In recent years the Inquirer has done a variety of valuable reporting and editorializing on sex abuse in the Catholic Church and past failures by the Church to root out abusers and to protect the innocent. The entire public – including Catholics – can be grateful for that.
I arrived in Philadelphia just months after a harsh 2011 grand jury report, and since then (but starting well before then) the archdiocese has worked hard to reform its victim outreach efforts, safety standards, handling of abuse allegations and cooperation with law enforcement.
None of this has been window dressing. The suffering of past abuse victims is a deep scar on the witness of the Church, and one that will take generations to redeem. The priests, deacons, religious and bishops of this diocese love their people and are committed to protecting them. The archdiocese, its ministries and its resources are no more and no less than the people who sustain its parishes. They make Catholic services possible, and they — not some disembodied religious corporation — bear the burden of unjust penalties and laws.
Truth is always a good thing. So it’s been odd to notice that the Inquirer has often seemed less committed to reporting the history, roots, scope and intractability of chronic sexual abuse problems in our public schools, institutions and society at large – and even less interested in what the Church has done and is doing to deal with the problem.
Since 2002, the archdiocese has committed more than $13 million to victim assistance for individuals and families, including counseling and other mental health related services, help with medications, necessary travel and childcare.
Professionals in the victim advocacy field administer our archdiocesan Victim Assistance Program. The focus is on healing. It doesn’t matter when the abuse occurred, and no limit exists on how long the assistance is offered. Counselors and therapists, independent of the archdiocese, establish each person’s plan based on the unique needs of each individual.
We’ve invested another $6 million in abuse prevention efforts that include educational programming for tens of thousands of children and adults in our schools and parishes, as well as screenings and background checks through state and federal law enforcement agencies. All of these efforts are on-going.
Yet these facts have routinely been ignored or underreported by media in the public sphere. Despite ample evidence of the scope of the sexual abuse problem beyond the Catholic Church, some continue to perpetuate the lie that the sexual abuse of minors is lopsidedly a “Catholic” problem and that the Church has done little to address it. This is flatly, demonstrably false.
In a November 1 editorial, the Inquirer even claimed that “the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the insurance industry have long fought efforts to hold abusers accountable for past crimes.” Again, this is flatly, demonstrably false. Any person who criminally abuses a child should be punished by law.
The Inquirer’s report “Stolen Childhoods” (October 26), focusing on the pattern of abuse committed by the late former priest James Brzyski, was — quite rightly — emotionally charged and difficult to read, most of all for the survivors and the family and friends of the men victimized by one individual’s loathsome actions. But the story virtually ignored the truth that our Church family has worked honestly and vigorously to remedy the abuse problem for many years. And the archdiocese, despite being prominently mentioned in the Inquirer article, was not even contacted by the reporters.
The Brzyski story — subsequently highlighted in the Inquirer’s October 29 Sunday edition — was a classic example of aggressive advocacy journalism. And it fits seamlessly into larger efforts to abolish Pennsylvania’s civil statute of limitations. This would open the way to pursuing massive litigation and financial penalties against the Church. That may sound “just” to some, but the opposite is true.
As we’ve said and seen in the past, the people who will bear the resulting financial burdens of such punitive legislation are not the actual abusers, or faceless corporate executives. The penalties will be borne by innocent families, individuals and clergy in the field, because whatever the archdiocese and our parishes have in terms of resources is held in trust for our people. It’s their money.
Let me be clear: Sexual abuse is a grave evil and a crime, and one case involving the sexual abuse of a minor is one case too many. The Church is committed to the safety of our young people. The archdiocese has a zero tolerance policy for abuse of minors and reports any allegations of such abuse to law enforcement. We urge anyone who has been abused, no matter when the abuse occurred, to come forward and report that abuse to law enforcement.
As a matter of policy, the Archdiocese reports any suspected crime to law enforcement. We do not object to a measure that would lift the criminal statute of limitations for sex crimes prospectively. We want those who have been harmed, no matter how long ago, to get the help they need and we want those guilty of criminal acts to face appropriate justice.
Among the most difficult but important moments of my time as a bishop have been the private meetings I’ve had with victims of sexual abuse. Their pain and struggle are real, and I admire their courage. As we talk, and sometimes pray together, we try to find a path toward healing. My hope is that our time together sincerely conveys not just my personal sorrow for the evil done to them, but also the wholehearted dedication of today’s clergy, archdiocesan staff and our entire Church family to the safety all those entrusted to our care.
