January 2, 2018.
His Holiness, Pope Francis
00120 Vatican City.
Dear Pope Francis,
We are writing to you as global survivors of rape and sexual assault by clergy. Our organization represents prominent survivor organizational leaders and activists from around the world, including the United States.
As the American bishops gather today at your direction in Chicago, we are writing to you with our concerns over two U.S. Cardinals who are playing leading roles in your upcoming February summit on abuse.
We are also writing to urge you to include in your February summit the most important voices in the sexual abuse crisis: the leadership from the many survivor groups from around the world. How can you succeed in truly addressing and resolving this crisis without their direct participation, lived experience, and difficult wisdom?
We survivors are from virtually every part of the world where the church has made a home over the long centuries. Some of us were born into privilege, many of us into poverty; we are every color of skin; we are young, and we are old; we are male and female; we are gay, straight, transgendered. We represent all the external markers of human identity and diversity. What we share, however, is that each of us were children, the children of the church, the universal church. That is why our struggle is a universal struggle.
God, according to your faith, was born a child. And that is why we make this appeal to you, on his behalf; he, who like us, was once a child.
From the Church we longed for the Good; instead, we were delivered into evil. We are witnesses to the very absence of the Good in the heart of the church, although the church claims to desire nothing but to be the instrument of the Good. Where, we wonder, in this endlessly repeating cycle of crime and cover up by clergy and bishops is that desire?
Let us begin with two simple axioms of justice: It is wrong, for whatever reason, to rape and sexually assault a child; and it is wrong for anyone in a position of public trust to cover up for it. Hermeneutical, cultural, historical, and theological exigencies have their explanatory place but ultimately, they do not matter. It is wrong today: it was wrong yesterday; it will be wrong tomorrow.
That is why we are urging you in the upcoming summit to assure us that those planning and leading it have not been engaged in either of these two grave injustices. Or else, what credibility can your efforts have with us?
Of current concern to us are the two prelates planning and assuming leadership roles: Cardinal Blase Cupich from Chicago and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Texas. You selected Cupich for his role to lead the planning of the summit; the American bishops selected DiNardo as their President to represent the U.S.
A scathing preliminary report issued two weeks ago by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan revealed that at least 500 clerical predators were not reported by Cupich and his fellow Illinois bishops. This number represents three quarters of all priests known by church officials to have allegedly committed crimes against children.
As you know, Cupich is the Chair of that state’s Conference of Catholic Bishops. The report concludes that he and his brother bishops of Illinois not only concealed child sex crimes and violated key provisions of their own US Dallas Charter.
The pattern of concealment in Illinois appears to be even more extensive than the explosive findings this summer from a two-year Pennsylvania Grand Jury probe. The Grand Jury concluded that the bishops of that state operated a decades long, sophisticated, and widespread cover-up involving at least 300 clerics. They also concluded that this cover-up involved Vatican officials.
DiNardo has been directly implicated in either covering up or failing to report child sex crimes in both Texas and his former diocese in Iowa, including leaving credibly accused priests in ministry. DiNardo’s diocese is currently under investigation, including by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Country wide criminal justice investigations from around the world – including in Chile, Europe, Australia, the US and elsewhere – have demonstrably shown, as the Illinois Attorney General of Illinois and other officials have concluded, that the hierarchy and clerics cannot police themselves in matters of criminal abuse against children and cannot solve this crisis on their own.
How can your summit in Rome have any integrity if you allow it to be led by Cardinals and bishops who have covered up child sex crimes and committed these injustices?
Socrates, whose wisdom echoed that of Christ, taught us that it is infinitely better to be a victim of injustice than its cause. We are the victims of injustice. Cardinals Cupich and DiNardo, and whomever else has committed or covered up child abuse, is not. They are part of the cause. This is the line of division that you must draw in February for yourself, for us and for the world: the one between true cause and effect, justice and injustice.
Tim Law, President ECA USA/ECA Board Member
Peter Isely, ECA Member/SNAP Founding Member
Dr. Denise Buchanan, ECA Founding/Board Member