|Should Cardinal Calm Parishioners?
By Manya Brachear
November 18, 2009
Lest there be confusion about where the Roman Catholic church stands on marriage, reproductive technology and treating chronically ill and dying patients, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released guidelines for their flock about all three issues this week. In doing so, they seemed to be following the guidance given by their president, Cardinal Francis George earlier this week.
In his opening address to American bishops meeting this week in Baltimore, George urged his brother bishops not to let the sexual abuse crisis and other past mistakes detract from their moral responsibility and ministry.
But some are urging George to turn his attention back to the sexual abuse crisis and the related drama unfolding at home.
In his rallying cry to bishops at the start of their annual meeting, George warned that they should not let critics steer them away from their calling to be moral authorities.
"There are some who would like to trap the church in historical events of ages long past, and there are others who would keep the bishops permanently imprisoned in the clerical sexual abuse scandal of recent years," George said. "The proper response to a crisis of governance, however, is not no governance but effective governance. Loss of trust, we know, weakens relationships and will continue to affect our ministry, even though clerical ranks have been purged of priests and bishops known to have abused children and the entire church has taken unprecedented means to protect children and to reach out to victims."
But even George can't escape the specter of sexual abuse in his own archdiocese. On Tuesday, victims advocates faxed a letter (included below) to George in Baltimore calling on him to stop parishioners at St. Mark Catholic Church from showing support for their former pastor, the Rev. Edward Maloney. Maloney was removed from ministry last week over allegations of sexual abuse nearly 30 years ago.
Removing Maloney took nearly two years from the time of the first allegation because the archdiocese was fighting another former priest in court. Robert Stepek had sued his accusers for slander in 2006, a maneuver the archdiocese squashed earlier this year and prevented going forward so accusers could safely cooperate with church investigators. Once that case was resolved, Maloney's accusers testified. Their testimonies sufficiently substantiated the allegations for the archdiocese to justify Maloney's removal.
Still, parishioners say they don't believe the accusations against their beloved former pastor and Maloney maintains his innocence.
As all of this played out in Chicago, bishops approved three documents. "Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology" recommends therapeutic means that help a couple conceive through sexual intercourse rather than replacing the act with reproductive technologies. The bishops also revised the directive dealing with medically assisted nutrition and hydration, emphasizing the need to provide food and water to patients in a persistent vegetative state. Their document on marriage discouraged same-sex marriage and cohabitation.
Victims advocates say George should stop claiming moral authority on issues out of his control, and do something about a situation he can manage instead.
"You have an enormous bully pulpit," their letter said. "You use it often. Day after day, you lecture others about moral behavior. Day after day, you talk about Jesus' admonitions to look out for the vulnerable, powerless and wounded. Now, it's time to walk the walk.
Should parishioners be able to publicly defend their former pastor or should the cardinal step in and tell them to stop?
Letter from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
November 17, 2009
Dear Cardinal George:
You have stood silently by when priests have sued their accusers. You have stood silently by when parishioners have attacked accusers. It's time to stop tolerating such hurtful, intimidating actions.
Today's Chicago Tribune proves what we have long said: letting accused predators sue their accusers frightens victims into staying silent. That, in turn, lets predators stay hidden. And that, of course, puts kids at risk.
You had a chance to stop Fr. Robert Stepek from suing his accusers. You didn't. You had a chance to publicly denounce Stepek's vicious move. You didn't.
(Only later did you tell your lawyers to quietly oppose his lawsuit, but by then, of course, it was too late: others had already been scared into silence.)
Now, you have a chance to stop more intimidation. We believe it's your duty to do so.
Tonight, some at St. Mark's parish are planning a rally in support of Fr. Edward Maloney. May we remind you that Maloney faces several accusers? You've known about one of them for more than two years. You have ousted Maloney from ministry. Your staff did find the accusers credible. Maloney and others have had months or years to try and discredit them in some way. Yet their allegations are credible.
Still, tonight, some parishioners will publicly support this suspended and credibly accused child molesting cleric. You must stop them.
If you don't, you are sanctioning their hurtful actions, you are helping to silence victims, and you are contradicting all your promises to help safeguard the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
You have an enormous bully pulpit. You use it often. Day after day, you lecture others about moral behavior. Day after day, you talk about Jesus' admonitions to look out for the vulnerable, powerless and wounded.
Now, it's time to walk the walk. It's time that you and your fellow church officials follow Jesus' example. It's time that you help and protect those who have been devastated by child sex crimes, whether by Maloney or others.
One in four girls and one in six boys will be molested during childhood. So somewhere in St. Mark's, right now, there is likely a girl being abused by her soccer coach or teacher. She is struggling with this crucial question "Should I tell someone?" Then she goes to church or turns on the TV and sees adults she knows immediately assuming that an accused molester is innocent. She sees these self-professed Christians attacking the alleged predator's victims. And of course, she'll reach the only reasonable conclusion possible "If good, church-going Catholics will side with the accused, I'd better keep my mouth shut, because adults won't believe me either."
You can help stop this tragedy, Cardinal. Take action now. Stand up for vulnerable kids. Protect those already hurt. Forbid this rally. Tell parishioners "Back Maloney if you must, but do it quietly, not publicly."
Stop talking about problems you have little control over. Do something about a problem you CAN control: your own staff and flock.
Barbara Blaine, President, firstname.lastname@example.org David Clohessy, National Director, email@example.com Barbara Dorris, Outreach Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
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