Middletown Press Editorial:
"Archdiocese of Hartford at odds with Pope Francis’ words on money, sex abuse"
Pope Francis is leading the Roman Catholic Church down a new path of contrition over the role it played in protecting priests who sexually abused children. We’re wondering when the message will be heard by his leaders in Connecticut.
“Before God and his people, I express my sorrow for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you, and I humbly ask forgiveness,” the pope said in a meeting with victims earlier this year. He also asked forgiveness “for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately to reports of abuse made by family members as well as by abuse victims themselves.”
At the same time, Pope Francis has criticized materialism in the church and its emphasis on shoring up its own finances over serving the poor. “Oh, how I would like a poor church, and for the poor,” he said, and, “If money and material things become the center of our lives, they seize us and make us slaves.”
In Connecticut, the Roman Catholic Church apparently remains enslaved.
The spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Hartford, Archbishop Leonard Blair, is attempting to overturn a 12-year-old state law that lengthened the statute of limitations on filing civil lawsuits over sexual abuse. The church wants to avoid a jury’s order to pay $1 million to a victim of priest sex abuse and, in the process, protect itself from potential claims by others who were assaulted by employees it was protecting.
The late Rev. Ivan Ferguson “repeatedly” assaulted 13-year-old “Jacob Doe” and a friend while they were students at St. Mary’s School in Derby. Ferguson was assigned to lead the school two years after admitting to then-Archbishop John F. Whealon that he’d sexually abused children while a teacher at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford. According to the Hartford Courant, Whealon sent him to a four-month church program aimed at treating alcoholism, and then put children back in his care. Presumably, parents were not warned.
Jacob Doe was able to sue the archdiocese in 2002 when the General Assembly voted to extend the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits in sex abuse cases from 17 to 30 years after an alleged victim’s 18th birthday.
The church is claiming in an appeal to the Connecticut Supreme Court that legislators should not have been allowed to extend the statute of limitations retroactively.
Pope Francis articulates a vision in which the church would operate with more austerity in order to free up as much money as possible to minister to those most in need.
The church in Connecticut is using the courts to prevent people afflicted by its own wrongdoing from receiving financial aid. In the process, it could strip that right from all Connecticut sex abuse victims who were assaulted within the extended period outlined by the 2002 statute of limitations.
In 2010, when the General Assembly was considering extending the statute of limitations further, the Catholic Church in Connecticut was even more transparent about its priorities.
Blair’s Hartford predecessor, Archbishop Henry Mansell, along with then-Bridgeport Bishop William Lori and Norwich Bishop Michael Cote sent a letter to local priests, instructing them to urge their parishioners to oppose the bill.
They spoke of a “devastating financial effect” on the church in Connecticut if all the children victimized by their priests over the years were able to sue as adults. They said it could “lead to bankruptcy” and affect the “assets” of local parishes.
The bill’s sponsor at the time, state Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, told the Hartford Courant that “the lack of focus on the victims in this letter is really frustrating.”
Amen. And so is the Archdiocese of Hartford’s un-Christlike attempt to stomp on the legislatively granted rights of child sex abuse victims.