It’s interesting that Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, feels the need to take a shot at my client, Greg Guggemos, in an apparent attempt to make him a victim yet again. In a full page ad in the New York Times today, in section A, Mr. Donohue laments that Catholic priests are unfairly targeted by countless false accusations of sexual abuse. He has the audacity, in one of the world’s most widely circulated newspapers, to question whether it was right for the Church to “dish out” $225,000 to Greg for the inexcusable abuse he suffered as a child. Mr. Donohue, can you say that you know what it’s like to walk in Greg’s shoes? Do you know, like Greg knows, the psychological burden he has carried since being sexually abused at St. Vincent’s orphanage?
I can only imagine what you must have “dished out” to pay for a full page ad in the New York Times. Why? You seem very bitter, Bill Donohue. I wonder how you would feel if you were a victim or one of your children or grandchildren were molested by a priest.
Contrary to Mr. Donohue’s thinly veiled suggestion that Greg’s claim is fraudulent, two monsignors and a review panel of laypeople determined that his accusations were credible. Greg found the courage to stand up to his abusers and say “NO MORE!” When one person is brave enough to take on the Church, an organization that has used fear and intimidation and even outright threats to protect its darkest secrets, other survivors often find this same courage within themselves. After decades of thinking they were alone in their shame, they find hope.
Mr. Donohue, in his defense of strict statutes of limitations, talks about the due process rights of the perpetrators. What about the rights of the victims? He is so quick to point out that most victims were not children, but rather adolescents. Does this make the abuse forgivable? The fact is that young boys and, yes, young girls had their innocence stolen by people in positions of authority. They were compelled by fear of reprisal and, even worse, eternal damnation to keep silent or to bury their suffering. We are not talking about mere carelessness, something that might justify such a short limitations period. We are talking about heinous, unacceptable acts committed by people who should be trusted, and an organization that looks the other way – spending more resources on the abuser than on the victim. The perpetrators should have to look over their shoulders for the rest of their lives. And by the way, if public school employees commit these acts, they should be held accountable too.
Unlike Bill Donohue’s references to lawyers who hate the Church, I bear no animus against the Church. In spite of my success in Greg’s case, I have not used that settlement to advertise or to actively drum up business. Nonetheless, I have been approached by dozens of people who say they were victims of clergy abuse. The vast majority of these individuals seem exceedingly credible. I am honored to represent them and they deserve to be able to hold their abusers and the Church accountable.
Bill Donohue, before you make any more accusations against Greg Guggemos, I challenge you to meet him face-to-face and make your own determination. If you want, we will come to you. Then maybe you can dish out an apology.