The National Catholic Review
Blase J. Cupich

The Catholic bishops of the United States have learned many lessons from the sex abuse crisis. These twelve are among the most important.

1. The injury to victims is deeper than non-victims can imagine. Sexual abuse of minors is crushing precisely because it comes at a stage in their lives when they are vulnerable, tender with enthusiasm, hopeful for the future and eager for friendships based on trust and loyalty.

2. Despite the justified anger felt by victims toward the church, bishops still need to reach out to them as pastors. Meetings with victims can be challenging for all involved, but they also can be a moment of grace and insight.

3. The causes of the clerical sexual abuse are complex, and it is simplistic to reduce them to easy answers. Many factors have been alleged to “explain” this misconduct by clergy, but the fact is that sexual abuse of minors is found in many different circumstances, perpetrated by family members, leaders of youth organizations, doctors, teachers and others. “Easy answers” underestimate how wide the scope of this problem is in our society.

4. Catholics have been hurt by the moral failings of some priests, but they have been hurt and angered even more by bishops who failed to put children first. People expect religious leaders above all to be immediate and forthright in taking a strong stand in the face of evil, such as the harm done to children and young people by sexual abuse.

5. The counsel of lay people, especially parents, is indispensable in a matter that so deeply affects families. Our capacity to respond to sexual abuse of young people has been bolstered by the insights shared with us by parents as to how to do so effectively.

6. Our priests have a resiliency that future generations will recall with admiration. They have remained committed to their vocation day-in, day-out, despite suffering from the actions of those who have besmirched the priesthood they love. Their steadfastness has built a reservoir of good will with our people and is a major factor in explaining why during this terrible crisis most Catholics in our country remain faithful to the church.

7. The church needs to maintain the mandatory safe environment efforts that have been developed. Experience shows that institutions are not as effective in protecting children if standards are voluntary. Any backsliding on this endangers children first of all, and also the credibility gained through the efforts to eradicate the effects of this scourge. Parishes must be the safest places for a child to be.

8. Bishops need to be mutually accountable in their efforts to protect children and must be willing to participate in transparent, independent audits to demonstrate they are keeping the promises we made. What happens in one place happens to us all.

9. Bishops need to resist the defensiveness that institutions often fall back on in crisis moments. Resorting to a conspiratorial interpretation of attacks and adopting a “circle the wagons” approach only prolongs a problem and does nothing to settle it or heal the victims.

10. Self deception is an inherent part of the illness abusers suffer and includes the inclination to diminish the gravity of their behavior and its effects on the individuals abused and on the church at large. Many even manage to convince themselves that they genuinely cared for the children whom they harmed. This makes it almost impossible for them to come to grips with the evil they perpetrated. Claims often made by perpetrators in the past that they were contrite and would stop abusing are never again going to be taken at face value.

11. Our people’s faith is strong and sustains them even in times of challenge. We receive from them a level of emotional and spiritual support which humbles us. Their trust in God sustains not just themselves but us too.

12. Bishops must partner with public authorities by complying with civil laws with respect to reporting allegations of sexual abuse of minors and cooperating with their investigation. All leaders of the community whether religious or secular need to work together to protect children and young people.

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which we bishops adopted in 2002 and renewed twice since, provides direction for our handling the sexual abuse of minors by priests. It can be found on the Web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops: http://www.usccb.org/ocyp/charter.shtmlp { margin-bottom: 0.08in; }

Read this article in Spanish. Translation courtesy Mirada Global.

Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City, South Dakota, is the chairman of the Committee for Child and Youth Protection for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Comments

Vincent Gaitley | 8/19/2013 - 10:02pm

Twelve things we've learned about Catholic censorship: 1-11 are the same, and my previous remarks criticizing the bishops were removed for number 12.

Vincent Gaitley | 8/19/2013 - 7:17pm

Twelve things we have learned about the bishops since the child abuse scandal began: 1) the bishops lied to us and each other; 2) none have been de-frocked or scolded by Rome; 3) the bishops bully priests into submissiveness and silence; 4) the bishops are moral cowards; 5) nothing has really changed; 6) the bishops have abused the property of the Church and the charity of the flock; 7) the bishops have done no penance; 8) the bishops believe this will pass in a few years; 9) the bishops blame the media; 10) the bishops blamed the victims; 11) the bishops abused the legal process; 12) not one of them is worthy of his office and all of them should be fired.

Jaybee Anne Ponce | 8/18/2013 - 11:04pm

For sex cases, as it was increasing nowadays. There must be a heavier punishment rather than just being jailed. It has to be threatening to lessen the confidence of criminals to do such crimes. Just saying!

cebu street party

MICHAEL SKIENDZIELEWSKI | 5/25/2011 - 8:35am

CONFLICT OF INTEREST, ACADEMIC INTEGRITY, ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS
re the recently released John Jay College study on clergy sexual abuse:


I discovered that a long-time newsreporter at the New York Catholic newspaper was in the Masters Program at John Jay during the time of this study and as a matter of fact, her thesis had the same focus as that of the USCCB sponsored study. Interestingly, her monitor/supervisor for her these was the principal investigator for the USCCB’s study, Dr. Karen Terry. If you check out Dr. Terry’s curriculum vitae on her own personal website, you will find this newsreporter’s name.


http://www.karenterry.org/ktcv.pdf


And then this same news reporter has been covering the release of the USCCB report and the press conference in Washington, DC. I would like to know if the NY archdiocese paid for her masters program at John Jay.


Given the relationship between the Archdiocese of New York through the news reporter at its Catholic newspaper and the fact that the archdiocesan’s news reporter’s master level research was being supervised by the principal investigator in the USCCB directed study, are there any concerns regarding the objectivity, fairness, and professionalism of the research conducted in this report?


