Clergy Abuse Survivor Responds to Pope Francis Invitation to Address Congress

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Survivors Voice Co-Founder & Child Abuse Advocate Gary Bergeron says inviting the pope to address congress is simply wrong.

Gary Bergeron speaks about being an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse.

For the 60 million adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the United States, Justice, while elusive, can be found in accountability and in change.

The following is a statement released by Survivors Voice Co-Founder Gary Bergeron on the invitation extended to Pope Francis to address the US Congress:

"The term ‘History will be the judge’ is often used when speaking of public officials. The public and quite often members of the press continue to display what seems, at times, to be an almost a giddy admiration of Pope Francis as he begins his journey to the United States. As an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I would like the public to reflect on the recent history of the institution this man heads.

"The United Nations investigated the Vatican and concluded that 'The Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed, has not taken the necessary measures to address cases of child sexual abuse and protect children, and has adopted policies and practices which has led to the continuation of the abuse by and the impunity of the perpetrators' This is not ancient history, or decade old history. This report was released in 2014.

"Justice, is the term most victims of crime use when asked what they seek. For adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse, the term ‘Justice’ is an elusive term rarely obtainable. One of the major road blocks continues to be the statute of limitations surrounding childhood sexual assault.

"While under the leadership of Pope Francis, this institution continues to fight Statute of Limitations reform in nearly every state where such laws have been proposed, even hiring lobbyists and public relations firms in some states to bolster letters to parishioners and admonitions from the pulpit. This is not ancient history. Pennsylvania State Representative Mark Rozzi has testified that this practice continues to this very day. (Source: Reuters News Organization - ‘The Catholic Church is fighting to block bills that would extend the statute of limitations for reporting sex abuse’ September 10th, 2015 http://www.businessinsider.com/r-as-pope-visit-nears-us-sex-victims-say-church-remains-obstacle-to-justice-2015-9)

"For the 60 million adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse in the United States (Source: United States Department of Health and Human Services) Justice, while elusive, can be found in accountability and in change. If the true test of the morality of a society is how it treats its children, then the moral compass we use to measure ourselves as a country must be changed. Those responsible, regardless of their position or power, must be held accountable.

"In a country founded on the principals of separation of church and state, the hypocrisy of inviting Pope Francis to address congress is equal to the fact that while thousands of survivors have found the courage to speak of their abuse, not one senator or one congressman has had the courage to investigate the institution or its leaders which have caused it.

"This hypocrisy will only be corrected when instead of being invited to address Congress, Pope Francis is called to testify at congressional hearings on the sexual abuse of children by the very institution he leads."

Gary Bergeron, an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a catholic priest, is the Co-Founder of Survivors Voice, an organization founded to help adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. He is the author of the book ‘Don’t call me a victim, Faith, Hope & Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church’ and also the executive producer of the documentary film ‘BASTA, No Pity-No Shame-No Silence’.

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Eva Montibello

Gary Bergeron