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10th Year Conference Speech Connell

10th Year Conference Speech Connell

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Clergy sexual abuse victims/survivors supporter Fr. James Connell was a featured speaker at Voice of the Faithful's 10th Year Conference in Boston in September 2012. Here is a transcript of his speech. In June 2012, Fr. Connell was among the organizers of Catholic Whistleblowers, a group of Catholic priests and religious actively supporting victims/survivors.
Clergy sexual abuse victims/survivors supporter Fr. James Connell was a featured speaker at Voice of the Faithful's 10th Year Conference in Boston in September 2012. Here is a transcript of his speech. In June 2012, Fr. Connell was among the organizers of Catholic Whistleblowers, a group of Catholic priests and religious actively supporting victims/survivors.

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Published by: Voice of the Faithful on Jun 13, 2013
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1
Voice of the Faithful 10th Year ConferenceVoice of the Faithful
®
10
th
Year Conference
 Marriott Boston Copley Place Hotel, September 14 & 15, 2012
Presentation by Rev. James E. Connell, the Pastor of Holy Name of Jesus & St. Clement Parishes,Sheboygan, Wisconsin (Archdiocese of Milwaukee), a canon lawyer, and an advocate of victims/survivorsof clergy sexual abuse.
 
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. (The Book of Proverbs 31:8)
Dear Friends in Christ,Thank you for giving me this opportunity to share with you some of my thoughts as I journey with youand with others in the midst of the Catholic clergy sexual abuse of minors crisis and scandal. Indeed, I
am honored to have been invited to make this presentation as part of this “Voice of 
the Faithful 10
th
 
Year Conference”. During this
Conference you have
celebrated 
your mission,
rejuvenated 
yourcommitment, and
accelerated 
your work. As the concluding speaker, I have been challenged to propelyou into the future with confidence in your success and with hope for the Church.At the outset of my presentation, it is important to note that my comments address sexual abuse of minors by diocesan clergy because this is the scope of the crisis that the bishops in the United Statesaddressed publicly ten years ago. But, it would be inattentive of me if I did not acknowledge the realityof both sexual abuse of adults by diocesan clergy, and also sexual abuse of minors and adults bymembers of Catholic religious orders and communities.I chose to title my presentation
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves”
because I amagonized by the loss of voice that is frequently experienced by victims/survivors of sexual abuse of aminor by a priest. As I have listened to stories of clergy sexual abuse, I have come to appreciate that formany victims/survivors the trajectory of their life has been changed and reaching their full potential hasbecome more challenging.But, helping them to regain their voice helps the story of the sexual abuse crisis to be understood andhelps them to heal. Actually, our personal and relational involvement by listening and speaking are keysto that healing.My presentation is organized in two sections: (1)
What’s Urgent
? and (2)
What’s Next?
 
 
2
What’s Urgent?
 I would like to mention six points of urgency.
First Urgency: Loss of voice.
My thoughts regarding the loss of voice are framed by some statistics published in May 2011 by theUnited States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in a report prepared by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York,
The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010
.According to this John Jay report, most of the abuse occurred between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s. Moreover, while most of the clergy sexual abuse of minors had occurred by 1985, by that dateonly 810 incidents had been reported. By 2010, however, more than 11,000 incidents had been reportedconcerning the period before 1985. (
To find this information in the John Jay report, go to:http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/reports-and-research.cfm Scroll down to: Reports Presented by the John Jay College Research TeamClick on: The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010 Go to p. 27, the right-hand column)
 Reporting sexual abuse is very difficult, especially for minors, which helps to explain why most of theknown abuse that occurred before 1985 was not reported until after 1985. Many victims/survivors saythat they could not speak because they were too embarrassed or too young to speak up and tell whathappened. Or, as some say, when they did talk about the assault, they were not believed or they wereignored. So, the isolation of silence became part of their cross.
Moreover, some victims/survivors have told me that the pain caused by the Church’s response has been
more hurtful to them than was the pain of the sexual assault itself. Ponder that point!Truly, helping victims/survivors to regain their voice helps them to heal while also helping the story of the sexual abuse crisis to be understood. But, we need to be willing to help in this effort by raising ourown voices, and in a very public way.
Second Urgency: Revelation of the whole truth.
Many month
s ago a parishioner asked me: “Why didn’t bishops behave as parents
would behave?
Herpoint was that parents would never allow children to be near a known or suspected child abuser. But,bishops and other Church leaders have behaved otherwise, endangering children. Why this behavior byfaith leaders? Indeed, the bishops need to provide thorough explanations about the sexual abuse crisisrather than reams of data for others to decipher. Yet, these explanations are not forthcoming. Whoknew what? When did they know it? What did they do with the information?
 
3Victims/survivors need to know the truth, while the sources of the truth are still available. Preventingthis adds to the agony, and violates justice and charity. Also, t
he priestly promise of obedience to one’s
bishop never trumps justice or validates evil.Our Catechism teaches that truth stands at the heart of authentic human action and speech (cf.Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC]
2468). Indeed, followers of Christ are to “live in the truth” (CCC
2470; cf. 1 Jn. 1:6). Only by living in the truth, the complete truth, can human action and speechgenerate justice and healing. Without truth there can be no justice and without justice, no healing.
(The text of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is at: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM )
 
Third Urgency: What impedes the revelation of the truth? 
Here are my top five picks.
1.
 
The Cardinals’ Oath
. This is an oath taken by each new cardinal as he is about to receive his redbiretta. Here is a key portion of that Oath as spoken by Cardinal Timothy Dolan and 21 othernew car
dinals on February 18, 2012: “I, N., Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, promise and
swear, from this day forth and as long as I live
…..
not to make known to anyone mattersentrusted to me in confidence, the disclosure of which could bring damage or dishonor to theHoly Church
…..”
(To find the full text o
f the Cardinals’ Oath, go to this
link:http://www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/2012/documents/ns_lit_doc_20120218_index-concistoro_en.html Scroll down to: 18 February 2012, Consistory for the creation of new Cardinals. Click
on “Booklet for the Celebration”. Cardinal Dolan is listed on page 6, # 16. The full text of the Cardinals’
Oath is on page 20 (English).)
Surely, this oath contributes to the crisis. In other words, if the cardinals promise to be silent,and if other bishops follow their example, can truth and justice ever be served? Can this crisisever be resolved? Also, do all bishops take an oath
similar to the Cardinals’ Oath
? Secrecy mustnot reign. The Pope needs to release the cardinals from this oath and secrecy, and require themand all the bishops to speak the complete truth. Indeed, their speaking openly and honestlywould provide a relational involvement that would foster healing.2.
 
Attorney-Client Privilege. Regardless when the crimes were reported, at least by the late 1980sbishops were becoming aware of an increasing number of allegations against priests. Accordingto the John Jay report cited above, not only were some bishops very slow to respond to the
building crisis, some dioceses “where the Catholic Church was highly influential were slow to
recognize the importance of the problem of sexual abuse by priests or to respond to the
victims”
.
(John Jay Report cited above, p. 4, right-hand column)
So, what advice did the attorneysgive? Did they help to shape the strategies used by bishops?The attorney-client privilege means that an attorney cannot divulge information provided by aclient. But, the client holds the privilege and can waive the privilege, thus releasing the attorneyfrom that restriction, either totally or partially. Consequently, if each diocesan bishop would

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