James Boyle | 5/28/2010 - 8:05am

There is unfortunately, quite a contrast between the self congratulatory tone of Bishop Base Cupich's assessment and Justice Burke's declaration of the difficulties faced by the National Review Board when working with the US bishops.  (Truth shall set us free**) "… truthfulness was always the one virtue that was hardest to wring out of the institution during our investigation. Truthfulness, itself, was the victim everywhere we turned."


It appears that at least some of the bishops have not yet learned that truthfulness is essential for their pastoral and leadership roles to be effective. Truthfulness is a prerequisite for reestablishment of any confidence in the bishops.


Moral leadership can be recognised only in those whose moral integrity - especially in matters of truth and untruth, is visible and recognised.


*   http://www.americamagazine.org/content/article.cfm?article_id=12272
** http://www.uscatholic.org/church/2010/03/truth-shall-set-us-free-responding-sex-abuse-crisis
C Walter Mattingly | 5/24/2010 - 2:06pm

The most important measure as to whether or not bishops have "learned their lesson" here in the states resides in the number of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse in recent years. If the number we have been given, that between 2005-2009, 12, is correct, while in the public school system for the same period it is in the tens of thousands, clearly, whether the lesson has been learned or not, the problem has been effectively dealt with, to the great, if belated, credit of our bishops.


Now what are we as Catholics in America going to do about bringing to the attention of the citizenry those thousands abused in the public school system? Don't we have the obligation, as former offenders, to make reparation by making this an active part of our ministry? Otherwise Sister Turley's claims of our "disgraceful" behavior will not be a thing of the past in America but will justly follow us into our future.

Laurie Sheehan | 5/11/2010 - 6:11am

BLASE CUPICH thanks for telling us what you think the Bishops of the USA have learned. But aren't you really creating a smoke screen? Aren't you trying to lull people into thinking you have changed when the evidence suggests otherwise?

Where is your learning about Cardinal Levada, Cardinal Law,and other senior clergy who have so abused the legal system in relation to the rights of victims?

Where is your call to those, who tolerated abuse of children and did nothing, to resign?  

Where is your call to the abusers still in the system to resign?

Where is the call to those clergy who have feigned sorrow but who knew and did nothing to halt the abuse or inform other parishes about the abuser being transferred to them?

Perhaps when you start to do these things people may think you have something to say.

God help the abused while Clerical Leaders do not address the issues in their midst.

Norman Costa | 5/10/2010 - 5:30pm

Rev Richard T Rodriguez,

Would you please make clear, who is dining with whom. Bishops and victims? Bishops and perpetrators? Victims and perpetrators?

What would you hope the outcomes would be?

Thanks.

Richard T Rodriguez | 5/9/2010 - 7:01pm

I like what the good bishop has learned, and so his brother bishops. But meeting the requirements of law doesn't go to the heart of the matter.  What is needed, I think, for both the victim and the perpetrator, are countless meetings and dinings; meetings and dinings; meetings and dinings, with no funds to cloud the heart of the matter.

Ted McGoron | 5/6/2010 - 5:47pm

   First of all the bishops who support political correctness to the point of refusing to admit men who prefer younger men as sexual partners are homosexuals and those who are open about such unnatural preferences should not be priests. Priests who have affairs with women are guilty of the serious sin of violating their vows of celibacy and probably lying to the women who trust them and their promises of affection. But they are at least, rather obviously, indicating they cannot give up something natural and they possibly should be given another chance to observe their vows. But they should also be given the opportunity to leave the priesthood and marry legally. The homosexuals should be given only the opportunity to leave. 

Carl Chudy | 5/5/2010 - 9:07pm

For me, the issues surrounding the experiences of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy and others is heart-wrenching and abominable.   I have seen firsthand in pastoral ministry and even in my own family the horrible effects of this abuse; a deep abiding sense of shame, and so much more. Its outcome in family and friendships is often crippling. I have reached out and listened for many years to this pain and sought to find ways to mediate God’s healing love. There were times I was successful.

That being said, I understand the anger and mistrust when victims, their families and friends feel they are battling a Church that, in all appearances to some, seems to stand in silence.  I also understand the overwhelming embarrassment and bafflement of other clergy, religious, and lay people who feel caught in the middle of abuse charges of a few that go back decades. This bewilderment grips authentic and faithful ministers at the core of their call, who they themselves feel victimized in the public tussle to seek the truth. As the victims, in all truth, can ask the Church, “Why was I abused by your priest,” so the Church of today, her congregations, lay leaders, religious and clergy are also asking the same question. At the same time, the media chatter hangs like a cloud over us all who can never do such a thing. We want to say too, “We did not abuse you, one sick person did, and like you, we wish it did not happen.” The silence of victims over many years, the silence of victimizers, and our silence reveal our common shame.

I have been searching for a biblical icon to understand what God is doing in the midst of this scandal. Recently, I went to a spirituality convocation and heard the words of Sr. Mary Catherine Hilkert, O.P. She refers to the discipleship of Mary Magdalene in relation to the disciples themselves. She says that the passageway to authentic discipleship was experienced through deep and heart-wrenching human drama in their friendship and love for the Lord. His death on the cross ushered in His absence, and the end to a dream and vision the disciples based their hope and lives. This absence prior to his resurrection, the “great silence”, caused an enormous void within all who knew Him. The disciples grieved by acting out through fear and even betrayal, as was the case of Peter. The women were portrayed differently. They grieved for their Lord and sought to express this grief through their lonely, painful vigil in front of the cross as Jesus hung suffocating to death. They faced the horror and wished to ritualize healing by bringing perfume to anoint His corpse in order to remove the stench of death.

