|Archbishop Dolan's Next " Priestly" Obligation
By Rev. Robert M. Hoatson
National Survivor Advocates Coalition
April 20, 2009
It was very clear during the evening vespers service and installation of New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan that he loves his priesthood and the priests with whom he will be working during his tenure in New York. It was very obvious that he was sent to New York primarily to boost the morale of the Archdiocesan priests who were demoralized during the administration of Cardinal Edward Egan. Dolan mentioned his love and support for "his" priests more than any other group, not coincidentally. Dolan has been a seminary rector and authored a book about the priesthood.
We learned from Father Stephen Norton, a Dutchess County pastor and former colleague of mine from the Irish Christian Brothers, an "installation day" commentator on a New York television station, that Dolan has already begun meeting with priests in small groups to assess their needs and determine how best to serve them. We also learned that Dolan will host a barbecue for all Archdiocesan priests in May at Saint Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers. Ironically, Father Steve was a weekend associate pastor at a parish in Westchester where one of my many abusers is pastor and I warned him about my abuser. I never heard from Father Steve again.
At the barbecue in May, I hope Archbishop Dolan begins his talk to the priests by saying in his down-to-earth, Midwestern style,
"Guys I have to begin by asking you to cooperate with me on this one. There is still a huge clergy sexual abuse problem going on. The research is clear: ninety percent of sexual abuse victims have not yet come forward. That means that there are some of you out there today who have abused minors, teenagers, and vulnerable adults. There are some of you who are carrying on relationships with women, married or unmarried. And, there are some of you who are engaging in homosexual relationships with each other or others.
I am telling you right now: if you are not living your promise of celibacy, I want you today to enter therapy, if necessary, and cease your active sexual lives. After all, men, celibacy does not just mean that we do not get married. It means we do not engage in sex of any type with anyone. I will not accept any other interpretation of that promise. And, if you cannot live celibacy, then I welcome you to leave this life and begin another where you can be truly happy. It is not fair to the faithful to be served by men who are living double lives.
As for those of you who have abused who have net yet owned up to it: if you come forward to me within two weeks, I will treat you fairly and justly, but I will make sure your victims are treated first. You will be reported to law enforcement, you will be sent to a treatment facility, you will never be in ministry again, and we will more than likely seek your dismissal from the clerical state, but we will not abandon you.
Your victims will more than likely be believed (because almost no reports of abuse are bogus), they will be given immediate emergency treatment paid for by the Archdiocese, and every need they have in order to be restored to wholeness will be met, including fair and just compensation.
If you choose not to come forward and I discover that you are an abuser, I will place you on immediate suspension without faculties, salary or benefits, and you will wallow in your own deceit and cover-up. We will not tolerate any sexual abuse by clergy. In addition, if any of you know of any abuse by one of us, you must report that to law enforcement and me immediately. I hope I have made myself clear.
Finally, if you were abused by a clergyman or anyone else, please let me know. I will help you report your abuse to law enforcement, and I will treat you with the love and compassion you deserve. Whatever you need, you will get!
I realize that some of you may not be able to eat the hot dogs and hamburgers after hearing this, and some of you may not be able to socialize with your brother priests because your consciences are bothering you. Good! We are getting to the heart of the matter.
Now, for the good news! As you know, the bishops of New York, including my predecessor, have worked vigorously to defeat the Child Victims Act currently under consideration in the New York State legislature. I have told the bishops that I am breaking rank with them and, as metropolitan Archbishop of New York State, have asked them to immediately declare their support for the Markey/Duane bills.
The reason for my support of this legislation is simple: if we are to be totally transparent about clergy sexual abuse and all sex abuse, and if we are going to get beyond this insidious leprosy, then we must give victims their day in court. By the way, the burden of proof is on the victims, so these cases from many years ago will not automatically be won. But, at least the victims will have a chance to hold their abusers accountable. Besides, guys, other states have passed this legislation and the Church has not been hurt financially to a great degree. It's a plus for everyone in society!
Thanks everybody for being here, and let's enjoy each other's company this afternoon. I want to meet every one of you in the next few hours. Have a great time."
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