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The past year has seen some spectacular events that have given some hope to survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands pedophile predators in our society. Indeed this crisis knows no borders and is not limited to those of a certain faith. We have seen the conviction of a Catholic Bishop for covering up sexual crimes committed against children, the conviction and imprisonment of Jerry Sandusky for committing those crimes and a monsignor in Philadelphia for carrying out a program of protecting pedophiles at the expense of innocent children and parishioner’s money. Large institutions still are willing to sacrifice the innocent in order to protect the privilege of the few at the top and to prevent scandal from coming to light.
For me personally, I have had to come to grips with the death of the predator who counted me as one of his many victims. He was prolific throughout his life in targeting boys in dysfunctional family situations from alcoholism to catastrophic illness. He hid behind his Roman Collar and he found the protection of a Diocese that was willing to move him around to different parishes and ultimately out of the diocese and the state to keep him safe from prosecution.
With the announcement that the Pope has offered his resignation, something not done in over 600 years, just as the documentary “Mea Maxima Culpa” has aired on HBO (see the promo here), I wonder what the future of the Hierarchy of the Catholic Church will be. I can safely say that the entire College of Cardinals who will be voting in the next few weeks were elevated to helm of their respective curiae by either John Paul II or Benedict XVI. In a word, they are very conservative in the mold of the men who hoped to shape their church by selecting Cardinals who shared similar conservative outlooks on the Holy Roman Catholic Church.
The one piece of the puzzle that continues to vex me is the Survivor Community. The community that speaks for the victims. There isn’t really a strong confederation of groups in the United States that networks survivors and promotes an agenda in the State Capitols. There is no larger, worldwide organization that stands up for the survivors, that is a solid united front for the people who have been neglected all these years.
At this point I will say, again, that I don’t think SNAP is effective because its national leadership seems disconnected from the rest of us. The organization is not a network, despite its name. There is a vocal element out there that feels that the organization is an arm of the Catholic Church because of the way it is formed. They base this claim on the letter that follows:
Personally, I am not convinced this is a smoking gun. I think this was more of the birth of an organization that did not know how to chart its own course at its genesis. But I will let you come to your own conclusions.
During the last week I have been having a heated electronic correspondence with another survivor who has accused me of rolling over on the survivor community and stunting a dialogue between us. I have been accused of many things in the past few years from all sides of this issue. But, as much as I hate to admit it, my correspondent has got me thinking. We talk about a survivor community as if it really exists. We talk about networks but we are not networked as a community.
I need to know what the expectations of survivors are (I hate the word victim). I need to hear the thoughts of others with similar experiences on what needs to be done. I need to know what expectations are out there. If we are going to be a community, a network there is needs to be a common philosophical and pragmatic basis to gather the various groups into a confederation, an alliance or a coalition.
There are a lot of egos in this community. Mine to be counted among them. There has to be a way to come to some kind of accord in order to optimize the talents, energy and, if need be, the anger that resides within the universe of survivors and their supporters.
If no accord can be reached, is there another way to harness the energy of survivors to achieve tangible goals for our society so that we can remove the veil of protection that pedophiles in large institutions have enjoyed in the name of saving the reputation of those institutions? I have said it before and I will continue to say that I had to keep my great terrible secret alone for all those years, my perp had help keeping his.
My questions are not rhetorical, I need to know. I need you to tell me. I think we all need to have the discussion in a civil manner. But the discussion needs to be had, by the entire community, if there is really a community out there.
I am waiting to hear from all of you.
I put a blog post on January 16 entitled 99,601. I thought it was pretty innocuous, more of a “I’m still out here” piece than anything else. It drew a vitriolic response from one reader who decided that it was more of an exercise in narcissism and that I should be taking a more vocal stand against the Survivors’ Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). To be honest, this is my blog and I am going to write as often as I am moved to on topics of my choosing. If you don’t like it I would like to direct you the freshly pressed section of WordPress. There is some really neat stuff there.
If you have read this blog for any length of time you will know that I do not have a lot of love for the National Director of SNAP. I have voiced my opinion on SNAP and the way the national board conducts business. I wrote a blog post entitle Parting Company with SNAP that spun up a lot of comments and heated discussion, some of it too nasty to approve on both sides of the discussion. Do I really want to rehash that? Not so much! I don’t think, as a blogger, I need to announce annually that I am not a fan of the national leadership of SNAP. I still hold out hope that at some point the Survivor community finds a network where we all get an opportunity to work together collectively to advance a legislative agenda that will lengthen statutes of limitation
Instead of pointing out, again, that I think SNAP is a self licking ice cream cone, I choose to spend my time and some of my money supporting organizations like the Foundation to Abolish Child Sex Abuse and Justice4PAKids and their efforts to change laws and do real and tangible good. They are making a difference. SNAP is more focused on having 2 conferences this year, one here in the States and the other in Ireland. I guess the National director is working on improving his standing in the airline rewards program of his choice.
At this point I would add that I am very impressed by some of the state SNAP coordinators. Becky Ianni in Virginia is the real deal. I have only met her twice, but she is a force for good in the northern Virginia and Washington DC region. I would gladly support any effort she led. Karen Polesir has helped me on occasion and is active in a coalition of groups working to get SOL and window legislation through the State Assembly in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
I support people like Kay Ebeling who has been reporting (not blogging, reporting) on the sexual abuse crisis for years and has gotten little support from the survivor community. She has been inspiring and I consider her a friend. Funny, the vocal ones have the church, its apologist and many survivors attacking them. I guess that is the point I am circling here. Even in the survivor community there is a chasm between elements. Being a good, compliant survivor or victim makes you a darling to some of the national groups. Dare to criticize them and see how quickly you are on the outs. Lessons learned from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church I guess.
For now I look at the future. I think that change will come but it will not be led by a national organization. We don’t have an effective one. It will be led by regional groups, some affiliated with larger organizations, some will be independent. Fools will rush in and out. We all need to stay the course. We really will not get anywhere if we are sniping at each other.
News reports on the major networks this morning have broken a story that Pope Benedict is resigning his position. Right now there is just speculation on the reasons for the pontiff stepping down. This is the first papal resignation in 600 years.
In a Vatican that has been consumed with scandal from the child sex abuse crisis (still ongoing) to mismanagement to bank fraud, the boss is calling it quits. It could be age, health or a multitude of other reasons for his decision to choose this moment to step down.