June 10, 2016
“We know in faith that Jesus seeks us out. He wants to heal our wounds, to soothe our feet which hurt from traveling alone, to wash each of us clean of the dust from our journey.”
Those words were delivered by Pope Francis to inmates at Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility during his September visit to the city.
Speaking of which, remember all that goodwill those heady days just nine months ago engendered?
I do, thanks in part to the knee-jerk giddiness that accompanied seeing the pontiff in his Fiat as it cruised up North Seventh Street one afternoon.
Strike that: I did until I read Thursday’s story about the Archdiocese of Philadelphia going full Trump-mode against believers who dare stand up for the rights of sexual-abuse victims. Now, not so much.
At the center of this mess is state Rep. Nick Miccarelli, a Delaware County Republican who the church decided to call out in the weekly bulletin distributed to Mass-goers at his home parish, St. Rose of Lima in Eddystone.
“JUST SO YOU ARE AWARE,” it read (all-caps theirs), “State Representative Miccarelli voted in favor of House Bill 1947 which states that private institutions can be sued as far as 40 years ago for millions of dollars, while public institutions may not be sued for any crimes committed in the past.”
That bill – which would give people who say they were abused as children an additional 20 years to bring a civil lawsuit – passed the House overwhelmingly and awaits Senate approval.
In that context, here’s how I read the bulletin announcement: Public institutions should be eligible for lawsuits from crimes against humanity four-decades old, too.
But that wasn’t Archbishop Charles Chaput’s point. Nope, His Local Holiness went on a mission to divert the issue away from criminality and life-altering rapes toward potential financial ramifications of how it would “unfairly affect schools and parishes that had nothing to do with the long-ago abuse.”
Well isn’t that rich.
As attention mounted – in addition to Miccarelli, local state Reps. Martina White of Philadelphia and Tom Murt of Hatboro both said they’d experienced backlash – the Archdiocese decided to hide behind the “this is something that’s happening, so what’s wrong with telling parishioners about it?” shield.
Valid as that may be – why yes, it is something that’s going on in the area right now – the Archdiocese is also hiding behind the sort of mob-rule revisionist mentality experienced in the aftermath of Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky scandal. “It was so long ago, why are they suing now? They probably want a payday!” is how that song and dance has gone since the reprehensible details of abuse emerged in a 2005 grand jury report.
The reality of the situation is this: Many sex-abuse victims hurt for the remainder of their lives. Their silence – for days, months, years and decades – is brought about by a wariness of what would happen if they make their pasts known. They have tried to move on, as best they can.
Rather than worrying about the War on Christmas, faith-based institutions should do everything they can to help, not hinder, those who suffer. And they should do so regardless of where that pain comes from. They should be attacking pedophiles of every variety, but most importantly, those who hid behind a collar for they did damage to a centuries-old institution that may be impossible to ever entirely undo.
If that means extending statutes of limitation, well, I’m sure there’s a litany of Bible passages that endorse helping people whose souls suffer in silence. (My altar boy days are too far gone to recall them off the top of my head.)
A man or woman of true conviction knows healing wounds is among faith’s most important tenets. By whining about legislation that could help those who suffered at the hands of priestly attackers, Chaput raises serious questions about whether he qualifies as such.
In this instance, he's nothing but a run-of-the-mill bully who chooses to shame believers who let their faith guide them to a vote that helps victims of heinous crime.
JUST SO YOU ARE AWARE: If you’re going to profess to teach the word of the Lord, actually do it, Chuck, because all you’re doing right now is validating any critic of Catholicism’s arguments against you. Openness and an embrace of those in pain is the only way to clean the Archdiocese from the dust of its journey.
Bulletin-based rabble-rousing is insulting to the very mission that your boss Francis undertook to bring lapsed Catholics back into the fold. Like the one who wrote this column.