January 25, 2004
January 4, 2004
Statement by Barbara Blaine, founder and president of Survivors Network of those Abused by
This is a long overdue step that we hope will bring at least temporary relief to so many victims who have suffered so severely and so needlessly during Law's tenure. At the same time, we hope it will not cause a false and dangerous sense of complacency. We cannot assume that because Law is gone that the sexual abuse crisis will magically go away. Certainly, his departure will not, unfortunately, instantly "heal" those who have endured the trauma of sexual abuse by trusted clergy.
When Nixon resigned, no one naively thought "Now politics will be cleaner." Likewise, no one should assume that Law's removal will automatically and painlessly usher in a new, brighter day for the church.
The healing process for everyone concerned will be very long and tortuous. For a victim, a number of steps can help a victim move toward recovery: -- the removal or death of his/her perpetrator, -- the criminal indictment, arrest, conviction of her/his perpetrator, -- the filing or resolution of a civil lawsuit against his/her perpetrator.
However, none of those events, in and of itself, cause or guarantee real healing. We must be cautious about raising false hopes. The crimes and cover ups have gone on for decades and the recovery from these horrors will also go on for years and years. Boston Catholics and survivors have repeatedly and deeply been betrayed. They must brace themselves for more awful disclosures and for a lengthy and rocky road to recovery.
Law's resignation will hopefully reassure Catholics that the determined reform efforts of lay people can, in fact, prevail. It will hopefully prompt Catholics to regard their leaders with considerably more skepticism, which would be very healthy for all concerned.
Truly resolving this crisis will require brave lay people and survivors to keep doing what they have been doing: keep breaking the silence, speaking the truth and demanding real change, not just lip service, paper shufflling and public relations. It will require courageous and creative police and prosecutors to keep seeking access to church records and keep pursuing the truth. And it will require continued public and media attention to help expose both individual wrongdoers and broader patterns of wrongdoing that enable molesters to hurt children and get by with it.
The sexual abuse of children by clergy, and the seemingly never-ending cover ups of these horrific acts, is like an infection. It can't be partially cleaned out. It must be fully removed and thoroughly cleaned before healing can begin. So it's critical that the criminal and civil processes already in motion continue no matter who happens to be the appointed leader of the Boston archdiocese.
Law is, in some respects, merely a symptom and a symbol of a much more pervasive and deep-seated clerical culture that devalues both adult and child parishioners. We believe and hope that public, media, prosecutor and parishioner attention will soon be focused on Cardinal Egan, Cardinal Mahony, and Law's former deputies, all of whom have done what Law himself has done, but who have avoided proper scrutiny largely because Law himself has become such a lightning rod.
Ultimately, the church will emerge from this crisis a safer, stronger, and healthier instution, thanks to the courage and persistence of the wounded men and women who overcame their childhood victimization enough to help purge the church of these criminals. But only after the whole infection and deeply rooted patterns of secrecy and insensitivity are rooted out.