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July 12, 2016

Clergy sex-abuse victim: I'm meeting Archbishop Chaput to discuss stalled House bill

John-Michael Delaney plans to tell the religious leader why opposing the proposed statute of limitations extension is wrong

Religion Priest Abuse
John-Michael Delaney Courtesy of John-Michael Delaney/Facebook

Clergy sex-abuse victim John-Michael Delaney had expected to meet with Archbishop Charles Chaput next week to discuss his experiences and the religious leader's opposition to a state House bill he supports. But the meeting was suddenly canceled by the archdiocese.

As an outspoken victim of the Philadelphia clergy sex-abuse scandal, John-Michael Delaney said he’s had a long-standing invitation to meet with the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Over the years, Delaney hasn’t shielded his pain from the public eye. He’s quoted in many stories talking about the 2005 grand jury report which deemed his assailant, the Rev. James Brzyski, one of the “archdiocese’s most brutal abusers.” For years, he never agreed to meet with the archbishop, knowing he harbored too much anger to have a civil conversation.

Until now.

Delaney told PhillyVoice this week that he’s taken religious leaders up on the chance to have a private meeting with Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput at archdiocesan offices in Center City.

“They know how important this is,” said Delaney who, when asked what he expects to tell Chaput, added, “I plan on letting him know what little they do for the victims, and what I as a victim went through.”

Archdiocese spokesman Ken Gavin said he was “not able to confirm or deny whether or not the Archbishop is meeting with a particular victim or to share details arising from such meetings,” as they’re deemed private.

“It would be highly inappropriate for us to do so,” said Gavin, a statement that covers “several meetings with victims of clergy sexual abuse” that Chaput has hosted. “That is a common policy not only with the Archdiocese, but one which media outlets adhere to as well.”

“I plan on letting him know what little they do for the victims, and what I as a victim went through.” –John-Michael Delaney on his upcoming meeting with Archbishop Charles Chaput

Delaney has no concerns about his privacy. In fact, he said he wants to get word of this meeting out far and wide.

The timing, he said, is of major importance considering the recent uproar about House Bill 1947 which has left church and elected officials at odds. Specifically, Delaney decried the fact that the proposed extension of statutes of limitation stalled in Harrisburg after a state Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that was seemingly stacked against them.

“They killed the part of HB 1947 that would have given victims like me a shot at justice,” said Delaney, a 46-year-old who was abused in the early 1980s. “[I want to tell Chaput of] my disdain for his actions to squash the bill.”

He also lauded state Rep. Mark Rozzi, a fellow survivor, for his efforts pushing HB 1947.

Per Rozzi, the bill "would eliminate criminal statutes of limitation for child sex abuse, extend the civil statutes of limitation until the victim reaches age 50 and allow adult victims of child sex abuse a permanent extension to file civil claims up to age 50." The state senate sent it back to the House after a hearing where concerns about its constitutionality led them to challenge the statutes of limitation changes.

Initially slated for July 18, Delaney said he’s learned that a scheduling conflict could bring about a time change, but that the meeting is still a go. 

Delaney said he'd catch up with PhillyVoice afterwards to discuss how it went.

Responding to an emailed inquiry about Delaney, who said victimization sent his life into disarray for decades to come, Gavin shared “information regarding Archdiocesan efforts to assist victims and prevent child sexual abuse.” Those statements, which Delaney predicted would arrive when the church was asked about him, appear below in their entirety:

The Archdiocese has learned some very bitter lessons from its past and has responded very effectively. The Archdiocese has also accepted responsibility for the abuse that took place in its ranks both publicly and privately on several occasions. Our efforts to protect children, prevent child abuse from occurring, and offer meaningful assistance to victims and their families have all evolved greatly over the years.

