Two verdicts, a single message
As I See It
By Marci A. Hamilton
On Friday, June 22, 2012, two systems collided: the good old-fashioned American justice system and the till-now unaccountable Roman Catholic diocesan system of mishandling child sex abuse by priests. It was the first time that a member of the Catholic hierarchy has been held responsible by the criminal justice system for the abuse of children. The system spans the globe, and the pattern of the cover-up is persistent across dioceses. So this lone conviction matters in all states and even all countries with western-style justice.
The Northeast was at the epicenter of the historic trial of Monsignor William Lynn of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Defrocked priest Edward Avery pleaded guilty to sexual assault of a child and conspiracy to endanger children immediately before the trial; Lynn was convicted of endangering the welfare of a child in the context of Avery’s crimes. The Archdiocese knew that Avery had abused boys before, but still placed him at Nazareth Hospital as a chaplain, which meant he lived at the rectory at St. Jerome’s parish. There, he had access to the victim who testified against Lynn at trial.
On the same date, Penn State football defensive coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 out of 48 criminal charges for sexually abusing boys, which he snared through his charity Second Mile, and whom he seduced with the wonders of the Penn State football universe. These two convictions on the very same date turned a single-note message into a chorus: If you want to protect children, wake up!
All of the adults in these scenarios bear some responsibility for the devastation of these children’s lives. The sexual predators deserve blame, to be sure, but they cannot operate to reach so many children without other adults assisting them. It is sheer naivete or persistent self-delusion to try to lay the blame for these systems of abuse solely or even primarily at the feet of the compulsive pedophiles.
Their employers are responsible for the children in their respective universes. In both the Penn State and the Philadelphia Archdiocese contexts, children are expressly invited. In the Archdiocese, they attend parochial schools like St. Jerome’s, participate in CYO, serve as altar servers, and attend Mass. At Penn State, they attended summer football camps and worked out and showered in Penn State facilities.
The Philadelphia Archdiocese created the danger for children by plunking known predator Avery smack dab in the middle of one of its arenas where children were expressly invited. Penn State created the danger by giving Sandusky free rein even after he had retired, following the 1998 investigation into charges of sexual abuse, and by not reporting other reports of abuse to the authorities. Both institutions made choices that endangered children.
The parents are responsible for vigilance with their children, but until recently few knew that patterns of abuse existed, that children often don’t tell, and that the men in power they idolized could subjugate the welfare of children to the institution’s reputation. Many now suffer the hell of understanding what was done to their children. All parents in the future must understand that they have a responsibility of hyper vigilance for their children, because pedophiles are masters of manipulation and work tirelessly to obtain parents’ trust so that they can get their children alone to abuse.
One important lesson all parents must learn from these verdicts is that just because an institution invites children does not mean that institution is taking full responsibility for their protection. Universities everywhere host summer sports camps for childen, but have questionable or no policies for their protection. Penn State is not alone in this scandal. The Citadel is facing similar summer camp issues.
The other adults who bear responsibility are our elected representatives. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office stepped up first when D.A. Lynne Abraham convened the first grand jury to investigate the archdiocese’s policies a decade ago. Seth Williams has kept the focus on child safety and welfare with the Lynn trial.
Pennsylvania’s legislators are also ultimately responsible for the welfare of children because they pass the laws that create the system of justice. They know full well that the existing statutes of limitations for child sex abuse — until recently — shut out the vast majority of victims. In the Lynn trial, only two victims were within the statute. Evidence regarding 22 others, whose claims fell outside the statute, was permitted, because it was relevant to the conspiracy charge, but criminal charges cannot be filed in any of those 22 cases. Right now, a victim has until age 50 to file criminal charges, and until age 30 for a civil claim.
What is needed, though, is a window that would permit the thousands, likely millions, of expired civil claims in Pennsylvania to find their way into court. Expired criminal charges cannot be revived under the federal Constitution, but expired civil claims can be revived and the only way we can catch up on the injustices the system visited on victims is through a window. The Catholic Conference, the lobbyist for Pennsylvania’s bishops, is expending parishioners’ donations on fighting child sex abuse victims in Harrisburg. Rep. Ron Marsico tried to block all statute of limitation reform for their benefit, but felt the heat enough to report out of his House Judiciary Committee a bill that would eliminate the criminal statue of limitations, and extend the civil statue to age 50. Those are great developments, but they leave the vast majority of existing victims in Pennsylvania with no legal recourse.
