue lip service instead of making fundamental, concrete reforms
- for engaging in continued secrecy
- for resisting measures that would increase transparency and accountability, such as amending statutes of limitations to permit survivors to sue clergy who abused them decades ago.
Attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented scores of clergy sex abuse victims in Boston and across the US – He was portrayed by Stanley Tucci in the 2016 Academy Award winning film, Spotlight - told delegates Church leaders were "a bunch of criminals”. He did not believe the church would ever change.
Marci Hamilton, a University of Pennsylvania professor and founder and CEO of Child USA, a think tank that studies how laws and public policy can be improved to address child abuse and neglect, said reforming statutes of limitations were "the only tried and true way" to publicly expose the truth of clergy abuse cases. They compelled dioceses and church-affiliated organizations to provide documents during court-mandated discovery proceedings that would otherwise be kept secret.
"This is a movement that's not only vibrant, but it's taking off, and something that is increasingly understood by the general public, by judges, by everyone in this space,” she said.
New York state was extending its civil statute of limitations to age 27 for people who were abused as minors.
Oklahoma was extending its criminal statute of limitations for sex trafficking of minors and adults.
Overall, Statute of limitations reform bills had been filed in 30 states and federal territories.
"There is still a lot of work to do," she said.
Advocates, attorneys, survivors and others agreed that there was now greater public awareness of the abuse crisis than before the Boston Globe's reporting in 2002.
They also agreed that the crisis had exposed the weaknesses of arguments by church leaders that the crisis was due more to individual "bad apples" rather than institutional shortcomings.
Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, praised delegates, "There is a sea change that has happened in the public understanding that has been created by your coming forward and your activism,” she said.
Because of survivors sharing their stories, the public today understands that victims are often not ready to talk about their abuse until several decades have passed.
Catholics had also learned that a beloved parish priest can also be a sexual predator.
"They now understand that the church hierarchy lied and lied and lied," she said.
US bishops and the Vatican have failed to implement meaningful reforms. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People — the norms the U.S. bishops adopted in June 2002 on responding to clergy sex abuse cases — was a nonbinding "public relations document."
"The Vatican doesn't care if the bishops follow the Charter, and the bishops know this. The only thing they have to follow is canon law," said Doyle, who also criticized Pope Francis' 2019 motu proprio Vos Estis Lex Mundi ("You Are the Light of the World") for allegedly failing to deliver on its promise to hold bishops accountable for covering up or not investigating clergy sex abuse.
"What we've seen from Pope Francis’ Vos Estis document,” Doyle said, "is a process that is totally controlled by the hierarchy, especially the Vatican."
Under Vos Estis, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York oversaw an investigation into his "good friend," Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn, that resulted in DiMarzio being exonerated last year of decades-old sexual abuse allegations.
"It is the very essence of clericalism," Doyle said. "It is completely non-transparent. We don't know which bishops are being investigated or when they are sanctioned. And we don't know why they are sanctioned."
Terence McKiernan, co-founder and president of BishopAccountability.org, said their organization was working to compel more dioceses to release lists of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse and to also include the names of priests belonging to religious orders.
"What has changed in the world is absolutely remarkable," said McKiernan, who added that his organization today has a database of more than 7,500 Catholic priests credibly accused of sexual abuse. He said that such a list did not exist in 2002.
"That's because of the survivors in this room and all the other survivors," McKiernan said.
Among the survivors who attended the conference was Claude Leboeuf. He said he wants to now wants to help other survivors.
"Essentially, I don't want to spend the rest of my life feeling pissed off at the world," he said. "I want to do something better than that."