The Kind of Church Abuse in Boston, Winona Is Still Happening—all over the World
By Leslie Hittner
Winona Daily News
March 9, 2016
Jerome Christenson wrote an excellent column about the sexual abuse cover up in the Roman Catholic Church (Daily News, March 2). While that column may have been motivated by viewing the recent award-winning movie, “Spotlight,” it was much more personal and real. In that column, Jerome says, “We owe it to the children never to forget.”
He is so right.
My wife and I attended the movie “Spotlight” about two weeks ago. We came out of the theater in silence. Everyone who was there was silent. I’ve never left a theater where it felt like everyone was dumbstruck by the events of the movie.
As many of you may know, I have been vocal in a very public way about the Catholic Church’s response to the sexual abuse crisis. I wrote my first public letter in the Daily News on the subject in May 2007, but I was still unaware of the absolute corruption that was the coverup in Boston…until seeing this movie.
Today — 15 years after the Boston story hit the papers, 30, 40, 50, 60 years after the “modern” sexual abuse coverup scandal began — the Roman Catholic hierarchy still does not get it.
Even as I write this, Cardinal George Pell (formerly of Australia) and retired Bishop Joseph Adamec (Pennsylvania) are defending their illegal behaviors. Cardinal Law remains safely in the Vatican and has not been called to account for his illegal activities.
Perhaps even more incredulous is that newer bishops not involved in the previous coverup activities in their dioceses are actively defending the behaviors of their predecessors, in many instances driving their dioceses into bankruptcy in order to do so. Apologies are shallow or two-faced. For instance: Archbishop Jerome Listecki (Milwaukee) appears to have “reached out” to sexual abuse survivors simply as a tactic to ensure that his bankrupt archdiocese would not be obligated in any way to those who came forward.
What is even more disturbing to me is that Pope Francis — a truly great and humble man — has also failed the Church when it comes to the sexual abuse coverup. He looks the other way, appoints bishops with jaded sexual abuse coverup histories to new positions, and appears unwilling to walk the talk.
I hope all members of the Roman Catholic Church, lay people, priests, and bishops alike, take time to go to this movie and remember that what happened in Boston is still happening all over the world. While the Church appears to be attempting to deal with ongoing sexual abuse, it is ignoring and even fighting to continue the coverup of past activities, which leads to further emotional and even physical damage to those who were abused by priests in the past.
To paraphrase a line from the movie “Spotlight:”
We’ve got two possible histories here: a history about the demise of the Roman Catholic Church as the moral leader of Christianity, and a history about how the Church struggled and succeeded in redeeming its relevance in the twenty first century.
Which will it be?