As we learned last Friday, the justice system is the best, and often the only, route to child protection.
Marci Hamilton is a resident of Bucks County; a law professor at Cardozo School of Law; and a lawyer for victims of child sex abuse.
Children are being left behind at Lincoln
I’d like to know how the kids at Lincoln High School are passing. My relative is a 15-year-old boy. He reads at a fourth-grade level, can hardly spell and can’t write in cursive. His friend, another relative, hasn’t been in school in over eight months. Both boys are passing into 10th grade.
The first boy asked his teachers, straight out, what if “I don’t do any homework?” The teacher said he’ll still pass. He hasn’t brought home a book or done an assignment all year, and he passed. What is wrong with the school system? Their new motto, No Child Left Behind, rings true. No wonder we’re so low on the list of good education.
Smart meter worries waste a lot of energy
To state that meters “emit radiation,” as does your article in last week’s edition, PECO’s ‘smart meters’ raise ire in Somerton, is unnecessarily alarming.
“Radiation” encompasses a wide variety of phenomena. Radiation includes, for example, electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength (lambda) of 530 nanometers and a frequency of 566 terahertz.
Sound frightening? That’s green light. Radio waves have even less energy.
Howard J. Wilk
Fast forward 38 years: It’s not a pretty sight
It’s 2050 and PECO only wished they had listened to the public outrage.
Michael Nutter is still mayor of Philadelphia, serving in his 11th term; he had the city charter changed in 2014, claiming it confused people, like their real estate assessments.
PECO will be declaring bankruptcy after thousands of lawsuits emanating from their smart meters and related diseases that resulted in the deaths of many Pennsylvanians.
In 2050, only 10,000 people remain in Philadelphia. After real estate assessments went to 100 percent of market value and smart meters did their damage, few people were left.
This is one story this writer hopes never runs in the Northeast Times. But that will be up to you, the readers of this newspaper. If we act together, we can stop anything (for example, the Harrisburg pay raise, the city’s DROP program). If we do nothing, we’ll be sheep led to the slaughter.
Please refer to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine (www.aaemonline.org) news release of April 12, 2012 on smart meter installation and their health concerns about electromagnetic fields (PECO smart meters).
Dozens gathered at the Greater Bustleton Civic League last Wednesday to listen to PECO; most were not convinced that energy costs would go down and people would not get sick.
Please continue to call the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate at 1-800-684-6560 or go online at www.oca.state.pa.us to file complaints even if you have the new meter. And call the state Public Utility Commission along with our elected officials.
Ticket surcharge is a loser
City Councilman Mark Squilla’s proposal for a $4 ticket surcharge is over the top. Philly residents are already beset on all sides by the Parking Authority and the “trash police” writing their tickets and doing nothing to fight crime or improve the quality of life.
All these agencies seem to do is provide jobs for people who couldn’t make it at McDonald’s. I doubt these agencies take in much more than supports their own bureaucracies.
Councilman Squilla should be more thoughtful about ways to increase city revenues, possibly by abolishing both these agencies and returning their enforcement mandates to the proper authorities — the police and L&I.
Lies and more lies from Uncle Sam
It’s a tragedy when you live on low income. The taxes are killing us. The government just takes and takes. The Senate fights back and forth and we do without. They have a lot of money in their pockets, so keep fighting and we will do without food, money to pay bills, and hope we have a place to live.
We will vote for the people doing without. Why should we vote for you? Lies, lies and more lies!
Gayle A. Notali
Bishop calls for expanded tax credits for Catholic education
Since the announcement by Archbishop Chaput in February that St. Hubert’s would remain open, local legislators have heard overwhelmingly from Catholics in Philadelphia, especially in the Northeast, about the desire and need for school choice legislation to be immediately passed.
At the urging of the archbishop, Catholics have called, written, e-mailed and rallied to advocate support for expanded EITC and school vouchers. And in Harrisburg, our voices have been heard.
On June 12, House Bill 2468 was introduced. Its aim is to expand Pennsylvania’s current EITC program by $25 million (raising it from $75 million to $100 million) as well as establish the Educational Improvement Scholarship Credit (EISC).
