Talk is cheap. In the case of Archbishop of Philadelphia Charles J. Chaput, talk is also cynical, misleading and hurtful.
Chaput apologized to survivors of clergy sex abuse during a homily at a “Mass for Healing for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse” Saturday in Philadelphia. Chaput also acknowledged the negligence of the “church’s pastors” in allowing the abuse to occur. What Chaput didn’t do – and hasn’t done – is take action to help sexual abuse survivors. In fact, he’s taken actions that hurt them.
Let’s take a look at what Chaput hasn’t done. He hasn’t supported extending the Pennsylvania statute of limitations to permit criminal prosecution of child sex abusers whenever their victims come forward, or to provide a window for clergy sexual abuse survivors to file civil lawsuits no matter when their abuse occurred.
Let’s take a look at what he has done. As leader of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, a powerful lobbying group, Chaput has actually opposed the legislation seeking to extend the criminal statute of limitations and extend the civil window in Pennsylvania. While Archbishop of Denver, his previous job, Chaput fought Colorado legislation that would have extended the civil statute of limitations for sexual abuse survivors to file suit. And Chaput allowed a Philadelphia priest – the Rev. John P. Paul – to keep working, without notice to his parish, for nearly a year after abuse allegations were brought against him.
Hollow apologies, like the cynical appointment of in-house sexual abuse investigators, are tired and misleading tactics by the hierarchy. It is time for Chaput and the hierarchy to act in support of survivors, not against them.