In one way, through the efforts of brave victims and others to bring this scandal to public scrutiny, through the struggle of the Church of today to face the horror, we are all grieving, and perhaps that is one doorway to a renewed discipleship today. Often the grief of victims and their families is over a lost childhood and faith, taken by betrayal. Healing comes in giving voice to a long standing pain and the accountability of the Church that shows its remorse over and over again. For our congregation, our grief may be our lost innocence. Healing toward a new discipleship for us is a vigorous transparency and responsibility to the victims of some confreres, a deeper sense of justice imbibed with a new sense of humility. I pray we may reach out to all victims with the healing of Christ, uncovering the precious gift of forgiveness.

lLetha Chamberlain | 5/5/2010 - 9:23am

Just another note: people can "document" what has happened here and there by official "records"-but I'll tell you: looking at records simply does not produce "truth" nor an indepth look at every person's involvement (unconcious factors as well as motivation, thinking, etc).  The issues are far too complex for that kind of analysis.  We rely, also, far too much on our own perceptions and thinking (in many cases, sheer assumption about what we are reading).  One cannot divorce "records" from the person/s about whom we are reading-whom we do not know at all.

if you think I'm spouting a lot of "hot air", try reading some of the recent New York Times articles by Dr. Karlot, a well-known psychiatrist: in brief, he says he decided even patients he had known for a long time, he did not know at all.  So much for "reading into the souls of others!"

the only solution to this is to "work locally"... not try to address issues (mysteries) "beyond" us: stay simple and humble... long advice by many, many great Saints!  but most of all-don't limit others by your words or intent.

lLetha Chamberlain | 5/5/2010 - 9:07am

Thank you, Carl... our faith crisis has come in the wake of 'modernity's' call to sexual license (I learned yesterday, it is now popular to be "bisexual" in public schools) and, in many places, denigration or devaluation of Sacraments and Jesus' healing power.  I dare ANYONE to say something cannot be healed-particularly in light of the newest research on neuroplasicity. etc (since so many HAVE to have science behind statements; forgetting the long history of documented miraculous healings in the Church)-I'm sorry... but I'm so tired of this constant harrangue in view of what the Church teaches, and has taught for millenia for reasons well-known to humankind.  I agree, too, that (after a life-time of gay friends, etc-although not all, certainly) there is a strong relationship between these issues and the "gay culture" (which not all of the same ilk endorse).  Along with the constant sexual titilation all around (even bill boards on the streets, in some cases)... we, as a society, have reaped what we've sown.  Often persons having the most "spleen" on these issues do nothing at all to help except vent spleen.  Believe me, I am NOT going to be one to limit Jesus' healing power-and I will not succumb to "modern science's" view on any of this... it is stupidity, utter stupidity (this viewpoint comes after years of research on the issues).  We seem to have made ourselves God with such "scientific"views-no wonder we're "paying for our sins." I have never yet met a priest of the caliber of what is portrayed by all of this, and neither have many of my cradle Catholic friends!  In the end, from my life and experience (wide enough, but only one) I cannot really see where "science" has given us all so much; look around and ask yourself the same thing! 

Greta Green | 5/4/2010 - 10:54pm

The teaching of the Catholic Church clearly says that homosexual acts are gravely disordered.  The selection of priests into the seminary was never supposed to allow those with homosexual attraction to become priests.  there is little doubt that if the Bishops had followed this consistently and monitored the seminaries, that much of the abuse would never have happened. The vast majority of the problem was never pedaphilia as some continue to suggest, but the attraction of males to boys between 12-17.  This is known to be common with homosexual males attraction to what they classify as "twinks" and was well detailed in the Jay report.  I suspect now that the Vatican has pushed for the homosexual teaching to be followed, that we will see little abuse unless the bishop dissents from actual church teaching.  If so, and abuse occurs, the abusing priest and the bishop that allowed him into the priesthood should be sent to jail. 

Carolyn Disco | 5/4/2010 - 2:49pm

Larry Mulligan,


Thanks for your inside view of USCCB audits, to which I heartily doubt Cupich will respond. Congratulations for resigning to avoid participation in deception.


Perhaps our experience in NH can help clarify what you report. We had a unique situation where truly independent audits were done for four years by the state attorney general's office. They were part of a plea bargain non-prosecution agreement between state and diocese, not to indict the diocese for criminally endangering children, with perjury as part of the indictment. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/downloads/NH_Agreement_12_10_02.pdf


Obstruction by the diocese began immediately. Bishop John McCormack took the state to court to challenge the type of audit to be done. He wanted a “compliance” audit, similar to a checklist where you indicate whether a program exists or not. The state wanted a “performance” audit where evaluations were done to determine not only that something existed, but that adopted measures were effective. (McCormack had been Law's delegate for sexual misconduct in Boston; was Cupich's predecessor at the USCCB c’tee.) The diocese lost in court, but state audits had been delayed 1½ to two years.


The results of the USCCB and state audits went forward separately but simultaneously. Comparing the bishops' audits to those by the AG was like night and day. See a partial review "The bishops claim one thing, the state finds something very different..." at http://votf.org/Survivor_Support/audit.html


Where the USCCB audits found full compliance, often with commendation, the state found “critical gaps and issues which need to be rectified” and a need for “improvement in the program’s senior leadership’s demonstrable tone.”


Dioceses were in USCCB compliance one year if they had just selected a training program; no implementation until succeeding years. It took five years for USCCB auditors to have the right to see priest personnel files.


Larry’s distrust is well earned.

