Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Fr. Tom Doyle Comments On Fellow Clergy
Fr. Tom issues a long needed wake up call to fellow priests and clergy:
Response to Letter to Maine Priests By Rev. Thomas P. Doyle, O.P., J.C.D.
This is an essential message (see copy of letter below)….it’s tragic that it has to be said but it’s all too true. I’m not able to send this response out to all on your list but you can share it if you wish.
I was ordained 38 years ago. I have been deeply involved in the sex abuse nightmare since 1984. The nearly universal response from other priests to me personally over the years has ranged from disbelief to anger to warnings that I was being a traitor to the brotherhood. I recall no priest asking what he could do to help victims. The general response of priests and priests groups has been silence.
Priests groups such as the NFPC or other small or large gatherings only began to speak out in 2002 and then it was a response to the Bishops’ “one strike and you’re out” rule. They were concerned about themselves and complained that there was no justice in the bishops’ rule. They complained that all were being tarnished because of the crimes of a few. Still….no one expressed any concern about the victims.
Over the years I have met a small number of priests who have both spoken out and who have reached out and supported victims. These men are the real thing….men who are committed to the authentic concept of a priest as a pastoral minister and not just a cultic leader. Many if not all have been punished, challenged, threatened and/or isolated by the bishops. Only two bishops out of 4500 on the planet have stood up and they have both been punished by the Vatican…..Benedict XVI’s Vatican…..the bureaucratic arm of the same pope who is now apologizing in the US and in Australia. His words are empty and hypocritical as long as men like Tom Gumbleton and Geoff Robinson remain isolated. His words are empty as long as the vast majority of priests remain too brainwashed by clericalism or too fearful because of their state of economic servitude to the monarchy to speak publicly about the outrage of sexual abuse (among other outrages) or to reach out and try to help a victim.
When I hear the whining of priests, the lies of the bishops and the hypocrisy of the pope and his Vatican, I cannot help but wonder if all the lofty theological sayings about the priesthood are nothing more than hollow prose the real purpose of which is to support the clergy’s self-created but clearly waning superiority in church and society.
All of this makes me profoundly ashamed to have been a priest and a Catholic and deeply disappointed that the clergy have deserted the calling to minister as Christ did, if indeed we ever had it.
Letter to Maine Priests
In a recent homily, Rev. Michael Gendreau, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in South Portland, led parishioners to believe that the child sex abuse charge against Rev. James Robichaud is unfounded and based on little or no evidence.
Gendreau doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His remarks were irresponsible.
The woman who informed church officials that she was sexually abused by Robichaud, beginning at age 13, is not lying. Has anyone given a moment’s thought to her pain and suffering? Does anyone realize the amount of anguish and agony endured by a child abuse victim as they relive their abuse by putting aside their own desire for privacy to help protect other children and hold their abuser accountable? Child abuse victims often blame themselves for being abused, they think it was their fault. Has anyone considered that this brave woman might be blaming herself for Robichaud’s death? Well, Gendreau didn’t think about these things. Gendreau’s homily included a subtle message intended for people to believe that the child abuse victim in this case did, indeed, cause Robichaud to die of suicide. Disgraceful, but not unexpected from “Pastor Mike.”
Which brings me to another matter. During the past six years, Gendreau and you, his brother priests, have done nothing but whine about “unfair treatment to priests,” and “how difficult it is to be a priest because everyone thinks we are all child molesters.”
Stop feeling sorry for yourselves. Want to feel better? Get off your butts and help an abuse survivor. Listen to their story. Engage yourself in their innocent suffering. It would seem that everything about your ministry should have prepared you for this moment.
Which begs the question, why haven’t you reached out and helped those who were abused? Why haven’t you spoken out in the public square demanding truth and accountability from your bishop? Why haven’t you joined with abuse survivors and child protection advocates in their attempts to strengthen and change statute of limitation restraints? Why haven’t you demanded justice and restitution for the harms inflicted upon innocent children as a result of their abuse? And, if you do have evidence that accused priests are not being granted due process, or are being “railroaded,” then it is your obligation to speak clearly and forcefully to this issue. We agree that there is no defense for a process that is not fair and unbiased to both the accuser and the accused.
But, let’s not kid ourselves. Almost every priest in this diocese has done little to nothing to support those who were abused. Oh, sure, you all know how to say the right things such as offering your thoughts and prayers for those who were abused. Yet, it remains difficult for me to understand how any of you can preach the gospel with any measure of integrity while remaining silent and afraid to speak out for the vulnerable, ostracized, and sometimes despised victims of clergy sexual abuse. It’s all upside down in the church thanks to you. By your words and actions, you’ve helped make the abuse victims the enemy.
