So printing a brochure is what passes as “help[ing] the healing process.”
This past Sunday, the Orange County Register published a front page story on Orange Bishop Kevin Vann. The focus of the article was a profile of the new-ish bishop and his views on the meaning of Easter. But what the article actually said was far more pernicious.
This is what got me:
‘The bishop also doesn’t shrink away from the molestation scandals. English, Spanish and Vietnamese leaflets sit in the administration building’s lobby detailing the diocese’s pledge, “To do everything possible to help the healing process of the victims of sexual abuse.”’
What? Really? You’ve got to be kidding me.
I can tell you this: a brochure never helped a survivor heal.
As we reach the 10-year anniversary of the 2005 settlement with 97 child sex abuse victims and the subsequent release of documents that outlined the scope and scale of the cover-up, we can argue that Vann’s actions have only exacerbated the pain and frustration of survivors, who want nothing more than for wrong-doers to be punished.
- In the time that Vann has been Bishop, he has never asked for any kind of formal or informal meetings with survivors. He has also not proactively reached out for any kind of communication.
- Msgr. John Urell—who was shown in documents and depositions to be the major facilitator of child sexual abuse and the person in charge of transferring, covering-up for, and protecting dozens of sexually abusing clerics and employees—is still an active and influential priest in the Diocese of Orange. He has never been reprimanded for what he did.
- The administrators of Mater Dei High School (Patrick Murphy and Frances Claire) have retained their positions, although it has been shown that they allowed abusers like Jeff Andrade to return to campus (after he admitted to sexually abusing students).
- Administrators at Santa Margarita High School who personally covered up for numerous predator priests and teachers at Mater Dei still retain their positions as high-ranking officials at Santa Margarita High School.
I anticipate the response of the Register was “Well, this is old news.” But I will tell you this: it is not old news to victims. It is not old news to their families. And it most certainly should not be old news to Vann, who should be using his tenure to push out abusers and their enablers, instead of shrugging his shoulders and depending on media fatigue to give him a cover for doing NOTHING.
The passage of time does not give Vann a “free pass”
And, of course, this has nothing to do with “forgiveness.” The reasons that victims come forward are for accountability and to ensure that children are kept safer from abuse. Vann is not holding up his side of the bargain. It’s criminal that victims are expected to walk away with a pat on the head. That’s not why they have fought so hard.
If a brochure inside of an office (where many victims are afraid to go) is considered proactive, then it’s time for us to reassess what we expect from religious leaders who take millions of tax-free dollars in donations, grants, and municipal bonds (!!) to construct their buildings and fill their coffers.