The upcoming visit of Pope Francis to Philadelphia has generated a considerable amount of great publicity not only for Philadelphia but for Catholics across the region and beyond. And while Pope Francis has made some minimal steps in facing the clergy sexual abuse crisis across the world, here in Philadelphia actions speak louder than words.
As a crime victim advocate and attorney, in the past six years I have spoken to over 100 survivors of clergy sexual abuse. With the exception of a small handful of survivors who brought their claims to court, most cases were barred by Pennsylvania’s still onerous Statute of Limitations for childhood sexual abuse.
Archbishop Chaput and his hand selected lawyers in Philadelphia and also from Denver, Colorado, used every measure to block any alternative consideration of the statute of limitations and took a hardnosed, no holds barred position in defending the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and their predator priests.
Examples of these trial tactics include blocking any attempt to obtain records from the Archdiocese hospital where predator priests were sent and where admissions of guilt might have been made and knowledge by the Archdiocese of prior sexual misbehavior may have been revealed. Despite convincing arguments that have been adopted by many States across the country that priests waived any medical privilege when they gave permission to their employer, the Archdiocese, to obtain those records, Church attorneys here in Philadelphia fought long and hard and convinced Trial Judge Jacqueline Allen that this did not open the door to the plaintiffs to get those records.
Another example of strong arm tactics by Archdiocesan attorneys was their aggressive insistence of discovery from siblings and parents of survivors in an obvious attempt to intimidate survivors who sought to assert their rights to seek justice.
Finally, despite convincing arguments that Pennsylvania’s statutes of limitations for victims of childhood sexual assault should be extended because of latent discovery of the detrimental effects of that abuse that are only manifested later in life, attorneys for the Archdiocese opposed any consideration of a discovery rule for these survivors both at the trial level and before the Superior Court of Pennsylvania this past June.
Dioceses across the country continue to harbor sexually predatory priests. Every week new incidents of the sexual assault of minors and the Church’s knowledge of that abuse are exposed in Courts across the country.
How low will attendance at Mass and contributions in the basket have to get before the people in charge, whether lay or clergy, realize that the Catholic Church needs to stand up and recognize and atone for its sins against children. If the hierarchy won’t do it, perhaps now is the time for lay persons to take back the Churches that they built and funded and start anew. That would be a topic I would like to hear Pope Francis address when he comes to Philadelphia.
But I have little hope that we will hear that message.
If you have been a victim of childhood sexual assault, please contact Monahan Law Practice for a free, CONFIDENTIAL, consultation to explore your rights and options for justice in the Pennsylvania Courts. 610-363-3888. Dan Monahan has advocated for over 100 survivors of clergy sexual abuse in the past decade.