Carolyn Disco | 5/4/2010 - 12:01am

Nicholas Clifford has a wonderful suggestion that laity list things they have learned about bishops during the scandal.


I learned that prelates lie.


Here are two examples with impeccable back-up:


 http://votf.org/Survivor_Support/truth_list.html Francis Christian


“Following Fortier’s conviction in 1998, a probation and parole officer invited the Diocese to provide background about Father Fortier for purposes of his pre-sentence investigation of Fortier. Despite Bishop Christian’s knowledge of Fortier’s conduct in 1984 (sexual assault of a minor, watching pornography and providing alcohol to minors), Bishop Christian reported in a 1998 letter to the probation and parole officer that Fortier’s “sexual problems with youth were unknown to the Diocese”


 


 http://www.sanfranmag.com/story/man-who-keeps-secrets William Levada


“The Archdiocese instructed [Fr. Conley] to report the incident to civil authorities, and strongly supports the reporting of all incidents of suspected child abuse or neglect… Conley was stung on reading that the archdiocese had instructed him to report his concerns; he had acted entirely on his own, without help from church leaders.” Moreover, Levada had removed Conley from ministry because he reported to police. Conley sued Levada, and won on appeal.


 


I also learned from notorious pedophile Oliver O'Grady in the movie, Deliver Us From Evil, that on the night before he was to testify in a civil case about what Mahony knew when about O'Grady's abuse, diocesan representatives offered O’Grady an annuity if he would not appear.


O’Grady had already been convicted criminally, was sentenced to prison for seven years, and so facing a possible contempt charge for not testifying in a civil case meant nothing.


The annuity is timed for $800 monthly payments as of O’Grady’s 65th birthday. How is that not bribery, witness tampering and obstruction of justice? This information has been sent to the LA district attorney’s office for follow-up.


This exact information is in a news article published May 3 at 


http://www.tribune.ie/article/2010/may/02/oliver-ogrady-on-monthly-800-church-pension/


 

lLetha Chamberlain | 5/3/2010 - 6:14am

This all makes me very, very tired... endemic in power is "corruption".   The Revelation of St. John is very telling about "empire".  The "empires" of today seem to be Western medicine, "rawkous voices 'full of sound and fury'" but meaning nothing (far too much "venting") and our curiosity about the private lives of others.  TAKE care of your fellow Catholics and your fellow humans-with your time/attention/and know-how... locally, as did Jesus.  Then the "divine order" will be restored; and this will all fade into the woodwork, just like every other societal problem does, eventually... until it crops up in some other form-sin will not end until we are consumed in All-in-All!  Jesus, come quickly! 

l mulligan | 5/2/2010 - 11:34pm

Bishop Cupich -

If you truly believe what you say in paragraphs 7 and 8, add a comment to your article explaining why the OCYP's so-called audits of the dioceses'/eparchies' "safe environment" programs intentionally, yes, I say intentionally, do not even ask if those for whom continuing education is "mandatory" actually undertake it.  When I administered, as a volunteer, the diocese of Grand Rapids' program, the VIRTUS program showed that many, if not most, of the priests were not.  Because the leadership of the diocese would take no action, and did not do so after I pointed out that the program lacked integrity as a result, I had to resign so as not to be a part of the deception.  My efforts to change the audits so that they did not allow those portions of the plans which were suppose to be "mandatory" to become, as they were in Grand Rapids, "voluntary" by going to the OCYP and the National Review Board, through its then chair, Judge Merz, were totally unsuccessful.  While not disputing the facts, it appears neither were willing to act in the face of those bishops who refused to allow the audits to include anything not required by the Dallas Charter, and who, wrongly, I believe, interpreted the Charter as only requiring a determination of whether safe environment programs existed, not whether they were actually implemented.  That is why I do not believe paragraphs 7 and 8, which makes me distrustful of the other 10 "lessons" you say you and your brother bishops have learned.  But, I will hold my prudential judment in abeyance for two weeks, to see if you post a response.

Norman Costa | 5/1/2010 - 10:33pm

Carolyn Disco,

Thank you.

I looked at one of your reference URLs. A leadin to the story was this:

"When San Francisco's archbishop was called to Rome to become the church's top cop, few were aware that William Levada has worked tirelessly throughout his career to protect sexual predator priests. Longtime church watcher Jason Berry tracks Levada and his spectacular promotion and asks: Why, by God, don't the church's top leaders get it?"

The fact is that they do get it. They are not out to lunch. The problem is not that they are dense and slow on the uptake. The problem is that among them are the very abusers, reciprocal protection by members of paedophile rings among the clergy, and the targets of their extortions. We are asking the criminals to investigate how the crimes were done.

The ones that don't get it, YET, are those among us who, in good faith, cannot comprehend the duplicity, the partnership with evil, and the unholy alliances among the bishops, including some Cardinals. I don't blame them for being incredulous, and feeling the situation cannot be as corrupt as it appears, or as is being told to them.

We need to repeat, and be clear, so others can find the faith and the courage to accept an awful truth, a truth that we wish we could avoid.

Chris NUNEZ | 5/1/2010 - 2:58pm

The 'flaw' in the structure is not peculiar to the catholic church,  or any other religion, institution or environment. It is the nature of a dysfunctional structure (or human nature) in social settings to 'protect' the power, position, and privilege of those at the top. This can be seen in any social organization. James Garbarino and his associates discuss the dynamic within 'professional groups' working in 'out of home care' for children and youth, that when a subordinate raises questions about inadequacies in the organization, the subordinate, or whistleblower, is 'chewed up' and 'spat out' of the organization. Anyone responsible for children, in families, or organizations would do well to read "The Psychologically Battered Child" (1984) to recognize and understand the dynamics at play throughout all our social systems.

