A letter/article to the Wilmington News Journal responding to a report of a jury award to a victim of clergy sexual abuse.
I am thoroughly disheartened by Bishop W. Francis Malooly’s response to the jury award given to Mr. John Vai, three million dollars of the 30 million dollar settlement being assessed to the parish of St. Elizabeth for the tacit cooperation in the matter of Reverend Francis Deluca’s, “criminal and sinful behavior”. The bishop stated he was “disappointed that the jury found the people of St. Elizabeth liable for the acts of Francis DeLuca” and said it is “unfortunate” that they will have to pay for DeLuca’s “criminal and sinful acts” from more than 40 years ago. The bishop was quoted from a news release dated 12/01/2010. The disheartening quote states that it is a shame that the people of St. Elizabeth parish have to pay for the crime and sin of Fr. Deluca 40 years after the fact. This statement was taken directly from the diocesan web site. Bishop Malooly said, “I am disappointed that the jury found the people of Saint Elizabeth’s liable for the acts of Francis Deluca. It is unfortunate that the parish community of Saint Elizabeth’s is being made to pay for the criminal and sinful acts of someone who was assigned by the diocesan bishop at the time to be one of their priests.” Bishop Malooly also reaffirmed his, “deep commitment to creating and sustaining a safe environment within the Church for our children and youth.” I take umbrage with those statements.
Pope Pius XII wrote, in his encyclical, “On the Mystical Body of Christ”, promulgated in 1943 that the, “body calls also for a multiplicity of members, which are linked together in such a way as to help one another. And as in the body when one member suffers, all the other members share its pain, and the healthy members come to the assistance of the ailing, so in the Church the individual members do not live for themselves alone, but also help their fellows, and all work in mutual collaboration for the common comfort and for the more perfect building up of the whole Body.” The suffering of Mr. Vai and even the suffering of his perpetrator Fr. Deluca effects all of us who make up the Body of Christ. The statement of the bishop’s does not seem to take into account the suffering of both men and its effect on all of us. The personal sin of Fr. Deluca does effect the world-wide Body of Christ. The anguish of Mr. Vai does effect the world-wide Body of Christ. It is unfortunate that today’s Catholics no longer seem to make that communal connection that the Body transcends time.
What the bishop’s words do is create a red herring that sets up even more animosity directed toward victims of clergy sexual abuse. It also helps to pave the way for cries of anti-Catholic sentiment from the core believers over this case. Father Deluca is the one guilty of anti-Catholic behavior not the lawyers, the jury and certainly not Mr. Vai. The jury in this case was also given testimony from Monsignor Thomas Cini that he never saw boys in the private residence of Fr. Deluca, (doors do close), and denies testimony by “John Doe” that he ever confronted him about being a temptation to Fr. Deluca. The jury obviously did not believe Msgr. Cini.
Although it is quite laudable of Bishop Malooly for being committed to creating a safe environment for youth the question before us is about the people in the past that were not safe or protected. In a neighboring diocese I was one of them.
What I would like people to know is that even though I’m not your typical victim of clergy sexual abuse because I didn’t lose my faith or vocation over my abuse personally I have been suffering greatly over this trial. I almost constantly witness attacks from Church members on victims, lawyers and people who in any way support victims. I have endured attacks from parishioners and even priests stating that this does not have anything to do with the scriptures or God and told that I should not talk about it. I have had to defend the attempts I have made to get the faithful involved in the resolution of this issue and that it fits in perfectly with the gospel and with the love of Christ.
For my part I pray. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I go to spiritual direction and avail myself of the Sacrament of Reconciliation regularly. I also go to therapy and have been on a healing retreat for sufferers of abuse which combines both prayer and psychology. All of these things have contributed greatly to my quality of life. And I can state with authority and reason that all of these things have helped me on my journey through life. No longer am I paralyzed or unable to function due to the things that happened to me.
But I cannot state emphatically enough that I am constantly hurt by the people who do not understand the depth of the destruction and pain that clergy sexual abuse has on an individual. The snide, hurtful sometimes even hateful things that some people say do nothing to build up the Body of Christ. Anger can be destructive, anger that leads to sin, or constructive, the anger of Christ in the temple. If you are angry over the clergy sexual abuse scandal then harness that anger and allow it to transform into something constructive.
I challenge you to work toward reconciliation and healing for all of the parties involved. There is the challenge for the Church in the 21st century, both for the faithful and for the hierarchy.