The Church has an obligation to honestly root out and prevent sexual abuse in the life of her parishes and schools. Surely the same obligation might be helpful in the media coverage of her efforts.
For assistance with healing, individuals may contact the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Child and Youth Protection at 1-888-800-8780 or email@example.com.
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The Inquirer is no friend of Catholic beliefs – Know-Nothing Party’s descendants live in this area – so I never expect fair treatment. However, they did expose the horrible, mostly male-on-male, abuse in the Church. That elephant in the room is hopefully being addressed by strict, uncompromising screening and 100% rejection of aberrant tendencies. Hastening the cure, the Inquirer unintentionally did us a favor, but it’s simply not in their interests to see the Church fully recover and regain influence. Thank you, Archbishop, for all your efforts to stop the abuse, upset the culture, and eliminate the abusers.
The church has a long way to go to claim honesty and a sincere effort to root out this horrible evil from its rank and file. This article is a step backward and a slap in the face of victims. It took newspapers and brave reporting for the Church to even begin trying to hold itself to the higher standards it should have had all along. You are in no position to cast stones at journalists sir and as a Catholic I ashamed of this article. It does not represent our faith and it’s teachings.
Well said, Archbishop!!
Thank you for your leadership in correcting the abuses of the past. You are a true blessing to America!
In regards to advocacy journalism, I feel that the one area where the media and the Church are on working parallel agendas is on the issue of immigration. I believe that many Church leaders are globalists to the point where they are openly hostile toward and derisive of their own in favor of those who are foreign. The media is of the same equally twisted mindset. The media intentionally disguises the immigration status of criminals until it becomes untenable. I believe that immigrant crime is far too under-reported and that the Church knows this to be the case. However, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.
To me, this butts up against the 4th Commandment which obligates civic leaders to a DUTY of loyalty to their citizens. We are all called to charity but not the point where we are disloyal to our own.
Thank God for our true and faithful shepherd Archbishop Chaput. He is inspirational in defending the Faith and
teachings of our Catholic church. I thank God for his fortitude and courage confronting the secular evil trying to
destroy Catholicism and our youth.
Praise be to God!
The secular press rarely, if ever, shines a positive light on ANYTHING Catholic. Catholic members of the press, even if their agency is Catholic, need to be held accountable for authenticity in reporting Catholic news. If not, appropriate penalties should be given.
Great to see the archdiocese speak out against the irresponsible reporting of the Philadelphia press. It would have been helpful to hear such support as Fr Englehardt was convicted of a crime he did not commit only to die in prison.
Thank you, Archbishop, for trying to set the record straight. It is unfortunate that the Inquirer, perhaps since our national news is so sensationalized,had to try to compete by again raking up the sex abuse allegations. As you noted in your article little has been said about sex abuse in other contexts until the whole Weinstein business was exposed!
Again, thank you for giving the facts rather than trying to excuse the inexcusable..
You have stated the position of the Archdiocese well and eloquently. What you have presented is obvious and true: The Inquirer, Archbishop, has one goal and it is to punish and to see the financial collapse of the Archdiocese. That is my take. I am sure they would say otherwise. They want justice! And justice is what they say it is. You will never win. They carefully control, pick and define the narrative. Nonetheless, you must speak out and prepare for a stream of invective. They shelter their own interests. It disgusts me!
The Inquirer is a Leftist Rag.
Thank you Archbishop Chaput for all you have done for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. We are blessed to have you here in the Phila Archdiocese.
How does the church account for the lack of prosecution of these monsters? These men ruined lives of children over years and years of abuse yet none spent any jail time. The church’s own records show that the “church family” knew the extent of this problem, so again why no jail time for these criminals?
Not even the police can police themselves. If it were not for FREEDOM OF THE PRESS, the Catholic Church (and I mean the administration – not the true Church) would still be abusing victims, covering up sex abuse and sending the abusers to continue abusing. Doesn’t the terminology sound so mild? The reality of the deeds is horrifying and would never have been known except for FREEDOM OF THE PRESS. Any improvement by the Church administration – and what responsible Catholic could be convinced of the administration’s sincerity considering the Church administration’s POOR track record – is due solely to the FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.
Good luck getting the media to recognize sexual abuse in every facet of our society as a problem. They have perpetuated the lies for so long that they probably don’t remember that it is a lie.
Archbishop: they have their agenda and there is no reasoning with them. Look at how unfairly they have covered the Msgr. Lynn case. Thank God for Ralph Cipriano at Big Trial com. for getting to the truth.
Thank you for bringing balance. Please keep working and praying for us. I will pray for you too !