Sunday, March 05, 2006

War of the Words

Archbishop Chaput of Denver made some feisty comments in today's issue of Our Sunday Visitor about the legislative battle over a proposed two-year window suspending the Colorado statutes of limitation on sex-abuse civil suits:

Here's a snip:

OSV: Is anti-Catholicism at the root of some of these proposals in Colorado and across the country?

Archbishop Chaput: Some of these legal proposals come from a genuine desire to help victims. We need to remember that, even when the proposed legislation is bad.
But yes, there’s a new and peculiar kind of anti-Catholicism at work in many of these situations. Some of the worst anti-Catholics are angry, disaffected Catholics. Others are people who don’t like the Church for her witness on abortion or contraception or immigration or the death penalty; the list of grievances is endless. Sexual abuse can become a convenient cover for a lot of unrelated hostility.

OSV: Why do you think some bishops and Catholic Conferences have been reluctant to fight back this hard?

Archbishop Chaput: Guilt, confusion, a desire to take what they perceive to be “the high road.” Fear has played a part, too.

Maybe all these things have been justified in their time. But what’s happening now – the systematic dismantling and pillaging of the Catholic community nationwide – is not “justice.” And unless Catholics wake up right now and push back on behalf of their Church, their parishes and the religious future of their children, the pillaging will continue. Bishops have a duty to protect the heritage and patrimony of the Catholic community that laypeople have worked so hard through the decades to build up, often at huge personal sacrifice.

As a bishop, that means I have an obligation – a serious duty I can’t avoid -- both to help the victims, and to defend innocent Catholics today from being victimized because of earlier sins in which they played no part.
Suffice it to say, David Clohessy -- national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) -- was none too pleased:

"There's no state in the union where the bishop has been as hard- nosed and vicious as in Colorado. None. I wouldn't even be able to name the second-worst," said David Clohessy....

There are three bishops in Colorado -- Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo.... Pick a bishop, any bishop??

Clohessy said Chaput's statements sound "far more Nixonian than Christ-like, more like a desperate monarch than a spiritual leader."

Using terms such as "pillaging" is tantamount to calling sex-abuse victims pillagers, he said.

"It's heartbreaking that Chaput doesn't see the noble, Christ-like intentions of so many abuse victims and instead somehow feels compelled to demonize us," he said.

Ouch. As you can see, this ain't pretty -- and comments like these make no friends in the places where SNAP needs 'em most.

In other Denver news, Helen Alvare's giving the archdiocese's annual Casey Lecture on Tuesday night....