Praised be to God that these dynamics are being exposed in our Church so that the media is shining a spotlight on these dyanmics. Now, the real challenge is to see the reflection of all our social systems mirrored in the behavior or our church structure and feel the same challenge to reform all our institutions from families, to the broader institutions set up to serve children and families, and all of God's children.

Norman Costa | 5/1/2010 - 1:27pm

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, you ask:

"What flaws, what corruption in the structures of the church gave the bishops the idea that they had license to enable and cover up for known sexual predators while ignoring the rape and sodomy visited upon God's little ones?"

Thank you.

We all wait for a truthful answer from the bishops. It will not come from them without being dragged, kicking and screaming, to account for themselves. The only hope of learning the answer is for you, me, everyone to keep asking this question, and not take silence for an answer.

I've already discussed, above, what a big piece of that answer involves.

John Shuster | 5/1/2010 - 11:39am
It did it again. I give up.
John Shuster | 5/1/2010 - 11:38am
My previous post really got scrambled. Here's the clean version:

The bishops have learned how to hire expensive PR firms, pull in their political markers with influential government leaders, and refine their public statements to attempt fool everyone into thinking that the atrocity of child sex abuse has come to an end in the Church. If they were really moving in the right direction, they would not have fought and successfully helped in defeating child protection legislation that failed in Connecticut and other States this week. A note to the Roman Catholic hierarchy: We are not stupid sheep that you can scare anymore. The world now knows that you and your leader all belong in jail as accessories to sex crimes against children. We are watching for every opportunity to bring you to justice. Truth and justice are more powerful than your attempts to spend tons of money to avoid facing the music. It’s just a matter of time.
NICHOLAS CLIFFORD | 5/1/2010 - 8:57am

Might not it be salutary for bishops also to consider what twelve things (or other number) the laity has learned about the episcopacy (and not just in the US) since this scandal first broke into the front pages (in 2002, roughly speaking)? Might there not be some doubt in the laity that the bishops would have ever faced up to the problem of abuse, had it not been for the investigative reporting of the press and the other media? Why is it that four Irish bishops have recently stepped down because of their failures to deal with abuse, but no American bishop has? (I do not count Cardinal Law, hounded out of Boston, only to be rewarded with a high position in Rome). And how has the response - or lack of response - of the bishops changed the ways ordinary Catholics view the exercise of episcopal authority? How has it changed the ways in which the bishops themselves view that exercise? How, if at all, should it have changed those ways?

Does the episcopacy, in other words, have anything to learn from lay reactions?

NICHOLAS CLIFFORD | 5/1/2010 - 8:54am

Might not it be salutary for bishops also to consider what twelve things (or other number) the laity has learned about the episcopacy (and not just in the US) since this scandal first broke into the front pages (in 2002, roughly speaking)? Might there not be some doubt in the laity that the bishops would have ever faced up to the problem of abuse, had it not been fior the investigative reporting of the press and the other media? Why is it that four Irish bishops have recently stepped down because of their failures to deal with abuse, but no American bishop has? (I do not count Cardinal Law, hounded out of Boston, only to be rewarded with a high position in Rome). And how has the response - or lack of response - of the bishops changed the ways ordinary Catholics view episcopal authority? How has it changed the ways in which the bishops themselves view episcopal authority? How, if at all, should it have changed those ways?

MAUREEN TURLISH SISTER | 5/1/2010 - 8:36am
Read the 2005 Philadelphia Grand Jury Report.

The bishops and their subordinates in Philadelphia are very much to blame for what happened to the victims who testified before that grand jury.

Why there haven't been more resignations in the United States is beyond me. Perhaps the reason is that the American bishops have deeper pockets, more talanted spin doctors and lobbyists. Perhaps the people in the pews who "pray, pay and obey" buy into their tagline that "they really didn't know anything about anything," etc., etc.

The bishops did what they did and put thousands of children in harm's way. For this they must be held accountable.

Does responsibility stop with the bishops? No. The question that needs to be answered it -

What flaws, what corruption in the structures of the church gave the bishops the idea that they had license to enable and cover up for known sexual predators while ignoring the rape and sodomy visited upon God's little ones?

No amount of PR spin or calling down the wrath of God, this time on the New York Times, will shield the hierarchy from their guilt and their mortal sins.
MAUREEN TURLISH SISTER | 5/1/2010 - 8:25am
For 1700 years the leadership of the institutional Roman Catholic Church has known that the the clerical state has had a continuing sexual abuse problem. The paper trail supports this fact.

Over most of the last century have colluded in covering up this fact.

They have thrown children to the wolves while threatening their families who dared to complain with eternal damnation.

They have yet to take responsibility and, adding insult to injury, they have viciously opposed reformation of childhood sexual abuse statutes in every state in which it has been proposed.

They are a disgrace to all of us.

The church continues to fail adult victims of childhood sexual abuse.


HOLDING CLERGY AND CHURCH LEADERS ACCOUNTABLE BEFORE THE LAW

Professor Marci Hamilton and Sister Maureen Paul Turlish on NPR's Radio Times on WHYY Philadelphia 04/12/2010
http://whyy.org/cms/radiotimes/2010/04/12/holding-clergy-and-church-leaders-legally-accountable-for-child-abuse/

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
Victims' Advocate
New Castle, Delaware
maureenpaulturlish@yahoo.com
Mark Kolakowski | 5/1/2010 - 3:35am
The more I ponder this issue, the more I come to the conclusion that something like Charles McMahon's prescription (comment #17) is in order.

