Friday, April 16, 2010

More on Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church

The following is a letter that I sent to the CCCB last October. Several Brockville friends signed it with me. Sadly, but not surprisingly we received no response. Here it is:

October 25, 2009

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
c/o Most Reverend V. James Weisgerber
President of CCCB
2500 Don Reid Drive
Ottawa, Ontario
K1H 2J2
Dear Archbishop Weisgerber and Bishops:
We are a group of practicing Catholics, deeply concerned and disillusioned by the ongoing procession of mishandled cases of sexual misconduct by Catholic clergy. The recent arrest of former bishop Lahey is only the latest in a series of such incidences. These cases have led to the unimaginable suffering of too many youth, and, as a side product, tainted the vocation of the Catholic priest. We write to you today to insist that an investigation be mounted into the system established to deal with this travesty of morality and justice.
The case of Raymond Lahey breaks the heart. To discover that Church officials were aware of his dealings with child pornography at least twenty years ago, and yet did nothing, defies rational explanation. The subjection of children to sexual slavery for the entertainment of adults surely cannot be acceptable to our Church leaders. Why then, did Raymond Lahey retain his position until he was finally arrested? How many children were photographed and demeaned for his pleasure? How could those who hold positions of trust in our Church not intercede for them?
We had expected that the issue would be raised during your recent plenary session. Yet there is no evidence that the topic was considered at all, according to your website. Is this not a ‘life issue’? Does the question of sexual abuse not matter as much as Anglican-Catholic dialogue?
We are disheartened. We are disillusioned. And yes, we are angry. As lay Catholics we have stood by, trusting those in authority to deal in an honourable manner with these kinds of cases. We were wrong to do so. Too many children have suffered both in Canada and overseas by our silence, and our willingness to trust our leaders to put children first.
Change is long overdue. It is time for laypersons and clergy to convene, and together devise a system that will not allow for cover up in the case of sexual immorality and abuse. Self-regulation of the clerical structure of the Church has failed and must be redesigned.
Difficult questions must be asked: How can the voices of women and married men be included in future decision-making beyond a simple advisory capacity? How can trust be restored to those who feel their children are at risk, and their needs abandoned? What can we do to make sure nothing like this happens again, ever?
We write to you with faith in Christ. We remind you of His words in Matthew 25: “Whatsoever you do to the least of my own, that you do to me.”
Our children, our faith, our Church. Help us save them.

Catherine Cavanagh
And others


  1. I'd like to hear more about how you felt having penned this letter before the latest abuse scandal came to light.

    How did the lack of response, in light of the current scandal, impact you?

  2. I was really disappointed not to get a response, which is probably surprising given what I know about the Church hierarchy. I guess I just hoped for better. It seems likely to me that the fear that any response could be taken as an admission of responsibility probably stopped them from answering.
    I've felt utterly disgusted and frustrated since the new scandals have emerged. The fact that they're not even admitting there's a problem just boggles the mind. All they do is rationalize, deflect and excuse themselves. On the plus side it certainly removes any doubt that the hierarchy has to be restructured (and its current occupants removed).