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Dear Pope: Do You Shake Your Head and Wonder?

Jun 02, 2016

I am sure that there must be some nights that you can’t sleep because you are carrying a load heavier than most of us can even imagine. But I can only assume that some nights are especially hard. A few months ago, Monsignor Tony Anatrella told new Bishops that they did not have a duty to report allegations of the sexual abuse of children to law enforcement. Not only did this instruction contradict your current policy of requiring reporting, but your Commission for the Protection of Minors was not even involved in the training. As soon as it hit the news, Cardinal O'Malley, who chairs your Pontifical Commission on the Protection of Minors, came out asserting strongly that Bishops have a moral obligation to report disclosures of the sexual abuse of children to law enforcement. It will not be a surprise to you that Cardinal O'Malley’s position is one that I strongly support for all clergy in all faith communities. And then there’s Cardinal Pell, who is now one of your closest advisors at the Vatican.

Dear Pope: Do You Shake Your Head and Wonder?

Rev. Dr. Marie Fortune

 

Dear Pope Francis:

I am sure that there must be some nights that you can’t sleep because you are carrying a load heavier than most of us can even imagine. But I can only assume that some nights are especially hard.

A few months ago, Monsignor Tony Anatrella told new Bishops that they did not have a duty to report allegations of the sexual abuse of children to law enforcement. Not only did this instruction contradict your current policy of requiring reporting, but your Commission for the Protection of Minors was not even involved in the training.

As soon as it hit the news, Cardinal O'Malley, who chairs your Pontifical Commission on the Protection of Minors, came out asserting strongly that Bishops have a moral obligation to report disclosures of the sexual abuse of children to law enforcement. It will not be a surprise to you that Cardinal O'Malley’s position is one that I strongly support for all clergy in all faith communities.

And then there’s Cardinal Pell, who is now one of your closest advisors at the Vatican. In March, asserting that he was too ill to leave the Vatican and travel to Australia, Pell gave four days of video-link testimony to the Australian Parliamentary Commission, which is investigating child abuse in institutions serving children. Pell acknowledged that he had dismissed allegations of "plausible" complaints of child sexual abuse when he served there, beginning in the 1970s. Pell’s hometown, Ballarat, has been scarred by a rash of suicides by abuse survivors, where at least five pedophiles clerics were working during Pell’s tenure there. In his testimony, Cardinal Pell finally acknowledging how wrong he got it. It will be interesting to see how he will respond to his people who are asking him to “Come Home” to Australia. They want to have a little chat.

Last week, Monsignor Tony Anatrella was back in the news. The consulter to the Pontifical Council for the Family and the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers has been accused by at least four former seminarians of sexual abuse. There have been reports about Anatrella since at least 2001, and about his abuse going back as far as 1987.  French seminaries and monasteries sent young men who appeared to have gay proclivities to Fr. Anatrella for “therapy.”  His methods included telling them they weren't gay and then engaging in mutual masturbation with them.

Not only is he very wrong about adequate responses to child sexual abuse, he is thoroughly homophobic.  He was known as the “Vatican Expert on Homosexuality” and was key to the Catholic Church’s refusal of gay seminarians. Now he may also be a serial predator, engaging in sexual boundary violations with young clients sent to him for therapy.

Are there some days when you just shake your head and wonder if there are any competent, ethical leaders whom you can trust to guide the church forward in addressing this longstanding, tragic pattern of abuse by priests? I shake my head and wonder every day.

I know that you have been signaling change, but there are too many men in leadership in the Church who were part of the system that focused on protecting the institution, rather than living out its mission of love and compassion. Maybe it’s time to clean house. Removing men like Pell and Anatrella from their positions of power would be more than a signal of change—it would be part of fulfilling your promise to survivors, their families, and the rest of your flock that there will be consequences for abuse and inaction, no exceptions.

And if it helps, please know that you are not alone in this. There are many of us, in various faith communities, who also have sleepless nights and wonder if the arc of the moral universe really does bend towards justice.

Your Sister in Christ,

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
www.FaithTrustInstitute.org
Subscribe to my blog

 

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Dear Pope

Posted by Sr. Elaine Shaw, OP at Jun 03, 2016 12:55 PM
Once again, Marie, you say the truth to power and expose those who are still in error. Thanks for supporting where you can and when you can. Pope Francis needs the encouragement and challenge you stated in this blog.
Blessings of Peace to you and your ministry.

s. elaine

Are YOU shaking your head and wondering?

Posted by Susan at Jun 03, 2016 12:55 PM
Dear Marie Fortune: Do you shake YOUR head and wonder? I do. I wonder...
 
I know you spend sleepless nights wondering how you can effect change in one of your least favorite institutions, the Catholic Church; however, I do wonder: Do you spend some of those sleepless nights directing at least an iota of the same vociferous outrage that you have against the Pope/Catholic Church toward the U.S. Dept. of Education Secretary John King as well as toward the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president, Randi Weingarten for the scandalous sexual abuse some teachers perpetuate on their innocent victims/ students? I think not!
 
Fact: less than 1% of ALL priests have been identified as pedophiles.
Fact: it is about 8 times more likely that a public school teacher will commit a crime toward a child than a priest.
 
How come there are no blogs on the "dangers" of Public School teachers molesting children and most especially the cover-up as well as the muteness by school administrators/teacher's unions on this scandal? Where is the outrage here? Again, your silence on addressing the Education System's/Teacher Union's cover-up and silence on teacher sexual abuse on students is most telling about your biases.

response to above post from Susan

Posted by marie fortune at Jun 03, 2016 02:12 PM
You are correct that I don't blog on the issues affecting public schools and sexual abuse. The reason is that I am not a part of those institutions nor am i a teacher or administrator in those settings.

I blog about faith communities because i am a faith leader and have worked on the issues of abuse by clergy for the past 40 years. My job and my passion is to help all of our faith communities to be faithful to our missions to teach love and respect of one another and to protect those among us who are most vulnerable.

This is where i am most effective and where i have a voice to make a difference.

Fortunately i have many colleagues in other professions who are addressing the issues of sexual abuse of children in their own professions.

Are YOU shaking your head and wondering?

Posted by Susan at Jun 03, 2016 03:18 PM
Thank you for attempting to clarify your position. I truly do appreciate that you took the time to respond. However, I am somewhat confused by your answer. Are you saying that you ARE a part of the religious institution, the Catholic Church, so that is why you think you are able to "correct" and "influence" the Pope?

Another confusing aspect of your blog site states: "Help us continue to address the religious AND CULTURAL* issues related to abuse, educate faith communities and advocates, and SUSTAIN VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS*." (* my emphasis) Student sexual abuse perpetuated by a teacher, in my humble opinion, is definitely a CULTURAL issue and should not be compartmentalized and thereby ignored. Abuse IS abuse and horrific no matter whether it is perpetrated by a priest or a teacher, as victims and survivors will attest, and the victimization of cover-up and silence (either by a religious leader OR a teacher, or a school administrator) only aggravate the feelings of betrayal.

less than 1% of ALL priests have been identified as pedophiles?

Posted by Isabel Sinton at Jun 03, 2016 03:05 PM
There are Liars, Damn Liars and Statistics. Where does this 1% come from? I know ! When pedophile cases are resolved out of court until recently with the victim signing signing a statement to NOT mention the incident again, these priests are not counted in the pedophile count. Isn't that clever?

What about teachers, school administrators?

Posted by Susan at Jun 03, 2016 03:39 PM
So ~ you are hung up on the statistics, but choose to ignore the fact that teachers have and continue sexually abuse/molest students while administrators/school districts "cover-up" the incidents? Very interesting (and telling)...