Reports From the Field
Cathy Fallon submits the following notes from a
talk by Dick Ryan delivered at St. Eulalia's parish,
Winchester, Mass. on July 19. Dick Ryan is a columnist
for Newsday on Long Island in New York.
VOTF is becoming the conscience of the Catholic Church
and is engaged in a search for the truth alongside a
respect for the human dignity of the vulnerable. Ryan
ticked off the duplicities of so many in Church leadership
but concluded that the lay Catholics need to assume
the role of the 13th apostle. He noted that VOTF has
demonstrated its baptismal leadership. Real leadership
is about following Christ. Real leadership is about
filling the void left by those who openly want to lead
a life of power. He reminded attendees that the exercise
of authority without leadership is tyranny-not leadership.
Right now, Ryan says, VOTF is the Voice of the future
but that is not enough. Ryan offered the following pointers
must broaden its reach, attracting more young, Latino/Asian
public needs to hear outrage at the abuse and hurt
inflicted on families and children. Don't leave the
outrage to Oprah.
Reach out to corporate leaders
Invite local legislators to your meetings
a nagging presence in lobbies and hotels where Pax
Christi, Call to Action and others meet.
on doors that can open other doors. We need to broaden,
not divide the ranks.
must lead lives that are more prayerful than ever
before and exemplify charity.
sees VOTF as continuing in the tradition of St. John
the Baptist, St. Francis, Thomas More, and Joan of Arc.
"You have the same burning love of church as they."
In his concluding remarks, Ryan noted, "Something has
happened within the Church. God is leading us into a
new land…a new dawn. The old ways are simply breaking
down. God will make His Church an ever more effective
institution, with your leadership and our prayers."
Cathy also submitted the following recap of remarks
made by Interim Chair of the National Review Board Justice
Anne Burke to a VOTF gathering on July 28, 2004
Warmly introduced by VOTF President Jim Post, Judge
Burke commented that the harm done to children during
the unfolding crisis has spurred her to action on the
National Review Board and has "refined my scriptural
sensibilities. She saluted the extraordinary efforts
of VOTF… and cited "your love and devotion to the Church
we love against forces of deceit and mismanagement across
the nation. Thank you for your willingness to champion
what is right in the face of shockwaves unleashed by
the sexual abuse crisis; thank you for your unrelenting
courage and love for Church; thank you for lifting up
hope and liberation to the people of God, parish by
parish, pew by pew with voices of love and faith. How
pleased the Lord must be at your work that has changed,
and is changing the course of the Catholic Church in
In Dallas, in June 2002, Burke noted that the bishops
had little choice but to approve the Charter and Norms
that have become the Magna Carta and Rosetta Stone of
the Church in the 21st century. The review board was
charged with investigating and challenging the structures
and policies of the Church that allowed the abuse to
occur. For 25 months the Review Board worked with single-minded
devotion and singular unity, even though its members
come from very diverse backgrounds.
Burke cited two important accomplishments- first, the
creation of the Office of Child and Youth Protection
in Washington, D.C., headed by Kathleen McChesney and
the audit conducted by William Galvin and Associates,
plus 55 FBI agents. The second audit, necessary to compare
statistics, is going forward despite efforts to sabotage
it. The Bishops, Burke said, must get used to the idea
of transparency and accountability.
The second accomplishment was the commissioning of
two studies, first, the John Jay Report gathered data
from a fifty-year period, and "lifted its analysis
to the glaring eye of history." The report enumerated
statistics showing that 4% of 109,000 priests - over
- were accused of 10,000 reported incidents of abuse.
The Board's own report involved interviews with ten
Cardinals, chancery officials, victims, writers, journalists
and others. Her own service involved two trips to Rome,
conferring in dramatic interviews with top curial officials
and a second trip to visit Cardinal Ratzinger. These
men had not been given the whole story of the extent
of the sexual abuse scandal or the hurt inflicted on
the faithful. Anne and her colleagues spoke truth to
power; they spoke of fraternal correction. They spoke
about reviving the Metropolitan (the most senior bishops)
to perform that work. They concluded that dioceses have
done a poor job in screening candidates and that neither
homosexuality nor celibacy caused the abuse crisis,
but the Board will be sponsoring an epidemiological
study for secular institutions to do the necessary research
to discover the causes.
Among the saddest aspects of this crisis is the bishops'
fear of scandal and failure to understand the extent
of the problems, failure to use canon law to remove
priest-abusers; failure of leadership and victimization
of the vulnerable.
As for good news, some bishops are listening, she said.
Minors are safer but much work remains. Trust, Burke
said, is a victim of the scandal-and it can only be
restored with a healing process. As dioceses face financial
ruin, only new openness can restore that trust. Only
Catholics in the pews can rescue the Church. The Review
Board has no sunset provisions.
Each retiring member of the Review Board has submitted
to Archbishop Flynn resumes of possible successors to
themselves, people with similar skill sets. She noted
that her colleague, Robert Bennett of Skadden Arps,
has spent over $1.5 million on the work of the Board,
including two associates, printing costs, etc.
Justice Burke encouraged us to work with the good priests
on the due process issues.
Questioned on the adequacy of funding for the Review
Board, she estimated that the research on causes and
contexts of the scandal would cost $4 million or more.
We need to look at the issue of sexual abuse in our
society as a national health issue.
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