Could Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput possibly be more vague about the latest priest he’s suspended?
Chaput claims the accusations against Fr. Louis J. Kolenkiewicz don’t involve “illegal or inappropriate contact with a minor,” but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that church officials say he violated “standards regarding the boundaries of appropriate behavior for interacting with children and young people.”
Why can’t Chaput honor his pledges to be open about abuse cases? Why can’t he just tell parents and the public what the allegations against Fr. Kolenkiewicz are?
This case shows why so few have faith in Catholic officials to handle suspected cases of child sexual abuse, adult sexual exploitation or other clergy sexual misdeeds.
We suspect that Fr. Kolenkiewicz is being suspended now because Chaput realizes that he has little choice. Even now, Catholic officials often desperately cling to sexually troubled priests until too many victims or too much evidence emerges and they’re forced to eventually oust such clerics.
If Chaput would disclose “He’s accused of taking inappropriate pictures of girls,” then parents could ask their daughters “Did Father ever take a photo of you?” If Chaput would say “He’s accused of kissing boys on the mouth,” then parents could ask their sons “Did Father ever give you a kiss?” But because of Chaput’s continued secrecy, it may be tough for kids to understand if mom or dad asks them “Did Father ever violate the archdiocesan standards of appropriate conduct?”
Chaput claims that church officials made “announcements” about this suspension at Father Kolenkiewicz’s most recent assignment.” That’s not enough.
Starting this Sunday, Chaput should personally visit each church where Fr. Kolenkiewicz worked. He should emphatically beg church staff and members to reach out to anyone who might have knowledge or suspicions about wrongdoing by Fr. Kolenkiewicz. He should go beyond a one-time verbal mass announcement, and print explicit notices in church bulletins, parish websites and the archdiocesan website. We’re dealing with a centuries-old culture and climate of secrecy around clergy sex crimes in the church. It won’t change overnight. And it won’t change with a short, vague, carefully-crafted news release ddrafted by Chaput’s defense lawyers and public relations professionals.
All across the world, we see priests being suspended because of alleged “boundary violations” or “inappropriate conduct” and later, they’re charged with serious crimes. Chaput needs to take action to help bring forward others who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by this cleric.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)