The Top Ten Suggestions for the Pope as He Starts to Plan His Fall 2015 Trip to Philadelphia

Hamilton and Griffin on Rights

July 29, 2014

It is not terribly surprising to hear that Pope Francis has chosen to visit Philadelphia during the fall of 2015, when the city will be hosting the 2015 World Meeting of Families.

Philadelphia is a landmark for the Catholic Church in many ways. There are roughly 4 million people in Philadelphia and about 1.5 Catholics; no fewer than three major Catholic universities: St. Joseph’s University, Villanova University, and La Salle University; and a blanket of parishes and parochial schools and Catholic high schools.

Philadelphia also was the home of the remarkable American saint, Sister Katharine Drexel, who was born Catherine Marie Drexel into the wealthy Drexel family, but who chose devotion to the needs of the Native American and African American communities over marriage proposals and money.

To his credit, Pope Francis has been outspoken about the evils of child sex abuse and the need to bring priest perpetrators and bishops responsible for the coverup to account. Fittingly, Philadelphia is the American city that knows the most about the Catholic bishops’ coverup. Why? Because it is the only American city where the District Attorney’s Office has pursued and published in-depth grand jury investigations into the ways in which the Archdiocese covered up and fostered child sex abuse by its priests. It is also the only Archdiocese to criminally prosecute a higher-up, Msgr. William Lynn, for his role in the perpetuation of abuse by serial pedophiles. There is much the Pope can learn here about the betrayal of some of the most loyal Catholics in the world.

Knowing that the Pope will want a people’s tour of Philadelphia and that he will also want to capitalize on this opportunity to understand how the American bishops have failed to protect so many of the Church’s own children, I make the following humble suggestions for his trip. The Philadelphia region has been my home for 30 years, and I look forward to his arrival.

Handy Reading List

1. The 2005 Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Grand Jury Report on the Sexual Abuse of Children in the Philadelphia Archdiocese

2. The 2011 Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Grand Jury Report on the Sexual Abuse of Children in the Philadelphia Archdiocese

3. Benjamin Franklin on Tolerance. Ben Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania, which was the first major American university to have no religious affiliation. He believed in God, but he declined to accord allegiance to any one religion. Ben was also relentlessly practical and down-to-earth. I believe the Pope would have liked Ben and vice versa.

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