Two verdicts, a single messageAs I See ItBy Marci A. HamiltonOn 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.
The School District of Philadelphia is not exactly held in the highest regard these days, but parents and students have at least one thing to brag about: they have not been crippled by teacher strikes in a long while.To ensure that Philadelphia public school students, and those throughout the Keystone State, don’t get shortchanged by a greedy, selfish teachers union — as their counterparts in the Neshaminy School District were on several occasions during the school year that just ended — movers and shakers in Harrisburg should once and for all step up to the plate and win one for the masses.If Pennsylvania’s Republican governor and the GOP-controlled legislature want to do something constructive while they try to hammer out a budget before the June 30 deadline, they will enact a law that bans school strikes in the state. Only 13 states allow teachers to strike, and Pennsylvania should not be one of them.When you look at the big picture, teachers are every bit as important as police officers and firefighters, who are not permitted to strike. When teachers go out on strike, they shortchange taxpayers and create bedlam for working parents, but far more important, they disrupt students’ schedules and stymie their progress. Teacher strikes hurt society’s junior citizens. They are reprehensible and should be illegal.Pennsylvania lawmakers should enact a package of common-sense measures that ban teacher strikes, allow for binding arbitration involving teachers and school boards, and allow voters to use the power of the ballot box — via referendum — to decide on teachers’ salaries and benefits.Pennsylvania can earn itself a big, fat A+ if it does the right thing for the children.Send letters tol: email@example.com
Smart meters: Danger! Warning! Caution!Thanks, Myles Gordon, for last week’s letter to the editor that had information on smart meters and the numbers to call (Smart meters are a dumb idea).PECO had threatened to shut me off if I didn’t take the meter. I called on the phone and asked for time until September to look into them a little bit more and was told if I didn’t make arrangements and an appointment to let the installer have access, my electric would be shut off 6/17.That’s a real disgrace, because I have paid my bill on time for over 20 years and have a meter that works perfectly well. I made the appointment but told them to note that it was under duress.Since then I have looked up what is happening around the country with these meters and everything you said is true and more. People are getting very sick from the electromagnetic radiation.Information can be found at www.smartmetersmurder.com and you can find a list of the many health problems associated with them there.PECO will correctly tell you that in 2008 something was signed saying there is no opt-out for Pennsylvania, but what they won’t tell you is that state Rep. Mike Reese has authored a bill to get that option for the citizens of Pennsylvania. It is HB 2188 and is presently waiting to be released for a vote on it.State Rep. Robert Godshall chairs the committee that is reviewing it and his office has been very helpful to me. I sent my PECO shutoff notice to them as well as to state Sen. Mike Stack and am waiting to see how things play out.These meters are extremely dangerous physically and practically, and we do have people in Harrisburg considering an opt-out for us. Let them know you don’t want these meters forced on you.Frank YostRhawnhurst
Now that the end of a painfully long process of modifying the district boundaries of your friendly neighborhood state representative and state senator is on the horizon, all is well in state government, right?Guess again.The next battle for Pennsylvania voters should be a campaign to force members of the state legislature to pass a law that would compel House and Senate members to resign before running for other offices.That requirement applies to most elected officials in Philadelphia government — where there is speculation that Mayor Michael Nutter might step down to take a post in the Obama administration if President Barack Obama defies the odds and gets re-elected in November — and it’s a good rule. It forces politicians to focus on the jobs to which they were elected. They get distracted when they flirt with other offices, and that is counter to the best interests of their constituents.Recall that in the April 24 election, voters in the Far Northeast’s 169th Legislative District had double duty. They had to vote twice for the same office: Once for a special election to fill the remainder of popular Rep. Dennis O’Brien’s two-year term, and in the regular primary to pick candidates for the two-year term that begins in January.There would’ve been no need for a special election had Rep. O’Brien, knowing that he would run for City Council in 2011 — a job to which he had long aspired — not run for re-election in 2010. Had he known he would have had to resign from his House seat to run for another office (Council), he might well have done the right thing and not sought another House term only to abandon it halfway throughSend letters to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Show your American pride for just a dollarDear Northeast residents and all Philadelphians:Recently I traveled through parts of Northeast Philly including Pine Valley and other parts of Bustleton, Fox Chase, Parkwood and Frankford, as well as Bridesburg, Fishtown and Port Richmond, and as I was traveling, I noticed that more people chose sports teams’ flags over the American flag.I will say that in parts of Bridesburg, Port Richmond and the Franklin Mills area near Academy Road, there were some very nice displays, but for the most part, Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers flags were the thing.Team flags cost about $10 to $20 each, and our country flag can be picked up at a dollar store.Come on, Philly, let’s show our support for the vets, our men and women still serving, our police officers and our firefighters, for without them all, things in this country would be a lot different. Just one dollar can go a long way in showing how much we care.Flying our team flag is a great thing, but nothing should trump the stars and stripes. Remember, a dollar can show a lot of pride in our country.Jim KnotwellPine Valley
