Lifting the Veil on the “Catholic Whistleblowers”

From this morning’s New York Times: 

They call themselves Catholic Whistleblowers, a newly formed cadre of priests and nuns who say the Roman Catholic Church is still protecting sexual predators.

Although they know they could face repercussions, they have banded together to push the new pope to clean house and the American bishops to enforce the zero-tolerance policies they adopted more than a decade ago.

The group began organizing quietly nine months ago without the knowledge of their superiors or their peers, and plan to make their campaign public this week. Most in the steering group of 12 have blown the whistle on abusers in the past, and three are canon lawyers who once handled abuse cases on the church’s behalf. Four say they were sexually abused as children.

Their aim, they say, is to support both victims and fellow whistle-blowers, and identify shortcomings in church policies. They hope to help not just minors, but also adults who fall prey to clergy who exploit their power for sex. They say that their motivation is to make the church better and safer, and to show the world that there are good priests and nuns in the church.

“We’ve dedicated our lives to the church,” the Rev. John Bambrick, a priest in the Diocese of Trenton, said at a meeting of the group last week in New York. “Having sex offenders in ministry is damaging to our ministry.”

The group has sent a letter to Pope Francis asking him to take several significant steps to heal victims and restore the church’s credibility: revoke all oaths of secrecy, open the files on abuse cases, remove from office any bishops who obstructed justice and create an international forum for dialogue between survivors and church leaders.

The Catholic Church in the United States put in place a zero-tolerance policy and a host of prevention programs after the abuse scandal peaked in 2002. Each year the bishops commission an audit of abuse cases, and this year’s survey, released May 9, found the fewest allegations and victims since the audits began in 2004.

But the whistle-blowers’ group contends that vigilance is necessary because some bishops are violating the zero-tolerance policies, and abusive clergy (who now number 6,275, according to the bishops’ count of those accusations that they deem credible) still have access to children. They point to the revelations in the last month that a priest in Newark who was a convicted sex offender restricted by a court order from working with children had been ministering in a Catholic parish in Trenton, taking confessions from children and going on weekend youth retreats.

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