Bingo anyone? Victims of clergy sex abuse make light of matters with a board game

By Ivey Dejesus
Penn Live
May 31, 2018

This is a screenshot of the Bishops Response Bingo game designed by three survivors of clergy sex abuse.

Comedy comes from the darkest places.

Turns out that somewhere between the enduring trauma of having been sexually abused as a child by a priest and their fight for legislative reform to laws that would permit them legal recourse, victims of clergy sex abuse can make some light of their experience.

Just weeks away from the release of the findings of a grand jury investigation into child sex abuse across Pennsylvania's Catholic communities, three survivors of clergy sex abuse have collaborated to produce a game that takes a light-hearted approach to the topic.

The game is called Bishop's Response Bingo, and, as the name suggests, the game is built around the concept of the bingo strategy: Each of the slots in the 25-square grid offers a possible response from a church bishop to the findings of the investigation.

The catch: The responses are not fictitious. They are, in fact, responses given by church officials across the country over the course of recent years in the wake of the escalating clergy sex abuse scandal.

"It's not going to take us long to get a bingo," said Mike McDonnell, one of the collaborators on the game. "We have heard these response time and time again."

Among the bingo responses:

  • We made big mistakes and we are sorry.
  • Witnesses have died.
  • Evidence has been lost.
  • We have fully cooperated with the attorney general's office.
  • The Catholic Church is committed to the protection of children.

"Every one of those captions has been utilized already somewhere. You may even recognize a couple of them," McDonnell said.

The concept behind the game, he explained, is to prepare victims, survivors, advocates and the general public to possible responses from church officials, but also to let church officials know how informed victims are.

"We are not going to accept their rhetorical responses," he said. "We are not going to let it go by with a public statement saying we are very sorry. We've heard this so many times before. It comes with a trap door. They are empty responses. We want to see action and we want the general public to know that these responses mean nothing to us."

The game, which is being shared across social media, comes just weeks in advance of the announcement of findings from a grand jury investigation into clergy sex abuse across six dioceses in Pennsylvania.

The state Office of Attorney General is expected to make public those findings by the end of June. Already, two priests have been arrested and charged with child sex crimes as a result of the 18-month-long investigation.

McDonnell was sexually abused by a priest as a child in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which in 2005 and 2011 was the target of another grand jury investigation that found widespread and systemic child sex abuse by priests and cover-up by church officials. McDonnell testified before two grand jury panels.

He collaborated on the game with Shaun Dougherty, a victim of clergy sex abuse out of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, and Connie Altamirano, another New York-base survivor, who today advocates for legislative reform in that state.

"We want survivors and victims to pass it out and anytime time they get one, let's put a stamp on it," McDonnell said. "Anytime they read a comment within the next 60 play the game every time they hear a bishop's response or read an article or hear it from the pulpit. Cross it out....and wait until you hear the next one and see how many you can get on your bingo game."



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