Yo, Philly exile: Keep your thoughts in VirginiaRegarding Lydia Selwood’s letter last week, Shame on CLIP for going too far:Why do I have to read an opinion of someone who moved from Philly decades ago and is “glad” that she no longer lives here?I don’t care one red cent what Lydia Selwood thinks about Philly, or CLIP, or anything else. Do you know why? Because she left and is “glad” about it.Hey Lydia, maybe if you hadn’t left, this would be a better place. I’m tired of people who leave and then sit off in the distance judging everything that goes on here with an almost satisfactory tone.Why did you feel the need to tell every one of us how glad you were to be gone? Go worry about Harrisonburg, Va. — we’ll all be fine here.Rob PhilippiFox Chase
Give the girls at St. Hubert High School lots of credit. They love their school, and they show it.When push came to shove earlier this year and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia threatened to close the school to help ease the archdiocese’s money crunch, St. Hubert students, families and alumnae joined forces to raise the funds necessary to keep their fine institution open.Now, the girls at St. Hubert are making a push for a law that would allow their parents to use taxpayer-financed tuition aid for parochial (in other words, non-public) schools, but there’s one teeny-tiny obstacle to so-called school choice. It’s called the Constitution of the United States.This is America, where separation of church and state means public funds cannot be used to send kids to parochial schools.Parents who want the public to help pay for their children’s religious education are no doubt good and decent folks who want the best for their kids. They want education choice, but they already have a choice. It’s called public schools.As taxpayers, the parents of parochial school students have as much right and indeed an obligation to demand the School District of Philadelphia and the School Reform Commission provide efficient, effective and excellent education as do parents of public school students.Parents also have another American right — the right to free speech. Parents of kids in Catholic schools, for instance, have the right to ask church leaders why they have shelled out more than $11 million in legal fees related to the clergy-abuse scandal. That money could have helped an awful lot of parochial school families pay their tuition.E-mail letters to the editor to: email@example.com
Shame on CLIP for going too farI moved from Philadelphia a couple of decades ago, and I’m glad I no longer live in Philly! After visiting family and reading about CLIP, I am truly appalled at the decline. For crying out loud, this is the birthplace of America. This is where the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence. Philadelphia is home to the Liberty Bell; Carpenter Hall, where the Continental Congress met to discuss important matters of freedom; the Betsy Ross House; Benjamin Franklin; and the Declaration House, also known as Graff House, where Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence!I totally agree with Dee Maialetti’s letter of March 28, Yo, CLIP, just who do you think you are? As an American citizen who was liberated by the U.S. Army in post-WWII Germany, I find this sort of “patrolling,” trespassing, photographing and fining of the homeowners to be a violation of our rights against unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution. These Gestapo tactics are an abuse of our civil liberties!It is one thing to go after absentee landlords who neglect to maintain their properties; it’s quite another to target the elderly, the disabled and the poor. Shame, shame, shame! For those who condone this abuse, I suggest a course in American history. I would also encourage you to get online and read the indictment against the nine CLIP criminals! Put yourself in the shoes of your neighbors: Would you want to be treated this way? (http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/PDFs/Presentment.pdf)I am surprised that the citizenry has not risen up and demanded that this “program” be dismantled. Whatever happened to the concept that a man‘s home is his castle? I would have filed a class action lawsuit against the city by now, and involved the Justice Department!Lydia F. SelwoodHarrisonburg, Va.
Stuck in the mud or riding out the stormThe majority of Northeast residents fall into two categories: either they are stuck in their neighborhood and would prefer to move out but at the moment, they cannot afford to do so, or they are the residents who fall into the category of homeowners that have paid their mortgages off and are hoping for better days ahead in the region.To say that the bar has been lowered would be an understatement after you speak at length with longtime residents about the glory days of the Northeast. These days when you take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, every few steps that you take, you are instinctively looking down to dodge dog crap or trash.Fast forward to today and out of desperation the community gets excited over the introduction of new minimum wage jobs created by fast-food restaurants breaking ground in the community. For instance, I remember the initial buzz in the Northeast over the newly constructed Krispy Kreme shop in Fox Chase.What can be done to make the Northeast viable and once againeconomically relevant?Is Section 8 housing mainly to blame for the rapid decline in the area over the past 25 years?Does the community think the Northeast region is heading in the right direction?Jason Kaye
It pays to be an alienIf an immigrant is over 65, he can apply for SSI and Medicaid and get more than my mom gets for Social Security. She worked from 1944 to 2004, only getting $791 per month because she was born before 1924 and there is a Catch 22.It is interesting that the federal government provides a single refugee with a monthly allowance of $1,890, and each can also obtain an additional $580 in social assistance for a total of $2,470 a month.This compares very well to a single pensioner who, after contributing to the growth and development of America for 40 to 50 years, can only receive a monthly maximum of $1.012 in old age pension and guaranteed income supplement.Maybe our pensioners should apply as refugees!Consider sending this to all your American friends, so we can all be ticked off and maybe get the refugees cut back to $1,012 and the pensioners up to $2,470 and enjoy some of the money we were forced to submit to the government over the last 40 or 50 or 60 years.Please forward this to every American to expose what our elected politicians, Nancy Pelosi included, have been doing over the past 11 years to the overtaxed Americans.Send this to every American taxpayer you know!All older Americans must demand that any person who actually worked for their Social Security gets at least as much as an alien gets, if not more!William ColeMillbrook