I do believe that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is doing a lot for victims of clergy sexual abuse, (more than any other diocese that I know of), but it saddens and frustrates me to think that Philadelphia thinks it is doing enough. I am in a neighboring diocese, my parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings are still in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and they never heard about any advertisements for a support group within the diocese. Maybe parishes are not running the information that comes from your office in their bulletins. That could be a huge problem.
If I may comment on this support group, I would not come to it…and I LOVE the Church. If I, a priest, can admit to having little trust for such a group, (this too is an inherent problem for you), how many more victims who now HATE the Church will also dismiss this out of hand? Our, (victims), trust in everyone and everything has been destroyed by our experiences with clergy. I am sorely aware of that. I know that that too will continue to frustrate your efforts at helping victims but you cannot stop.
The archdiocese knows the names of all the people who have come forward with sexual abuse allegations. How many of them have received letters from your office? And I must state here that the letters cannot be form letters and also cannot be sterile in content but must be individualized and NOT on archdiocese letter head. It is a lot of work I know but it is work that has to be done. At this point, and much to the shame of the archdiocese I am sure, there are now the unfortunate individuals all placed in the group; victims. And we are victims but the only reason we are a group is that when the brave men and women who came forward in the first place did come forward nothing was done. All of these allegations should have been dealt with on an individual basis but were not. They must be handled on an individual basis now. I am aware that that is a lot of work but you ultimately have Cardinals Krol and Bevilacqua to thank for that. The work of reaching out to individual clergy sexual abuse victims is not up for debate it just HAS to be done.
I did express in my letter to Justin Cardinal Rigali, and will state again here, a negative response by a victim does not give the Church permission to abandon them. The lost sheep, and many of the victims are lost sheep, need to be searched out and ministered too. If that means 1000 contacts with them then it means 1000 contacts.
I do not envy you your job. Sometimes I wonder to myself, ‘Will anything the Church does be enough?’ But that, “wondering”, is not enough to stop ministering to the victims. Something, and I can’t even put it into words, has been destroyed in us. The efforts put forth by the archdiocese thus far are not enough.
This is my response to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Office of Child and Yout Protection. Typing up my own response actually clarified some things for me too. We aren’t a group of victims. We beacame a group because individually nothing was done when we came forward. (That’s the collective ‘we’.)