Sunday, October 16, 2016
Last April, before Pope Francis visited the U.S., some survivors of clergy abuse said that if he was truly interested in making reparations and healing, wasn’t Boston the best place to start? We haven’t yet seen help or justice for survivors anywhere. A few survivors wrote open letters to Pope Francis about his visit, asking if it would include Boston - Boston.com published them and here is one of the letters from Robert Costello:
Why the Sudden Change?
Dear Pope Francis,
I am sure you have a copy of the Book of Gomorrah by St. Peter Damian written around 1051. In several chapters he mentions his contempt of priests’ sexual contact with boys. He speaks of the damage done to the church by these offending priests. He asked Pope Leo IX to take some form of action but his pleadings were ignored.
We are now going on 964 years and 114 Popes later with no noteworthy attempts to change the rules regarding abusive child molesting priests. The carnage is now spread worldwide!
Just how many commissions has the Vatican appointed to investigate the centuries-old appalling, despicable, sexual, physical, and mental abuse by clergy?
And what of the results from these commissions? Other than the continued need for greed, and self-preservation at the sacrifice of millions of children.
I read that, prior to your election to the Holy See, you didn’t meet with victims, survivors, or their family members. Is this true?
Why the sudden change in your core belief system? Is it because your actions and words are now under a worldwide microscope? I find the fact that you would not be open to these meetings [with survivors] severely hypocritical since your advice or instruction to the newly appointed Cardinals is to meet with the marginalized. To be “compassionate’’ to seek to “reintegrate’’ the “marginalized’’, and to “respond immediately.’’
I am the marginalized you speak of; the church you now pilot has treated me as trivial and insignificant. This communication is exactly the kind of conversation that you have been asking for. Truth no matter the cost.
I have also been an advocate for other victims and survivors of clergy sex abuse. I mention the victims because many of them never reached the level of survivor. They are dead. Dead from drug overdoses, dead from accidents they had no control over because they were under the influence, trying to erase haunting memories. Dead from suicide, like five young men, all victims of Rev. Robert K. Larson in Kansas, who took their own lives unable to see past the pain.
Will you lead by example? Will you come to have a conversation with others and me when you come to the United States?
Your appointment of Cardinal O’Malley to head yet another commission to look into the Church’s response to the clergy sexual abuse scandal has many survivors worried that the ball will just be kicked, and kicked down the road for years and years to come. After all, the commission can only make recommendations. At its beginning, this commission had no offices and no funding. How am I to believe that you truly mean to help the marginalized?
Now let’s get back to the present. You need to know what happens to a survivor when you announce that you are planning an upcoming visit to the United States. I know I am not alone in saying this, however I will speak from my own personal experiences.
When I first heard about your plan, I felt a punch in my gut, my whole body became tense, and I began to sweat. My mind began racing as my body went numb. I physically felt ill. The first emotion was one of hope, feeling that you would finally address head-on the clergy abuse scandal and maybe, just maybe, after so many years I could speak with you, the Pope, share ideas and, yes, let out my frustration. However I then remembered the institution you lead and how it keeps its hierarchy sheltered from the world. I have firsthand experiences with this policy. Ask Cardinal Law about how Fr. McCormick kept him in the dark. You would never meet with me!
The next feeling was that I need a drink! Then came the tears and utter grief of my years of wretchedness because no one listened. Nor could I speak under the threat of harm by my perpetrators. I stifled my feelings in glasses of my grandfather’s Old Grand Dad and Pepsi.
Next came the shame, shame that was embedded into my soul by an evil man who was, to me, Jesus walking the earth. And then confusion that always comes rushing forward. Jesus did this to me! He hurt me. He penetrated my body over and over again for years, even in my own home. How could an all-knowing, all-seeing God allow this to happen? I needed an answer and still do.
Blinding rage comes next. The words “they knew, they knew’’ are still pounding in my head as I write this letter. After my perpetrator, Fr. John Cotter, was discovered and before he was reassigned to another parish to prey on its children, a large party was thrown. There he was, greeting all the parishioners just at the front of the hall next to the stage. He gave a wonderful performance laughing and joking with the church’s faithful as they dropped cards filled with money into either of the large boxes at his sides. To me it seemed they were thanking him, paying him for sexually abusing their children. All this went on with his superiors knowing what kind of monster he really was. How could I tell then, with everyone thinking he was such a Holy Man?
Then an infuriating rush of outrage, that you are coming to the U.S. for the Ordinary Synod on the Family. How was I to expect any meaningful change in Vatican policy when Extraordinary Synod in Vatican City seems to have missed the point that the Roman Catholic Church has played a role in destroying families?
My feelings also included disgust, desolation, misery, and depression. I had several sleepless nights and multiple calls and meetings with my therapist trying to contain my crippling emotions. I know that the physical abuse is not happening now. However the way I was treated is only magnified with your coming to the U.S.
I saw Pope John Paul II on the Boston Common when I was in high school. Even the rain did not dampen my spirit of joy. I had buried my sexual abuse deep inside.
When I went to New York City to see Pope Benedict XVI and demonstrate my frustration at the lack of action being taken, other like-minded people joined me. When the Pope’s entourage was about to come into view someone, somehow had arranged to have garbage trucks cross the intersection and block the pope’s view of us and ours of him. The fact that trash trucks were used was telling of how survivors have been and are treated by the Roman Catholic Church.
So now you are coming to the U.S. Will you come to Boston? Come to the epicenter of the current clergy sexual abuse crisis? Did you know that there is a group of people (STTOP — Speak Truth to Power) who support survivors and they have been standing in front of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross every Sunday for the last 13 years in support of the marginalized? Cardinal O’Malley must have mentioned this to you. They stand on the sidewalk in front of his Cathedral. You should pay them a visit. They are still strong Catholics trying to heal a broken Church and to support the marginalized you speak of.
Others may not want you to come to Boston because it would only stir up painful memories and they have moved on. This may be true, but when you come here to the U.S. it will be all over the media. There will be no escape from the torrent of coverage that will accompany you.
You will be repeatedly asked questions regarding the clergy sex abuse crisis in the U.S. Why not come to Boston? You could come to ground zero and work your way up.