A mid-week tally of articles about the abuse crisis in the Catholic church that have caught my eye in the past few days:
At National Catholic Reporter, Tom Roberts notes that the group Catholic Whistleblowers has proposed three names for the papal advisory commission on the abuse crisis. I discussed the advisory commission several days ago, and the Catholic Whistleblowers group back in May when it was formed.
The names proposed by Catholic Whistleblowers for the papal advisory commission are Sister Maureen Turlish, Father Tom Doyle, and Dr. Robert M. Hoatson. All strike me as first-rate choices. I'm also struck favorably by Maggie Crehan's proposal, in the thread following Roberts's article, to add Jennifer Haselberger's name to the list.
It will be interesting to see how this recommendation is received by the Vatican. Something tells me . . . .
At The Tablet site yesterday, Marie Collins responds to the Vatican announcement about the advisory commission. Collins (who is an abuse survivor and activist) welcomes this step. She also regards it as ten years too late. And then she adds,
If there is to be lasting progress then the right people have to be chosen as members of this commission. We have had too many decisions made within the Church by those whose priority has been the protection of the institution rather than the protection of children. We have had too many speak for the Church using words which have hurt rather than healed survivors. This must be an end to that.
And here's another letter to the editor that deserves serious consideration, it seems to me:
To the Editor of THE EAGLE:
Once again, bills have been introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature to reform our outmoded Statutes of Limitations (SOL) laws "for certain sexual crimes against children." The first were in 2004. Crimes against our youngest and most vulnerable population go unpunished for many reasons: most are unreported; when they are reported, most claims are ignored; and finally, it takes many years for victims to realize what has happened to them, find their footing, and seek justice in a court of law.
It is during this time, a critical "window" of realization, that claims often lapse and become time-barred. Justice demands a counter-balancing "window" during which worthy claimants could come forward irrespective of the elapsed time, and press a claim. Indeed, H.1455 and S.633 are called "window legislation" for this reason. Victim’s claims will not ultimately succeed if they are not underpinned by compelling evidence; yet, without change to the SOL laws, their claims, however just, have no chance at all.
Every state that has proposed changes to SOL rules for child sexual abuse has met opposition from a powerful political force: the Catholic church. In 2008 the late Ed Saunders, chief lobbyist for the church, submitted written testimony against changes to SOL. There were three objections: The moral argument was that changes would unfairly impose new obligations on institutions and new liability on alleged pedophiles; the corporate argument maintained that it was irresponsible to punish the institution for the failings of individuals over which the institution had no control; and the economic argument was that if the church became insolvent through damage awards resulting from increased liability, the costs of the social programs that had been provided to society would then be thrust upon taxpayers.
The church’s opposition to SOL changes has evolved. In an address to over 60 legislators on Oct. 17, Cardinal Sean Patrick O’Malley, the archbisop of Boston, put the economic argument front and center and has said nothing publicly about the relative fairness or corporate aspects of the bills. It’s possible that the incongruity of endorsing more protection for pedophiles than for children has registered on the cardinal. It’s also possible that the employment review and employment retention policies of the church he governs have been found lacking. Or, perhaps the fact that most child sex crimes are perpetrated by family members, not members of the clergy or teachers, has played a part.
Just as banks trade in coin, churches trade in trust. By all accounts, the Catholic church in the commonwealth has lost an enormous amount of trust over the last 10 years or so. Has the cardinal changed his approach because the church can no longer afford to be on the wrong side of this issue? If so, letters to him from faithful parishioners might tip the balance, make his conversion complete, and put the Catholic Church where it belongs: on the right side of this issue.
ROBERT M. KELLY
(Thanks to Jim McCrea for emailing me The Tablet article about Marie Collins's response to the Vatican papal commission on sexual abuse.)