A Call for 'Restorative Justice' in Cases of Abuse
There Also Was Criticism of the Catholic Leadership for Missing the "Hope and Healing" Symposium

By Jim Remsen
Philadelphia Inquirer [Pennsylvania]
October 20, 2004

The symposium was billed as a breakthrough "Day on Hope and Healing" in the Catholic sex-abuse crisis. The Rev. John Bambrick was hopeful, but he had a point to make.

From his seat at the dais, Bambrick extended his arms toward the audience.

"Are there any bishops here?"


"There, my friends, is the problem."

The organizers of yesterday's program at St. Joseph's University couldn't have been surprised by the brazen call-out.

Bambrick is not one to bite his tongue, being not only a priest but an outspoken survivor of clergy sex abuse. Now a North Jersey pastor and activist, he was one of two people invited to give the audience their wrenching accounts of being molested as children and seeking justice.

"We can't wait for them," he said of the bishops. "We can't rely on them," Bambrick said, to a smattering of applause. "This is a moment of grace in our church, and we have the ability to change, and to force change on those who don't want those changes to happen."

His 200 listeners were already in position to carry out at least some degree of change. Many of them were local church workers and counselors who conduct sex-abuse-prevention training, work with victims, and implement other mandates of the U.S. bishops' charter to protect children.

"We must see this tragedy from the perspective of the survivors, who are the ones most impacted," said the Rev. Gerard McGlone, a psychologist and visiting fellow at St. Joseph's who organized the symposium.

Alongside Bambrick was Victoria Cubberley, who recounted in a flat voice her "30-year journey of loneliness and mistrust." Beginning at age 14, she said, she was assaulted by three priests in her Bucks County parish and school.

The archdiocese's victim-assistance office has paid for her psychotherapy for a number of years, Cubberley said, and helped in her healing by arranging a visit to the rectory where she was raped.

"It touches my heart to know there are people here who get it," she told the audience.

Bambrick called on dioceses to adopt the "restorative justice" system that he said prevailed in the early church. Under the "biblically centered" system, he said, victims take charge of the process, with offenders expected to address them directly and take responsibility for their crimes.

"It seeks to make peace not only for the victim but also the perpetrator," he said.

Kicking off the symposium was Kathleen McChesney, director of the U.S. bishops' Office for Child and Youth Protection.

McChesney provided a litany of grim statistics from February's report on the national scope of the abuse problem. Among the figures: 10,667 victims (the true toll might be twice as high, she said); 50 percent of cases reported after 25 years, well past the statute of limitations; 384 priests charged, 252 convicted, 100 sent to prison; cost to the church, $573 million.

Some people talk of struggling with "issue fatigue," McChesney said, while others say the church "has turned the corner" on the crisis.

"I don't mean to say we shouldn't be hopeful and we aren't making progress, because we are, but there are many, many steps to be taken in this journey," she said. "We are just merely at the beginning."

Msgr. Timothy Senior, head of the archdiocese's office for clergy, attended on behalf of Cardinal Justin Rigali, who was at a meeting of Pennsylvania bishops.

Senior said Rigali is "absolutely committed to the full implementation" of the bishops' charter. The archdiocese, Senior said, has conducted "safe environment" training for more than 40,000 clergy, parish staff, teachers, students and, now, parents in the archdiocese.

McChesney's office is coordinating a second round of audits of the nation's dioceses. An audit team is to visit Philadelphia next month.


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