I was astonished to read in press reports this week that the Vatican is now claiming that the Holy Father does not have the ability to remove bishops at will, and that giving him the power to do so would upset the balance of power between the papacy and the bishops. This astonished me. Unless I haven't been paying attention all my life, it's painfully obvious that the diocesan bishops serve at the Pope's pleasure. Is this a new excuse for foot-dragging?

Lastly, I wonder if anyone has a reaction to the timing of the Pope's letter to the Irish church. Sure, it came the weekend after St. Patrick's Day. However, you'll also recall that the Gospel for Sunday 3/21 was the story of the woman caught in adultery and "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Was the timing a not-so-subtle attempt to deflect blame and quell anger? To my surprise, I haven't seen any news reports or commentary pick up on this.
Norman Costa | 5/1/2010 - 3:17am

 After reading all the prior comments, I must add my objection to the following, as well:

"3. ...[T]he fact is that sexual abuse of minors is found in many different circumstances, perpetrated by family members, leaders of youth organizations, doctors, teachers and others. “Easy answers” underestimate how wide the scope of this problem is in our society. "

One of our commenters, above, bravely identified herself as a victim. The question I have, regarding the third point in the article, is: What does that have to do with the fact that she and others were terribly victimized by Catholic clergy?

Noting the import of the third point, "...[abuse] is found in many different circumstances..." is an irrelevancy. How does that lead to healing for her, and forcing responsibility on bishops of the Church? Not only does it not contribute a farthing to issue, it dilutes the problem.

Bishop Cupich, my sense of feeling encouraged by your article is not diluted. Stay with it and LEAD.

Molly Roach: Thank you for saying something about the built-in system of Clergy extortion. This contributes mightly, very mightly to the problem. It may be my own ignorance, but I have yet to hear/tell of anyone among the bishops to admit that this corruption exists. They must acknowledge that it is a significant contributor to the perpetualtion of child sex abuse, and explains much of why a century is characterized by bishop inaction.

Accurately describing the problem of clergy sex abuse, goes a long way to finding a solution to clergy sex abuse. If it is described in terms of personal inadequacies of the bishops (failure of leadership, denial, protecting Church assets, stupidity, naivete) the likely avenues for a solution seem to be obvious. There would be better training, a better job at selection of bishops, clear policy, guidance on what to do and when to do it, performance evaluation, etc. If that is the problem, the solution is fairly easy to develop, implement, monitor, and correct.

If a more accurate description includes rings of paedophile priests and bishops who, over the years, promote and protect each other, and blackmail the non-abuser priest/bishop over their own failings, then the solution, above, will not solve the problem.

The implication is clear. There will be no solution without a completely accurate description of the problem. The Church is no where near an accurate description of the problem. Why? Part of the answer is that the abusers, and those extorted, are among the bishops to whom we are looking to fix the problem.

David Smith | 5/1/2010 - 12:02am

"3. The causes of the clerical sexual abuse are complex, and it is simplistic to reduce them to easy answers."

Indeed.  The simple, easy answer that far too many people seem to have settled on is that the bishops are to blame.  Nonsense.  This is a complex issue, with many dimensions and many causes, personal, institutional, and cultural.

Charles McMahon | 4/30/2010 - 9:31pm

My hat's off to Bishop Cupich for his honesty and courage. However, it is crucial to put in place a system that will minimize the probability that the present situation will repeat itself in the future. Even if all the present guilty parties could receive the punishments they deserve, that will not ensure us for the future. The present system of papal appointment of bishops, which violates ancient church teachings, must go. The church must return to the election of bishops by the clergy and people of each diocese. This time for a defined term. Elections never prevent all problems, God knows, but they are the best way we have to achieve accountability and quality control.

lLetha Chamberlain | 4/30/2010 - 5:58pm

Please, fellow Catholics and those have been betrayed by spiritual assault (far more deadly than bodily assault alone)... the person saying there is no appropriate reception of the needs of these within the local parishes is so crucial as to be glaringly apparent by myself, a career psych nurse now working on reform within biological psychiatry and where it intersects with the Church itself (which has been working withing the framework of biological psychiatry/outmoded psychology). We, as the People of God, would not be anywhere near as strident and consumed with blaming if we were actually doing what is needed by the spiritually-assaulted-owning up to our own lack of response with anything other than bitterness.

Healing (yes, it is entirely possible to completely heal from these) can only be done within the context of one's own community-where one is known and loved.  The "outsiders" (psychiatrists and counselors not Catholic or even knowing what our culture is all about) with whom our People are being entrusted for "care" (not that at all) are not able to provide what is needed!  The Church has become complicitious with the limits of biological psychiatry (try doing research on the horrendous difficulties with it!), which is now been shown to be both faulty "pseudoscience" as well as damning of those who are vulnerable... even more than the original offenders. 

Let's get on with healing-and not be mired in the "same-o", "same-o" sick blaming and indulgences of our pre-conceived ideas and "witch-hunting"... it has gone on far too long, and is doing great damage to those already having a difficult-enough journey.  Find out who needs to be listened to-and count on spending hours, days, weeks, and years doing it-in order to undo your own part in this!  We are ALL responsible for each other!  The buck needs to stop in our own back yards!

Carolyn Disco | 4/30/2010 - 5:52pm

To continue:

5) ADMIT episcopal culpability openly and clearly, not in the bleached, passive language of public relations ("mistakes were made"), but in the direct language of what numerous attorney general, district attorney and grand jury investigations found: "willful blindness, conscious ignorance, and flagrant indifference to the dangers priests posed to children," criminally endangering children, failure to report under the law, and obstruction of justice.

Don't worry, statutes of limitation prevent indictments, so it's safe to admit the facts. We prefer confession, “the real as it exists in God” (Bonhoeffer), to accompany homilies about forgiveness.

