NEWTON, Mass., March 25, 2011 – Voice of the Faithful Greater Philadelphia earlier the month recognized Sister Maureen Paul Turlish of New Castle, Del., a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, author, educator and clergy sexual abuse victim advocate, for her work for clergy sexual abuse victims. She received her accolades during VOTFGP’s annual spring meeting at Sugarloaf Hill on the Chestnut Hill College campus in Germantown, Penn., where she delivered a talk called “Justice and Renewal in the Church: A Journey.”
Turlish told her audience her activist journey began in 2002 with the coverage in Boston of Fr. John Geoghan’s child sexual abuse. Her religious order issued a Statement on Sexual Abuse within the American Catholic Church that read in part, “We object strongly to the secrecy and mismanagement that exacerbated this crisis. We believe that true healing will come only from a searching examination of the causes of this problem and from reform of those policies and structures that contribute to it.”
Now 10 years, two Philadelphia grand jury reports and the first criminal charges against a church official later, she said, “We are now well aware with the release of both grand jury reports, that the collusion, conspiracy and cover-up involving the archdiocese has gone on for well over half a century.”
She recalled ending a National Catholic Reporter column after the 2005 Philadelphia grand jury report by saying, “Until church leaders admit to the pervasive hubris, personal and systemic, which allowed sexually abusive priests to continue in their perfidy long after their crimes were known by church authorities, it will be difficult if not impossible to reestablish either the institution’s credibility or their own. Absent that, reconciliation and healing will not happen.”
To VOTFGP, she said, “The institutional Roman Catholic Church’s ‘problem’ if one chooses to use that term is a ‘problem’ of conspiracy, collusion and cover-up. It is difficult to realize that the magnitude of this ‘problem’ is such that the cover-up could be both so deeply embedded into the structures of the world’s largest religious denomination and, at the same time, reach so high in its ecclesiastical governance.”
Part of Turlish’s advocacy involves working to extend or eliminate statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse. She presented testimony before the Delaware Senate and House Judiciary Committees in support of the 2007 Delaware Child Victims Law, which removed all statutes of limitation covering the sexual abuse of children and provided a two-year civil window for previously time-barred cases.
“Better criminal and civil statutes will be effective in helping to stop current childhood sexual abuse and preventing future abuse,” she said. “A civil window is the single most effective means of holding sexual predators accountable for their crimes in the past along with any enablers, if they exist.”
Turlish has spoken before numerous national audiences and written extensively on child abuse. she has taught in Catholic schools in Delaware, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. She is active in many advocacy groups and coalitions. She has been a VOTF advocate and activist since the organization was formed in 2002 and presently is a member of its national Child Protection & Survivor Support team. Turlish also was chair of the VOTF subcommittee that created an Advocacy Guide for Statute of Limitation Reform, available at http://www.votf.org.
Voice of the Faithful
Voice of the Faithful is a worldwide movement of concerned mainstream Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and shape structural change within the Church. More information is at http://www.votf.org.
Nick Ingala, 781-559-3360, 617-291-3495 Cell