Co-sponsored by state Reps. Brendan Boyle, Kevin Boyle and Tony Payton, this new program would create a second pot of “opportunity scholarship” funding — beyond traditional EITC — at $100 million in 2012-13. EISC funding would only be available to students within the bottom 15 percent of “failing schools” in the state.
If this bill is passed before June 30, it would infuse a new $125 million into educational school choice for this September. Further, it would be funded by tax-credited contributions targeted to designated opportunity scholarship organizations, such as BLOCS in Philadelphia, and it would not take funds away from public schools.
This bill would make a dramatic and positive difference in the lives of students across the commonwealth. More, it would help to not just sustain Catholic education but grow it. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has more than 28,000 seats currently available in our high schools and elementary schools. We welcome the opportunity to give children who benefit from the passage of this bill an outstanding education.
The advocacy of Catholics has been critical to the introduction of this bill. Now, in the waning days of this legislative session, we can bring this important legislation home through our continued advocacy.
This is our chance to ensure that any family who desires a Catholic education for their child has access to that incredible opportunity.
Auxiliary Bishop Michael J. Fitzgerald
Archdiocese of Philadelphia
Educating Catholic children should be supported
Regarding your June 6 editorial, Say no to vouchers, years ago we sent our children to Catholic schools because they included God in their programs and we considered it a more disciplined environment.
We were paying the same taxes as everyone else. Also, working for the federal government, they supported the school system for all of my children of school age. We received nothing back on our school taxes. When you speak of public funds, this also includes Catholic families’ tax money, so Catholic children’s education should be supported.
In my opinion, “separation of church and state” was intended to prevent such things as the Spanish Inquisition, which is impossible with our system of government. Things like that are of a bygone age. However this is currently being used to exclude prayer from public schools, remove religious-type memorials from public land, remove such things as the Ten Commandments from public buildings, and in general to remove God from our society. This is not what was intended in the drafting of the Constitution.
As far as the money spent in legal fees, this is from the church funds, not from the school funds. Cutting out school vouchers would not punish the few individuals involved; it would only make it harder for Catholic parents to keep their children in a school system that can still recognize God in their curriculum — public schools are no longer allowed to do this.
The cost of Catholic schools is also less per student than that of public schools.
Placement of story, obituary was mortifying
I am writing to express my mortification of a layout in a recent edition of your newspaper. You had a bold headline, Archdiocese dismisses a handful of priests. Reporter John Loftus did a fine job in his summation of the situation, handling it with accuracy and sensitivity. My problem however lies with the death notice that was included on the same page, i.e., Mass to be held for the Rev. Michael Heim
How the death notice for this holy, beloved, and respected priest could be on the same page leaves me utterly aghast and upset. I have been a personal friend of Father Mike’s for over 30 years, and this “gentle man” and “gentleman” fought a long and courageous battle against cancer. A testament of this holy priest was evident at both his viewing and Mass of Christian Burial, where there was barely any room to find a seat due to the hundreds showing his family their final respect and condolences.
Go onto his online testimonial page and you will find signatures from parishioners all over that Father Mike faithfully served. This humble man and priest not only welcomed all to the Lord’s Table, but to any meal he prepared and served. My heart aches for his family when I think they saw these two stories running on the same page.
I am an avid reader of your newspaper, and just felt compelled to express my disappointment that Father Heim’s legacy needed to be inserted on the same page of the archdiocesan priest situation. Perhaps next time, sensitivity to a situation needs to be more carefully examined prior to publication. Perhaps it would not be too much to expect that your publication send out a public apology to his grieving family, friends, and parish.
Kathleen M. McDonough
Fifth grade teacher at St. William School
Member of Philmont Kiwanis
Faculty liaison for St. William Home and School board
Speak your mind …
Letters should be 300 words or less. Short letters have a better chance of getting published. All letters are subject to editing and MUST include the writer’s full name along with daytime and evening phone numbers for verification purposes. Anonymous letters will NOT be published. Mail to: Letters to the Editor, Northeast Times, 2512 Metropolitan Drive, Trevose, PA 19053. Fax: 215-355-4857. E-mail: email@example.com