6) Stop fighting page-by-page all the way to the US Supreme Court to keep documents sealed, and hide the evidence. The truth sets you free, even if it is incriminating.

7) Join European bishops in the submission of resignations by complicit bishops. Fr. Martin suggested if about 30 bishops had done that in the early days, what fresh air would have been possible.

This is fantasy, I know, but I can dream. The Vatican apparently felt no need to take action in the US beyond promotion to higher office, and soon most of those bishops will be retiring with full honors. What a disgraceful record. The after-taste of such thumbing of noses at survivors and the laity is much more severe than you realize.

8) Please consult Tom Doyle and Donald Cozzens if you want hard-won insights on what bishops need to learn. Dealing with anger and disillusionment is probably high on the list.

Tom Doyle meaningfully exposed the revisionist history bishops have been putting forth about reporting abuse to civil authorities under Ratzinger's 2001 letter. This is the kind of spin that needs to stop:

http://ncronline.org/blogs/examining-crisis/revising-history-vatican-style
Carolyn Disco | 4/30/2010 - 5:48pm

This is a start and I want to heartily encourage Cupich to go further.

It was disappointing though to see #3, the same minimizing we have had to endure from the beginning. "It's a problem everywhere" is hardly a helpful approach - as it would no doubt not be acceptable to say in confession: "BTW, Father, Im not the only one" and expect that to alter anything. Please stop using #3.

Congratulations to Norman Costa (6) and Dr. Paul C. Seishas (1) for identifying how highly crafted words are an episcopal specialty, and that actions speak the loudest as demonstrable evidence of change.

Here are additional actions needed to show bishops have learned the importance of truthful communication and transparency:

1) Stop excluding sexual abuse by religious brothers in the annual USCCB audits; the use of such technicalities as their being non-clergy hardly qualifies as honest openness

2) Stop excluding mentally handicapped victims whose abuse did not begin before their 18th birthdays; this is a repulsive restriction

3) Stop excluding sexual abuse by seminarians who did not go on to ordination

4) Post the names of all credibly accused priests on USCCB and diocesan websites, and not just for a month or so as Wilmington, DE did - you have about 5,000 names and www.BishopAccountability.org has only been able to research about 3,000 names from public sources. A small handful of dioceses post names but you have to be a detective to find them.

Bishops must know how healing it is for survivors to see their abusers identified, and if they genuinely want survivors to come forward, naming those already identified will greatly facilitate that.

ROBERT OCONNELL | 4/30/2010 - 5:12pm
The rest of us have also learned a few facts. One is that our children are uniquely important and uniquely vulnerable. Another is that those of us who are neither priests nor bishops have a serious responsibility to be vigilant about questionable situations, to speak up and to make sure we no longer bury our heads in the sand. A third is that bad government costs a lot - not just in regards to money but also in terms of hurting people, expecially our youngsters. But there is more.

We need to pray for our priests and bishops more vigorously. We need to pray for all children, for chastity, for a more dignified and responsible society, and for more graces to fight off evil. We should also pray for more vocations, ever better vocations and more input from the Holy Spirit.

We cannot focus on priests and bishops alone. As hokey as it is, there once was a sign in front of a non-catholic church which read "Remember who is at the center of the church. UR!"
MICHAEL BRINKMAN | 4/30/2010 - 4:47pm

I found the above comments far more insightful than the original article. Would that the Vatican hierarchy consider what has been said, look in the mirror, and say "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!" And then with genuine repentance reach deep within and muster the strength to act like a true Christian. And otherwise, say, "Be it done to me according to Thy will." And that's real hot stuff!!!

DANIEL LAVELY | 4/30/2010 - 4:41pm

I'll begin to think that perhaps some bishops have learned these lessons when Cardinal Law is defrocked.

James Sugrue | 4/30/2010 - 4:08pm
Unfortunately bishops who failed to protect innocent youngsters have not been held accountable for their malfeasance. Those who protected criminal clerics should be removed. It's sad that now as the scandal spreads worlwide our Holy Father has failed to demand that guilty bishops admit their wrongdoing and do appropriate penance.
Mona Villarrubia | 4/30/2010 - 3:33pm

This article is a sign of hope, to some extent, even though we still find the everyone else is doing it, to, attitude in # 3. And I feel Bishop Cupich does not fully understand the scope of the injury when one’s abuser is a priest. Because of the close relationship often found between clergy and families in my parents’ generation, priests were truly like trusted family members, and so the abuse had the added impact of the violation of trust involved in incest between an adult and a child. Furthermore, Cupich nowhere acknowledges the impact on the faith of the victim.

As Will Atkinson comments, all too often sexual abuse leads to suicidal behavior. And when the abuse is by a trusted adult who also represents God - and children take this very literally - normal adolescent rebellion and young-adult intellectual nihilism are often not resolved. This is because in adulthood, instead of experiencing an adult faith, which results in so many coming back to the church and the sacraments, Catholic victims often face the impact of their abuse for the first time. This happens frequently, as in my case, after their own children reach the age at which they were abused. So now, in adulthood, with children of their own, when the natural thing would have been to pursue the traditions of the sacraments with their own children, victims may experience a complete loss of their faith, and a deep despair that they cannot offer their children a sacramental experience of life without placing them at risk. So now they experience another and equally profound loss to follow the loss of trust, safety and joy they experienced as a child, now they experience the loss of hope, and not just for themselves but for their children.

I have witnessed that victims like me do not easily move to another faith community or another belief system. What I have seen are people who desperately long for the faith life they once had, for the community they once felt a part of, for the solace of a sacramental tradition and a liturgical cycle with which to frame their lives and that of their families. What I have yet to see is any spiritual outreach or any pastoral, therapeutic care for victims who are trying so hard not to succumb to the sadness and hopelessness they feel. Anger is certainly part of the picture but anger is in fact less dangerous than despair.

