Many of you know that I come from a law-enforcement family. For me, the sexual abuse of children, the domestic violence and sexual violence against adults are both crimes and sins. Nothing can justify an adult using a child to commit sexual acts. Over the years, I have heard plenty of excuses, “the child dressed in sexy way”, “this helped the child to learn about his/her body”, “nobody got hurt”, etc. They are ALL the lies of people who committed grievously evil actions against innocent children. And God’s judgement? “If anyone of you should cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble and fall, it would be better for you to be thrown into the depths of the sea with a great millstone around your neck.”(Matthew 18:6) “See that you do not despise any of these little ones, for I tell you: their angels in Heaven continually see the face of my Heavenly Father.” (18:10).
Recently, there were three significant media stories about sexual abuse and the Catholic Church. First, a court in Australia found a Catholic archbishop guilty of hiding the abuse of his priests. Second, the Vatican removed Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, a famous American, Catholic bishop, from his position as a Cardinal because of abuse he committed years ago against young men in the seminary. Third, a Grand Jury in Pennsylvania reported that over a period of 70 years, some 300 Catholic priests sexually abused (hurt, raped, severely molested) at least 1,000 children in the State of Pennsylvania. Equally as bad, many of the bishops did NOT act to stop the abuse and actually, in some cases, allowed the abuse to go on for years. These bishops should resign in disgrace because of what they failed to do!
In our own archdiocese, we have had a number of priests removed from priesthood (3 of them from my own ordination class of 1971) because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors. The Archdiocese of Chicago has paid out millions of dollars to those who were victims. HOWEVER, no amount of money can ever totally heal the pain, suffering, brokenness of body and soul so many of these survivors have experienced. Over the years, I have known and listened to the stories that many of these people bravely shared with me. They carry that pain and grief with them every day. Many of the victims of sexual abuse have become substance abusers; others found it hard to trust in any intimate relationships; still others committed suicide. Yet, most of them have tried to do their best to live lives that bring good and healing into our world. These men and women have so much to teach us about authentic courage, compassion, faith and forgiveness. In our own small way here at St. Francis Borgia, we have tried to contribute to that healing. We collect school supplies in the summer and warm clothes in the winter for children who have suffered sexual abuse. All these go to the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, 1240 S. Damen, Chicago. The Center handles over 2,000 cases of reported sexual abuse/year, just in Chicago. I know that many people ask me, what else can I do?
1 Cardinal Cupich has written a good letter re: this issue. You can go to the Archdiocese of Chicago website, www.archchicago.org. His letter is there.
2 Is there something you wish to bring to the attention of our Church re: sexual abuse and the protection of our children? What should our Church do? Bishop John Manz is our Vicar. You can email him at [email protected]. Bishop Manz is a good priest/bishop and will pay attention to what you want to share with him. Make your concerns and suggestions known to him. You can also write Cardinal Cupich: Cardinal Blase Cupich, Archdiocese of Chicago, PO Box 1979, Chicago, IL 60690.
3 Let’s remember that 75% of ALL sexual abuse of children happens in family situations. This is both a national number and the same percentage of cases in Chicago. 90% of children know their abusers. And TWO-THIRDS of all sexual abuse crimes are NEVER reported. In many cases, children are too afraid or they do not think anyone will believe them or people close to them tell them not to say anything. Children who are disabled suffer sexual abuse at THREE TIMES the rate of their non-disabled peers. Children do not lie or make up stories of sexual abuse. If a child says something happened, IT HAPPENED!
4 Other religions have not done any better job protecting their children: The Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons, the Baptists and Evangelicals, all have their own horrible histories re: sexual abuse. Recently, Willow Creek Church saw its entire governing Board resign because they had mishandled serious claims of sexual impropriety against its famous leader. This does NOT excuse the terrible mishandling of sexual abuse claims by bishops in our Catholic Church. They failed. They need to hold themselves and other bishops responsible.
5 We now know that CPS (The Chicago Public Schools) did NOT protect its students from sexual abuse by teachers, staff, coaches, or other students . CPS claimed it “investigated” reports, but in fact ignored or covered up what was happening in its schools. CPS was more interested in protecting its predators than our children.
6 PARENTS looking for good resources to help educate your children/grandchildren about appropriate/inappropriate behaviors, go to: www.stopitnow.org This is an excellent resource for families.
7 Lastly, we are all –ALL – responsible for the safety and protection of our children. If we see something that bothers us about a child; we see a child neglected; we notice the way a certain adult seems to be manipulating a child, call 800-252-2873 (800-25-ABUSE). If we see or find child pornography on a computer at work or home; if we have ANY reason to suspect a child is being abused, call 9-1-1 immediately.
If YOU were the victim of abuse, even if it were years ago, you have the right to receive counseling, support, and anything else our Church can offer you.
Reverend Joseph A. Mulcrone 8/17/2018