New Website announced: ReportBishopAbuse.org
We were amused in reading the March 20-April 2 edition of the Florida Catholic which seemed to tout what so many have been waiting for in any possible reform of the Church. The headline story read: “Reporting system to record abuse complaints against bishops begins.” With our vast experience of being abused at St. Isabel I could almost find myself tingling. Finally, the Church has come to its senses, and given the faithful some possible recourse, some place to go when you are feeling “abused”, even, and especially, in a non-sexual manner. Surely, the events of the last nearly four years would constitute an abuse of power: the unnecessary removal of our pastor, the calling in of the Press at the weekend Masses when the removal was announced, who would do what they were expected to do – sensationalize the issue and reduce Fr. Christopher’s reputation to rubble; the appointment of an inexperienced and insensitive replacement, who fumbled his way through playing pastor while people began doing what he recommended they do – “leave the church;” finally being removed because of being caught with the Parish Office Manager “allegedly” drunk after hours, the Bishop appoints another replacement who, as difficult as it might have seemed, is even less sensitive than his predecessor, disbanding the 42 year-old Women’s Guild with no cause or notice. We could go on and on with the attempts made by this organization and others individuallly to ameliorate the tensions, but the Bishop was intent from the beginning of exercising some mysterious vendetta not just on Fr. Christopher, but on all those who dared to support him. Yes, one could see why I was tingling upon reading the headline: “Reporting system to record abuse complaints against bishops begins.
Alas, my hopes were dashed when at the bottom of the first page and more than halfway through the second page, the word “sexual” was attached to “abuse,” the only two places that word is used in the entire article. The reporting system, “CBAR,” is very narrowly defined, and is merely the knee-jerk reaction to the Church getting caught with its pants down during the entire debacle with Cardinal McCarrick, which indicated that there was no where to go for abused altar boys and others where they could feel safe in any kind of reporting. For anything that was said about McCarrick it was clear that some people didn’t want to hear it or were not listening. Had the present United States Conference of Catholic Bishops truly wanted to do something important and ground-breaking for the church they might have recognized the damage that arrogant, narcissistic, power-hungry bishops do to the church and to the churches’ ministers, over whom they are supposed to exercise some special care. Imagine if you will, that the bishops had the courage to submit themselves to someone else’s scrutiny? Imagine, that the Bishops were confident enough of their own treatment of their flock that they provided all Catholics with the possibility of a place to go, to register a complaint with someone else who can decide the merit of the complaint.
When you go on the website, which has all of the bishops in the United States listed, you will immediately get this disclaimer:
“This service is in place to gather and relay reports of sexual misconduct involving bishops of the United States, and reports of their intentional interference in a sexual abuse investigation. If you wish to report any other kind of misconduct by a bishop—or sexual abuse by a priest, deacon, religious brother or sister, or layperson working for the Church—please contact your local diocese or eparchy directly instead.”
How has the “contacting your local diocese” gone for the past four years for PFJ, Fr. Christopher, Fr. Christopher’s Advocate, and the former Women’s Guild? With multiple excuses, after a biased minimal investigation of his own in 2016, questioning only a handful of parishioners, Bishop Dewane refused to meet with anyone who might have challenged the wisdom of what he was doing. Any visits he made to the parish were carefully coordinated and done largely under the cover of extraordinary secrecy. There was nothing transparent about anything that was done, and no matter how many letters, thousands probably, to the Apostolic Nuncio, the Congregation For Clergy, the Congregation for Bishops, the Pope, and directly to the Bishop himself, we continue to feel that real justice is not possible when it comes to the Church, no doubt something so many other have also found to be true. If the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wishes to do something for the faithful whom they serve, give them a place to go where they can report the injustices that bishops everywhere are continuing to inflict on their people.