Molly Roach | 4/30/2010 - 3:19pm

Something that has to be acknowledged is that the failure of many priests and bishops to honor their vow of celibacy has created a poisonous situation in which perpetrators feel free to blackmail other sexually active clergy and in this way, silence them.   The latest example of this is how Oliver O'Grady accepted money in exchange for not testifying against the leadership of the archdiocese of Los Angeles. Bishop Cupich,  I am grateful for your honesty but it doesn't go far enough.

Norman Costa | 4/30/2010 - 2:35pm

What Dennis Larkin said.

Norman Costa | 4/30/2010 - 2:32pm


Bishop Blaise Cupich,

Thank you for your article. I second the sense of encouagement voiced by Larry Conley, above. I take you at your word, and hope you will continue to be thoughtful and LEAD.

I am not quibbling when I say that some of your points - and they are spot on, I may add - are things yet to be learned by our collective body of bishops. Will Atkinson added a thirteenth, and I agree with him.

I would like to add several things, about which the bishops haven't a clue. (1) The bishops and Cardinals are perpetrating a new abuse on the victims by failing to leash their pit bull tort defense attorneys. The bishops snidely defend themselves by saying the lawyers are only doing their job. NO! They are doing the job that the Church wants them to do.

(2) Your points, above, while true, give the false impression that the failure of the bishops was due, PRIMARILY, to the personal failings of the bishops - stupidity, insensitivity, naivete, selfishness, ignorance, lack of guidance, failure of leadership, denial, protection of church assets, and so on. Bishops, themselves, have been and are among the ranks of child sex abusers. There have been, and are, many paedophile rings of priests among whom we find bishops. This is known to those who have worked with both abusers and victims over many years.

(3) Child sex abusers, among the clergy, support each other, promote each other up the ranks, and use their positions to protect each other. Non-abuser priests and bishops in the hierarchy are black mailed, implicitly and explicitly, into inaction, because of their own failings in celibacy. Over a clerical career, almost half the clergy will have significant episodes of compromise to their celibacy. This goes a long way to understanding the failure of bishops to act and do what was right.

NO REAL AND LASTING CHANGE will ensue until the Church publicly acknowledges the participation of bishops in abuse, the presence of paedophile rings, and takes steps to eliminate the built-in system of extortion.

Jack McCarthy: It is my view that celibacy, itself, has very little to do with child sex abuse in the church. This has been demonstrated in the research and writings of Father Andrew Greeley and others.

However, compulsory celibacy contributes to the problem in other ways. Hans Kung has written about the effect of compulsoty celibacy on the creation and perpetuation of a smug, privileged, and arrogant hierarchy that knows not of their own isolation from their flock.

Too, compulsory celibacy blocks the participation of women in church matters. The presence of a married clergy (with optional celibacy) would immediately conduit the influence of women into the Church in a very powerful way. Don't think that this predictable consequence of optional celibacy doesn't scare the hell out of many of our hierachy.

You ask, "Has it been determined by church authorities that this subject is too controversial [to] mention?" You bet it has, for the reasons I stated above.

Dennis Larkin | 4/30/2010 - 1:38pm

I wholeheartedly concur with Bishop Cupich's list. It is important always to remember children have suffured. As we all remember Christ had a special place in his heart for children.

I read another commentary that again brought up the issue of celibacy as a cause of child sexual abuse. As someone who provided treatment for adult sex offencders for close to twenty years and treated victims of sexual abuse for close to thirty years, adults moleted as children and children themselve, I would like to comment on that issue. If that was the cause of child sexual abuse than why are  the majority of child sexual abuse offenders fathers, step-fathers, boyfriends of the mothers of children they offend. Celibacy is and never has been a cause of child sexual abuse. Those priests who offended would have offended if they were married or not priests. If celibacy was an issue, treatment providers would see much more men who have no significant female relationship.

JOHN MCCARTHY MR | 4/30/2010 - 1:15pm

Why is it that celibacy is never mentioned as a possible cause of some (not all) of the sexual child abuse that priests have committed?  Has it been determined by church authorities that this is subject too controversial mention?

larry conley sr | 4/30/2010 - 1:09pm

There are additional lessons, but finally some evidence of a thinker and a potential LEADER among the bishops. I'm encouraged

WILLIAM ATKINSON | 4/30/2010 - 1:09pm

The 13th item the Bishops have NOT learned is to stand up and say "I have sinned, as Jesus taught us Mark 9-40", I have disobeyed His Word and Command.  I as Bishop have caused by my actions and lack of actions as His Ordained Servant the death of lives and spirit of those children He commanded me by my office as Bishop.

Not to say we, and others, but I as Bishop have grieveiously been at fault, serious fault which resulted in the destruction of beliefs and faith, even lives (many have commited suicide) of these litle ones He (Jesus Christ) has placed under my care.

Those who have caused little ones to commit suicide are guilty of Murder.

So untill Bishops stand up and admit to their quilt, and subject themselves to Christs punishment, there weill be NO forgiveness.   As in Dante's Inferno, look about you bishops, and see your fellow bishops.

Paul Seishas | 4/30/2010 - 1:07pm
I would like to believe that our bishops have learned these lessons. I await demonstrable evidence they have. Our bishops from the Vatican to the smallest diocese are very good at crafting words. However, history shows that all too often they are unwilling to live those words. All too often they are far more concerned with the service and protection of the institutional church than for the people for whom they are servants. Perhaps the next conclave will provide evidence of learning.