To help fight sex abuse, Catholic group offers guide to the news

Credit: Unsplash.
Credit: Unsplash.

.- Catholic bishops must act to counter sex abuse of adults as well as minors, says a lay group that has compiled a reader of news stories, analysis and commentary to help renewal and reform.

“We believe clergy sexual misconduct with adults is at the core of so many of the problems of the Church in the last many decades,” the group No More Victims told the bishops.

“As you deal with the scandal of [Archbishop Theodore] McCarrick and abuse committed by bishops, we urge you to include in your concerns efforts to rid seminaries, dioceses and all Church institutions and structures of those who are involved in sexual misconduct with adults.”

Lay people of Michigan’s Diocese of Lansing formed the group No More Victims. They have produced the reader “What We Laity Are Reading that has Shaken Us to the Core,” compiling news stories and analysis about sexual abuse and misconduct by Catholic clergy.

The group sent copies of the reader to the media and to the U.S. bishops. It also sent the bishops a letter signed by executive director Jason Negri, a Michigan attorney, as well as board member broadcaster and author Al Kresta and moral theologian Janet E. Smith, who is an adviser to the group.

“We know the tasks before you are truly of epic proportions and will affect the faith and salvation of many for decades to come,” their letter continued. “We are praying that what needs to be done to rebuild and purify the Church will be done.”

The group asked the bishops to consider its members “loyal partners in the work of the Church,” adding “we would like to stand with you through this crisis in your commitment to the Gospel which brings healing and calls us all to true holiness.”

A copy of the reader is provided at the No More Victims website, www.nomorevictimsmi.org.

The reader’s material, dating back to the 1990s, is generally from a U.S. perspective. No More Victims said it shows “what the crisis looks like from the standpoint of the average lay Catholic with access to the internet.”

The collection includes news stories about abuse victims, including abused seminarians, as well as news, opinion and commentary from abuse victims, priests, Catholic lay leaders and other observers such as Sandro Magister, Matthew Schmitz, Kenneth L. Woodward, Mary Eberstadt and Daniel Mattson.

In its introduction, the No More Victims group hoped that the reader would help the bishops find methods that will assure laity that seminarians will not be sexually harassed but rather “taught the fullness of the faith.” Actions are needed to ensure that there is no “network of priests who engage in sexual misconduct” in a diocese, and to ensure that priests who violate chastity “in serious ways” will be given an opportunity to repent and change. Bishops’ actions must ensure that “unchaste priests who refuse to repent and change their ways” will be asked to leave the priesthood.

The reader aimed to help find ways “to correct fellow bishops whose response to sex abuse cases is poor, confuses the faithful, and reflects badly upon all bishops,” No More Victims said.

Included in the collection is a Time Magazine essay from a Catholic priest who wrote that he was repeatedly sexually abused as a 15-year-old altar boy in New Jersey by a visiting priest of the New York archdiocese; an Irish-born California priest who was groomed and abused in Ireland by a priest who waited until he was 18 so it would not appear to be abuse; a priest who, according to the Pennsylvania grand jury report, arranged for an abortion for a young girl he had allegedly raped from 1980-1985; a Crux News report on Chilean seminarians who suffered sex abuse; a National Catholic Register report on seminarians sexually abused in Honduras; a 2011 Gawker report on sex abuse and, in the report’s own words, a “secret gay cabal” in Florida allegedly under former Archbishop of Miami John Favalora.

A December 2013 Vanity Fair story on an alleged “gay lobby” at the Vatican between cardinals, priests and monks that “survives on secrecy” is included, as is a 2018 CNA report on priest-sociologist Father D. Paul Sullins’ consideration of sex abuse trends, including apparently strong statistical correlations between sex abuse, a priesthood that is disproportionately homosexual, and a seminary life with a reported “gay subculture.”

The reader has several pages listing “troubling headlines” and it recommends the documentary “Sex Abuse in the Church: Code of Silence,” made in France about how priests have been reassigned to escape prosecution. It ends with “a disturbing account of how Cardinal Bergoglio handled the case of Fr. Grassi in Buenos Aires.”

The reader’s appendix lists key documents, online resources, coordinated responses, and books.

“We believe the extent of this problem is tremendous and the time to purify the Church is now,” No More Victims said in the reader introduction. “The focus here is on another huge problem: the continuing presence of priests who engage in sexual misconduct with adults, especially males, and the effect they have on the Church ― the harm they have done to victims, their pernicious influence in seminaries, the extent of their influence in dioceses, and the way they impede zealous promotion of the gospel.”

“Some of the articles are from a perspective hostile to the Church but that does not negate their veracity,” it added. “While many of these articles may seem sensationalist, it is in fact the reality of abuse that is truly responsible for the shocking nature of what is reported.”

The introduction said it is difficult to believe all the stories of abuse, but claimed “the sheer volume of them gives credence to them,” in addition to the abuse reported in the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report about six Catholic dioceses in the state.

“If you know any of these articles to report false information, please provide your reasons because we have come to believe the material they contain,” No More Victims said, predicting “Once the presence of predator priests and unchaste priests is eliminated, we expect that there will be an influx of devout, chaste men into the priesthood.”

“We are lay people who love Jesus, our Church, our bishops, our priests. We know there are holy and exemplary bishops, and bishops who serve us heroically, and we want them to have a Church that fully supports their invaluable work,” said the group.

“We know that many bishops have inherited messes of various kinds and it seems that often the default way of dealing with priests who live immoral lives is to look the other way. But we think that is the wrong answer–the Church deserves priests fully committed to being faithful to their vows, and those who are not ought to reform or resign.”

The group said it does not aim to force bishops to resign or to embarrass or harass them. Rather, it wants bishops to take strong action to restore trust in the episcopacy.

“We don’t intend to stop praying, fasting, and advocating for change until that happens,” No More Victims said.

Tags: US Bishops, Catholic News, Sex abuse