Tom Ferrick Jr. Report: Reading between the lies
By Tom Ferrick Jr.
The cardinal calls the report "very graphic" and, brother, is he right.
Parts of it are strictly X-rated, but you couldn't call it salacious.
Sickening is more like it, given that the perps were priests, the victims children, and the crime scenes were rectories and churches, even a confessional.
The grand jury report released Wednesday documented child sexual abuse cases by 63 Roman Catholic priests in the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Their victims numbered in the hundreds.
"We should begin by making one thing clear," the jury report says. "When we say abuse, we don't just mean 'inappropriate touching' (as the Archdiocese often chooses to refer to it). We mean rape. Boys who were raped orally, boys who were raped anally, girls who were raped vaginally."
Like the cardinal said, very graphic. Still, if you can stomach it, I recommend reading the complete report. Go to http://go.philly.com/priests for all the official documents.
You certainly will wince. You may even cry.
What hit me first was the white-hot fury of the grand jury. Touch any page and the prose could burn you.
It is anger born of frustration. Despite the horrific nature of the crimes, none of the priests can be prosecuted because of Pennsylvania's statute of limitations of five years on such crimes.
These were offenses whose victims did not step forward sometimes five, 10 or even 20 years after the rape.
The jury says that were it not for similar legal barriers, it would have charged Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua and other archdiocesan officials for covering up the cases, for shuffling offender priests from one assignment to another, for their failure to report credible cases of abuse to the police. Ditto for the late Cardinal John Krol.
For Catholics, the report is especially jarring because you will see familiar faces.
I saw six: three priests who taught at Cardinal O'Hara High School when I went there; another who was a longtime resident at Sacred Heart, Manoa, where I went to church as a child; two others whom I knew as a reporter.
Read the report and you'll also see these cases were carefully investigated and meticulously detailed. In short, the D.A. had them nailed - the offender priests and the archdiocesan officials.
Which presents a problem for the archdiocese: How do you counter the truth? Easy. As the old saying goes, if you can't attack the evidence, attack the man.
Hence, the fury of the church's response, which called the report a "vile, mean-spirited diatribe against the Church," called the grand jury members and prosecutors "inquisitors" and labeled the whole endeavor as "anti-Catholic."
A footnote in the archdiocesan response even compares the jury and the D.A. to the Know-Nothings of the 1840s, a proto-Ku Klux Klan group that was virulently anti-Catholic, anti-Irish and anti-black.
It conjured up an image of D.A. Lynne Abraham, wearing a white hood and carrying a torch, chasing elderly priests down the street.
It's ludicrous, not to mention insulting to the Jewish D.A., her prosecutors and the grand jury members - a goodly portion of whom are Roman Catholic.
The other message, the one delivered by Cardinal Justin Rigali, was, in so many words: Why pick over the past? Let us move forward. The church has reformed. It has procedures now to handle these cases. We have turned over a new leaf.
To sum up, a 2,000-year-old institution known for continuity and resistance to change, is - mirabile dictu - now the vigilant guard against priestly sexual abuse. Hmm.
(Excuse me, but I'd rather trust the cops and the D.A. to do that job.)
But that's the line many Catholics who go to church this weekend will hear from the pulpit, along with criticism of our anti-Catholic D.A.
Remember to be respectful and try not to laugh.
Sunday, September 25, 2005
A Time For Penance
I couldn't imagine my life without my faith, but at this moment, I'm ashamed to be part of an organization that is performing the knee-jerks attacks and victimization in which the Roman Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is currently engaged.