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Catholic Whistleblowers Speak Up for Victims of Sexual Abuse

5-22-13

By David Cruz
NJ Today

A coalition of clergy and lay people from around the country call themselves the Catholic Whistleblowers. They gathered in New York City to assert themselves against what they see as a powerful entrenched bureaucracy turning a blind eye to the suffering of its most vulnerable members.

“I have yet to meet or even hear about a victim who has recounted that the bishop’s first response upon hearing their report of sexual abuse, was to reach out to them with any degree of compassion or concern. This is an abject disgrace,” said Canon Lawyer Father Tom Doyle.

They began forming nine months ago, without approval or cooperation from their individual diocese, bound by their desire to serve victims and to call on organizations like the National Council of Catholic Bishops to take action against those who they say have been complicit by covering up the abuse.

“We are here today to call upon Cardinal Dolan as president of the NCCB to use his influence to press the Vatican to remove Archbishop Myers from the Newark Archdiocese because of his mishandling of the Michael Fugee case. We appeal to all bishops and legislators to remove all statutes of limitations on child abuse cases as a means of demonstrating that our church is serious about pursuing truth and justice,” said Father Ron Lemmert of the Archdiocese of New York.

The group includes New Jersey-based advocates for victims of abuse like former priest Bob Hoatson, founder of Road to Recovery, and Father John Bambrick, a priest abuse survivor and activist who says the church hierarchy has turned a deaf ear to the cries of victims. He says the members of this group are winning small victories every day.

“Each one of the people behind me has been a great supporter of those who have been sexually abused whether they run an organization or whether they’re like Monsignor Lash, who was a pastor who stood by 33 victims from his own parish. … Or Sister Sally who shielded a child from a sexual predator and defied her bishop. I mean these are really people who have saved souls, have saved people, real people who are suffering,” said Bambrick of the Diocese of Trenton.

Catholic Whistleblowers was spearheaded by BishopAccountability.org, which has developed a database of whistle-blowers and is developing tools for future whistle-blowers to come forward.

Those gathered here today say they are under no illusion that their collective voices will stop the abuse. Their point is that they are not afraid and they stand ready to fight for the vulnerable, even if the church will not.


  • Mike

    Doyle says he’s never met or heard of a victim who was responded to with compassion first. He doesn’t read very much, it seems. From “A church leader’s posthumous fall from grace,” Los Angeles Times, May 13, 2013:

    In those same years, [Cardinal] Mahony had become well versed in clergy abuse. He had sent many priests for treatment, read the graphic reports of their therapy sessions and in some cases signed confidential settlements with their victims. After learning about the second accuser, the cardinal took the unusual step of calling the man’s therapist. Would your patient tell me about [Msgr. Benjamin] Hawkes, he asked.

    “He wanted to hear my story,” the man told archdiocese lawyers later. “I told him enough that he prayed with me.”

    Also, there is no such thing as the National Council of Catholic Bishops. There is the USCCB, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Pay attention to details, David, they matter.