Questioning a Legacy
January 14, 2016
|Courtesy Photo; David Clohessy|
It’s easy and tempting to say nice things about someone after he or she passes away. In the case of just-deceased Alaska Catholic Archbishop Francis Hurley, however, we hope Catholic officials are careful about overdoing it. Praising him, we in the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) fear, rubs even more salt into the already-deep and often still-fresh wounds of hundreds of Alaskans who were sexually abused by priests during Hurley’s tenure, and thousands of parishioners who were betrayed by decisions Hurley made.
While Hurley surely accomplished much good during his career, frankly, his track record on protecting kids from predators was very poor. Evidence clearly shows that he repeatedly put children in harm’s way. In 2002, when US bishops—under extreme public pressure—finally adopted a nationwide abuse policy, Hurley argued against it. And just five years ago, he advocated returning some child-molesting clerics to ministry and relaxing the church’s already poorly-enforced “zero tolerance” policy.
Consider Fr. Timothy Crowley. He’s a priest who was removed from his Michigan parish when his church supervisors deemed him “credibly accused” of molesting a boy for eight years in the 1980s. (The Lansing diocese paid the victim $200,000.) But two years later, with little or no warning to parents, parishioners or the public, Hurley welcomed him to Alaska, housed him at Our Lady of Guadalupe church in Turnagain, and gave him a job as a spokesperson for the Archdiocese.
Or consider Archbishop Robert Sanchez. He’s the former Archbishop of Santa Fe who was accused of having sexual intercourse with at least 11 women, some of them teenagers. According to BishopAccountability.org, an independent archive of the church’s abuse crisis, Sanchez “also had extensive knowledge of the sexual abuse by priests and rarely did anything to punish or remove them.”
Again, with little or no warning to parents, parishioners or the public, Hurley welcomed Sanchez to Alaska and put him on the job in a church.
Journalists exposed Hurley’s recklessness in these two cases. How many other proven, admitted or credibly accused child molesting clerics did Hurley quietly bring into Alaska during his 30 years as a church official in the state?
The abuse and cover-up crisis involves dealing not just with predators, but also with “enablers” and victims. Sadly, Hurley mishandled these other components of the scandal too.
Like virtually all of his clerical colleagues, Hurley took no moves to defrock, demote, discipline or even publicly denounce a single Catholic employee in Alaska who was found ignoring or concealing known or suspected child sex crimes by any church worker—be it priest, nun, seminarian, brother or lay employee.
And like many of his clerical colleagues, Hurley was no hero to clergy abuse victims. He also reportedly ignored at least one abuse victim, Pat Podvin, until Podvin went public with allegations against a pedophile priest, Msgr. Frank Murphy. Podvin, principal at Service high school, later committed suicide.
Keep in mind that these are not “mistakes” or oversights. Hurley was a well-educated man, with plenty of lawyers, consultants, “experts” and public relations professionals around him or at his disposal. So these are deliberately self-serving decisions, made time and time again, that endangered children, hurt victims, betrayed Catholics and stonewalled police.
Heaping praise on Hurley now also heaps pain on those who were hurt and betrayed by his callous and irresponsible behavior.
Even worse, when we ignore wrongdoing, we encourage wrongdoing. And when we honor wrongdoers, we encourage similar wrongdoing. Praising Hurley now also basically encourages similar cover-ups.
For the sake of justice, the healing of victims and the safety of children, we beg Catholic officials and parishioners to be honest about Hurley’s history of hiding and enabling child sex crimes. We beg them to not bury the archbishop with full honors and not ignore his full track record.
David Clohessy of St. Louis is director of SNAP—the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests—the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in its title, SNAP has members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. The group’s website is SNAPnetwork.org. Clohessy can be reached at 314-566-9790 or firstname.lastname@example.org