If the Archdiocese receives an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by any priest, deacon, lay employee, or volunteer, it is immediately reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency. That is a longstanding policy. The required canonical (Church) investigation of such an allegation does not take place until law enforcement has concluded its work. The work of law enforcement and any criminal investigation always take precedence and we cooperate fully. Additionally, since 2011 the Archdiocesan Office for Investigations has been headed by Al Toczydlowski, a former Deputy District Attorney for the City of Philadelphia. That office is responsible for forwarding reports to law enforcement and conducting the work of canonical investigations. 

None of these things happen in a vacuum either. If a priest is placed on administrative leave due to an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, the Archdiocese communicates that information to his parish community and then to the news media. Appropriate follow-up communications are made to these same groups.

Additionally, if any priest is laicized or his ministry has been permanently restricted due to credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor, that information is published on the Archdiocesan website. We have been maintaining this portion of the site for over 10 years in the interest of making the information publicly available. Please take a look at this link. As you’ll see there are various categories.

Before, I address efforts in the realm of victim assistance efforts I want to share one other important fact with you. In terms of child sexual abuse alleged to have been committed by Archdiocesan clergy in the past 10 years, there are 2 cases in which abuse has been substantiated.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia also has an active and effective program to help survivors of sexual abuse. It provides assistance for survivors and their families – no matter when the abuse occurred and it doesn't put a limitation on how long the assistance will be offered. It also does so without conducting investigative pre-screenings.  

Since 2002, the Archdiocese has dedicated over $13 million to provide victim assistance to individuals and families, including counseling, providing medication, eliminating barriers to travel and childcare, and providing vocational assistance as well as other forms of support.

The Victim Assistance Program offered by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is administered by professionals whose purpose is to provide support for adult survivors, child victims and their family members who have been affected by sexual abuse.

The focus is on healing through outpatient counseling. The Archdiocese provides payment for the following:

• Licensed therapeutic services by a therapist of the individual’s choice

• Medications related to mental health treatment

• Psychiatric services

• Transportation expenses related to therapy sessions

• Childcare expenses related to therapy sessions

It's also important to note that the Archdiocese does not mandate the types of services an individual receives. In all cases, the Victim Assistance Program follows guidelines set forth by a survivor's independent counselor or therapist and tailors an assistance plan based on the unique needs of each individual. Efforts on the part of the Archdiocese to assist survivors far exceed what is being done by any other private or public institution.

The Victim Assistance Program offered by the Archdiocese is an important function of the Office for Child and Youth Protection (OCYP), which has been headed by Leslie Davila since 2011. She came to the Archdiocese from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, where she had been working as a victim advocate. She has over 20 years of professional experience in services to crime victims. 

Along with help aimed at healing the individual, another major OCYP focal point is to improve awareness and prevent child sexual abuse from occurring.

I’m sure you have the social data. You already know that child sexual abuse is a problem much wider than the Catholic Church. It’s an issue in nearly every profession, in millions of private homes, and in public institutions. Much of the work performed by OCYP seeks to preclude the abuse problem at its root through education and training of lay employees and volunteers as well as clergy.

As a result, the Archdiocese exceeds state mandatory reporter requirements. And it demands that all individuals working with children undergo background checks and child abuse clearances. Additionally, all employees and volunteers are required to attend Safe Environment Training Programs as well as Mandated Reporter Training Programs. To date, over 30,000 individuals connected with the Archdiocese have undergone mandated reporter training. Some 6,000 to 9,000 participants enroll in the Safe Environment Program each year. Additionally OCYP staffers travel to parishes on a regular basis to conduct child abuse prevention forums and audit parish records to ensure that everyone has received the appropriate training.

All of this training seeks to create a habit of prevention. It outlines what is expected of individuals in the Church and enables them to notice patterns of behavior that might signal possible child abuse.

Archdiocesan work to prevent abuse through education and strict background check policies has been more extensive and going on for much longer than in other institutions too. Those efforts exceeded what was prescribed by Pennsylvania law before it was changed a few years ago. In some aspects, Archdiocesan child protection efforts still exceed state law.