A powerful new force has emerged in the fight against child sexual abuse and the protection of predator priests in the Catholic Church. This week, as profiled by Laurie Goodstein, in the New York Times, a group of Catholic Whistleblowers composed of nuns and priests have come together to provide an alternative viewpoint from inside the Church hierarchy concerning the state of child protection within the Catholic Church.
Despite assertions to the contrary, the Catholic Church still suffers from poor decision-making and the failure to prioritize children over the priesthood. As one recent example, in New Jersey, Archbishop of Newark John J. Myers permitted Rev. Michael Fugee to remain in ministry where was allowed to access children at parish youth groups. Fugee is now behind bars awaiting a Grand Jury’s determination of whether he violated an agreement with Prosecutors not to have unsupervised contact with children.
While the child protection movement has long been supported by courageous clergy and former clergy members—such as Thomas P. Doyle, Richard Sipe, and Patrick Wall—Catholic Whistleblowers can provide a collaborative insider voice for truth. With the righteous participation of nuns, such as Sisters Sally Butler and Maureen Paul Turlish, and priests, such as the Rev. Ronald Lemmert, Fr. Bambrick, and Msgr. Kenneth E. Lasch, this group is a veritable justice league of Catholic leadership calling for change.
To show they are a serious force for change, the Catholic Whistleblowers have written a letter to Pope Francis to provide guidance on how to reverse course and implement meaningful policy change on the church’s handling of child sexual abuse. The Catholic Whistleblowers call on the Pope to engage in some groundbreaking work: revoke all oaths of secrecy; open abuse files to the public; remove bishops who have obstructing the criminal investigation of child sexual abuse; and create an international dialogue between survivors and church leaders. These steps are monumental and absolutely necessary.
The phrase to “have the courage of one’s convictions,” means to act in accordance with one’s beliefs. Here, the Catholic Whistleblowers are acting out their faith and their beliefs in a very public way. Let’s hope that their courage will inspire others to engage honestly about the past and work toward a future of truth and healing.
Jeffrey R. Anderson is an attorney and advocate working with survivors of clergy sexual abuse at Jeff Anderson & Associates.