BOSTON — Dozens of advocates and survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy gathered for a thee day conference in Boston to commemorate the tenth anniversary since allegations of clergy sexual abuse were first widely published.
“We’ve been able to shed some light or even a flicker of light to people that live in a dark, dark world,” said Robert Costello, who was allegedly abused as a child by his parish priest.
For Costello, one of the key gains over the past 10 years is a widespread awareness that children are sexually abused. Many at the conference said Church leaders are not doing enough to keep children safe and respond to the abuse.
“People are left, I think rightly so, with the idea that they are not committed to this,” explained Kristine Ward, chair of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition. “They are still hoping that it will go away. They frame it as if it was long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.”
President and founder of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, Barbara Blaine, agreed. She said abuse is not as distant as Church leaders appear to believe.
“The abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is not just in history, it’s ongoing. The enablers are still in their positions and we continually hear about predators who are still being permitted to continue in ministry,” she said.
Ward said the Archdiocese of Boston needs to come up with a specific plan for protecting children and hold accused priests accountable.
“They need to be right there immediately in that parish presenting a whole way of being that gives people the knowledge and real compassion and real connection that yes you can come forward and you will be understood and you will not be held at arms length and you will not be shamed,” Ward said.
In reflecting on the clergy abuse crisis, the Archbishop of Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley wrote last week that the Church should have responded more forcefully to to the allegations.
“We cannot change the tragic implications of past failures, but we must, we can and we will do everything in our power to ensure that these crimes, these sins, never occur in the community of the Church again,” he wrote.
He went on that the Church had made significant changes, “but we cannot be lulled into a sense of achievement that would risk complacency.”
Among those changes, Cardinal O’Malley said the Archdiocese has reached out to survivors of sexual abuse, held prayer services in their parishes affected by abuse and established education and prevention programs in parishes and schools.