Church's Reply: Report Is 'Reckless Rhetoric'

Philadelphia Inquirer
September 22, 2005

Following are excerpts from "Response of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to the Report of the Investigating Grand Jury."

The grand jury report purports to portray the attitude and behavior of the Archdiocese toward sexual abuse of minors. In fact, however, its content is nothing more than an attempt to convict in the court of public opinion those whom it does not indict in a court of law. This is reckless rhetoric, dispensed from any burden of proof, and it is not responsible law enforcement... .

Since the magnitude of the problem of clergy sexual abuse has come to light, the Archdiocese has made enormous strides in addressing past wrongs. The Archdiocese has implemented policies and procedures to ensure that the past - while never forgotten - is never repeated... .

The results have been very encouraging. The most recent reported incident of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest in the Archdiocese occurred more than five years ago. Despite this, through misleading timelines, the report seeks to create the impression that the Archdiocese's alleged failures continue to this day... .

The Archdiocese cooperated fully with the investigation into sexual abuse of minors by clergy... with the hope that the District Attorney's Office would provide recommendations for dealing with what is a societal problem, not merely a Catholic problem. But the District Attorney's Office regrettably missed its opportunity.

Its report suggests, rather, that this evil is found more often among Catholic clergy. Such a conclusion is unfounded and does a great disservice to us all - whether Catholic or not, whether clergy or laypeople... .

Rather than undertaking a constructive review of the manner in which religious, social and community organizations alike respond to allegations of child sexual abuse, the District Attorney has prepared a sensationalized, lurid, and tabloid-like presentation of events that transpired years ago, which is neither fair nor accurate... .

Most disturbing is the manner in which the District Attorney's Office levels outlandish accusations of "cover-up" and "concerted efforts to conceal" sexual abuse by priests. Although the report does not formally indict a single person, it seeks to 'convict' in the court of public opinion the Archdiocese, two Archbishops, various members of the Church hierarchy over the last 50 years, and countless other priests, religious and laypersons of participating in an evil conspiracy to hide the sexual abuse of minors... . [T]hese charges - based upon half-truths, false assumptions and innuendo - are categorically false.

Let there be no mistake. There is no excuse for the sexual abuse of children and young people. This response does not seek to excuse what is inexcusable. The report prepared by the District Attorney's Office, however, so offends traditional notions of fairness that the Archdiocese is compelled to publicly make this response.


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