Finally, more and more ”lay persons” are discovering for the first time in their lives that they, too, are called to priestly ministry. No one ever told (or taught) Catholic school children that the most exciting news of all is that our Baptism calls all of us (not just the ordained) to be priest, prophet and king. Church is all of us, not just a group of celibate (and chaste?) males. It can now be said that if the “ordained” priesthood chooses to continue to remain silent, fearful and unwilling to carry the cross for those in need, then, please, get out of our way. There’s too much to do.
Co-founder, VOTF-Maine, Ignatius Group
207 838 1319
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Fr. Robichaud, he committed suicide this June, a couple of days after learning he was being suspended from his priestly duties pending the outcome of an investigation into a credible allegation of sexual abuse. The alleged abuse had occurred 29 years previously and was the only known allegation ever brought against Fr. Robichaud. Fr. Robichaud was made aware of the allegation in January of this year. The allegation was brought by a woman who claims that in 1979 she was abused at 13 years of age. The Diocese of Portland Maine states that since there was a 'semblance of truth and the diocese could not immediately disprove the allegation', the suspension was warranted, and that they had also contacted criminal authorities upon receiving the allegation. More can be read here:http://news.aol.com/story/_a/maine-diocese-offers-new-details-on/n20080709162409990040
For me the critical piece of this story is the call for priests to take a stand and quit hiding behind self interest and the codes of silence and brotherhood. In Fr. Doyle's letter he makes no bones about how much these codes fuel the hypocrisy of this crisis, and in the letter from Paul Kendrick, Mr. Kendrick makes it evident that the laity are beginning to understand that if the ordained leaders can't or won't lead, then they have self chosen to be useless impediments and 'need to get out of the way'. In my book, these men are speaking truth.
I occasionally check out the website Voice From The Desert, and today they are running an analysis of the abuse crisis written by Vinnie Nauheimer and I encourage you to read it. Vinnie makes a compelling case for both Interpol and the UN to treat the Vatican as a criminal organization over their handling of this issue, especially because of the Vatican's historical track record: http://reform-network.net/?p=1834 It's Enlightening reading, and makes a very valid point about the almost universal hesitancy to treat the Vatican City States as one would treat any other country. This hesitancy by secular authorities to enforce their own laws when it comes to the Roman Catholic Church, is a tendency the Vatican and dioceses around the world have taken advantage of to export and import pedophile priests across international lines.
The one thing I really liked about Vinnie Nauheimer's analysis is that it forces one to look at the abuse issue as a criminal issue and not a religious issue. Criminal sexual abuse is not about sin, it's about crime and it's about criminal cover up. The Church's current fascination with meaningless apologies mostly serves to keep abuse a religious and sinful issue in the minds of the public. It's one reason I now see all of Benedict's posturing as hypocritical and pointless. I've reread most of his statements on the issue in the last six months and not once does he call for accountability on the level of the Bishop. Instead he universally calls on all Catholics to support the bishops in their painful task of dealing with victims and perpetrators. That's just the problem, we've given the bishops way too much support, way too much leniency, way too much deference, and as Tom Doyle points out, so have the lesser clergy, and most of that in self interest.
One other incident of note happened this weekend, which also needs to be pointed out. Three women were ordained in Boston by Womenspriest.org and all three were essentially excommunicated by Sean Cardinal O'Malley before they were ordained. In the Church's code of Canon Law there is not greater punishment. It's the Church's form of spiritual execution. On the other hand, not one single abusive priest or bishop has been excommunicated. Some priests have been laicized but retain their sacramental rights, while no meaningful punishment of any sort has been handed down to abusive bishops. They all retain their rank, privilege, priestly functions, and financial perks.
The excommunication of women priests and the unbelievable cushy treatment of abusive bishops and most priests, truly point to the real underlying issue. The Church will not accept an attack on the status of it's celibate male clerical system, no matter how illogical it's uneven treatment of these two issues appears. It blows me away that well meaning people of faith can not see that the real evil in the Church is the cultic, privileged, all male clerical system, (almost totally white); and for the last 1000 years it has always been the real evil. In my book the single mindedness of maintaining this exclusiveness and power is why Benedict is hell bent on restoring Atonement theology and propagating the blatantly misogynist sexual moral theology of natural law. It's not about the Good News which seeks our union with Jesus and our spiritual liberation, it's about the Vatican News which demands our submission and maintains in us a spiritual infantilization. Fortunately, a lot of us are growing up.