Vatican ‘owes God an apology’ for conduct
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. • The prominent founder of a Newfoundland organization for clergy abuse survivors has written a letter to Pope Francis, saying the Vatican “owes God an apology” for mismanagement of abuse allegations.
“I realize you inherited this problem, but the way the Vatican mismanaged this crisis is disgraceful,” wrote Gemma Hickey, founder of Pathways Foundation in St. John’s, N.L.
Newfoundland and Labrador was the site of two highly publicized abuse scandals in the late 1980s, when allegations of widespread abuse at Mount Cashel and Belvedere Catholic orphanages met with public shock and outrage.
Stories of similar horrors soon began to surface around the world.
But Hickey, a clergy abuse survivor, said the province has not had a “pastoral visit” since 1984, before Mount Cashel became an infamous household name.
Hickey felt compelled to write the letter after an August report documented the sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses over a 70-year period and after hearing the recent allegation that Pope Francis had prior knowledge of misconduct by a U.S. bishop.
Francis issued a 2,000-word statement addressing the Pennsylvania report that said the church “abandoned” the children affected and asked for forgiveness.
But, said Hickey: “In order to move forward, I believe the Vatican must take full responsibility before a plea for forgiveness can be considered.”
Hickey said the Vatican’s response ignored extensive damage to communities and expressed disappointment Francis’ widely circulated letter did not address the Pennsylvania cases.
“I view this as the abject failure of the Vatican to acknowledge that actual people in actual communities with specific histories were shattered and brutally harmed at the hands of predacious priests and the bishops who protected them,” Hickey wrote.
The letter also detailed Hickey’s journey to a “ministry in the shape of activism,” including founding Pathways to connect with other survivors, and walking across Newfoundland in 2015 for clerical abuse victims.
Hickey wrote that damage from the abuse is ongoing, but grappling with the past has created the opportunity to advocate for change.
“I have forgiven the priest who abused me, as the issue of clerical abuse is larger than him and me,” Hickey wrote.
“Your Holiness, just as I made a choice to respond differently to my experience surely you have the capacity to respond differently to this global crisis.”
Hickey’s letter invited the Pope to talk either by phone or in person. Since mailing the letter Sept. 12, Hickey has not received a response.