Amid more revelations of Catholic Church abuse and cover-up, survivors galvanize

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Now to one of the more difficult
stories that resonated throughout this past year. The Catholic Church, along with its larger
community around the world, has been rocked by the church’s long history of sexual abuse. This year, the tragic revelations kept coming,
and they exposed even more just how long many dioceses covered up the abuse. In this very frank conversation, Judy explores
what the cover-ups have meant for survivors and for the faithful at large. But she begins with some background. JUDY WOODRUFF: The assaults and cover-ups
go back decades, but this year has seen a tidal wave of stories and shocking revelations
of alleged abuse, misconduct and even assault in parishes and diocese around the country. The scandals and the church’s approach throughout
have undermined Pope Francis’ tenure. In fact, it was the subject of his annual
Christmas message, when he said that predator priests who have raped or molested children
should turn themselves in — quote — “to human justice.” Sometimes, the diocese finally released names. In other cases, they have not been forthcoming. And some of the highest leaders of the church
have resigned or been removed. BISHOP RONALD W. GAINER, Roman Catholic Diocese
of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: I take this step about confidentiality, so that the survivors
can feel free to tell their stories to whomever and whenever they wish. JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the more stunning moments
came this summer, when an explosive grand jury report in Pennsylvania documented the
abuse of more than 1,000 people in diocese around the state. JOSH SHAPIRO (D), Pennsylvania Attorney General:
It was child sexual abuse, including rape, committed by grown men, priests, against children. Above all else, they protected their institution
at all costs. JUDY WOODRUFF: Hundreds of priests have been
publicly named in more than 35 diocese, be it Chicago, Atlanta, Buffalo, or Las Cruces,
New Mexico. It is a painful time, but, for some of the
survivors, a cathartic period as well. We start our conversation tonight with two
people who were themselves childhood victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests. John Carr experienced sexual abuse during
his teen years at a Catholic seminary high school. Today, he is director of the Initiative on
Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University. Becky Ianni is a member of the board of directors
of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. She was sexually violated by a priest from
the age of 8 until she was 12, a memory she repressed for more than 40 years. And Susan Reynolds is with the Candler School
of Theology at Emory University. Last August, she wrote a letter calling for
the resignation of all U.S. bishops in the aftermath of the revelations about Pennsylvania. And we welcome all three of you to the “NewsHour.” Thank you for being here. I want to start with the two of you. John Carr, you were living in rural Minnesota. You were a teenager. What happened to you? JOHN CARR, Director, Initiative on Catholic
Social Thought and Public Life, Georgetown University: I went to high school seminary
in rural Minnesota. I was 14 years old, got a great education
and strong spiritual formation. But I experienced sexual abuse. I had three priests — two priests and a brother,
who pursued me, I guess the phrase is groomed me, and touched me, hugged me, and, whereas
I didn’t experience the horrors in the Pennsylvania grand jury report. But there was something wrong, something evil,
something lousy about that. And, frankly, I just packed it away for a
long time. JUDY WOODRUFF: Becky Ianni, you were in Alexandria,
Virginia, Washington, D.C. suburbs, and you were very young. You were 8 years old when it started. BECKY IANNI, Survivors Network of those Abused
by Priests: Yes. A new ordained priest, Father William Reinecke,
came to our parish. And he sort of adopted our family. And he would say mass in our house, and he
would be over to our house for dinner three or four times. He went on vacation with us. And I loved him, and I wanted his attention. And he took that adoration, and he started
abusing me. It was around the age of 8. And it went on for probably three or four
years. He would literally abuse me in the basement
of our house, and then go up and have dinner with my parents. And then, every Sunday, I had to see his hands
that violated me holding the chalice at mass. JUDY WOODRUFF: And when did you — we said
it was many years before you were able to talk about it, but, in the meantime, you kept
this inside you. BECKY IANNI: Yes, I kept it inside, and I
didn’t even recognize it for myself, but it affected my entire life. I was afraid of boys. I lost all my self-confidence. I really felt that I was a dirty person and
that I always was constantly trying to make up for the fact that I was unlovable. JUDY WOODRUFF: John Carr, how did you keep
it inside you and keep going? JOHN CARR: Well, ironically, I went to work
for the church. I worked for the Diocese of Minnesota, for
the Archdiocese of Washington, for the Bishops Conference, and dealt with some of these issues. I worked with Cardinal Law. I worked with Cardinal McCarrick. And I just pushed it away. And then I found myself talking about what
was wrong here, and I kept hearing myself say, silence and secrecy are part of it, and
I had to realize my secret, my silence was a big part of it. And so I had not told my parents, who had
passed, but I did talk my wife. I talked to my kids. I talked to key friends. And I sat down and wrote what happened to
me, when, where, who. And I sent it to the provincial, the leader
of the community that ran the seminary. And there was something that said… JUDY WOODRUFF: In Minnesota. JOHN CARR: In Minnesota. And there was something that said, if I had
spoken up, you know, maybe I could have protected others. I was 15, 16 years old. And then I saw a list. And the people I would have reported this
to were themselves on the list for abusers. So I don’t think that would have worked. JUDY WOODRUFF: What made you finally comfortable,
Becky Ianni, with talking about it? BECKY IANNI: I think what happened is, I came
across a picture of myself with my perpetrator at the age of 48, and everything came flooding
back. And I went into a deep depression, and I felt
life was hopeless. I wanted to commit suicide. I just didn’t want to be here anymore. And so I went to the church for help, and
they were not helpful. And so I fell even more into depression. And I ran into — I contacted someone who
was also abused by my perpetrator. And they suggested I called SNAP, Survivors
Network of those Abused by Priests. And so I did. And I went to a couple of support groups. And listening to other people saying the same
things I was feeling made me feel less isolated, and, eventually then, I was able to share
my story. And that helped. Secrecy is poisonous. And so being able to talk about it really
helped me start to heal. JUDY WOODRUFF: Susan Reynolds, you have heard
so many of these stories. You teach about the Catholic faith. You teach theology. And yet hearing this, has it — does it help
you understand how the people in the church, the laypeople in the church, are now addressing
this horrible history? SUSAN REYNOLDS, Emory University: I think
it’s hard to understate the magnitude of the effect that this crisis has had on people
in the pews. People feel betrayed. They feel unheard. They feel insulted, frankly. One thing I hear from people quite a lot is
that they feel that the onus is constantly placed on them to forgive, to move on, to
give the church one more chance. It’s very, very painful. But I have also been amazed by the energy
that laypeople have exhibited in wanting to take on this crisis. And my own parish in Atlanta, for example,
laypeople have formed a coalition and partnered with other parishes in the area to try and
address this crisis of leadership from the ground up, to think about, how could we educate
one another? How could we participate in leadership structures
within our own parish and be the change, in a sense, that we want to see in the church? JUDY WOODRUFF: John Carr, how do — how do
you relate now to laypeople in the church? What kind of reaction are you getting, have
you gotten from them? JOHN CARR: Well, after those years at the
Bishops Conference, I went to Georgetown. And we have had three sessions, one with young
leaders in Washington, one for the whole community, and one on our chapel. And they were incredibly intense. And what we found was anguish, anger, and
a desire to do something, but also a sense of solidarity. The night that I talked about my own experience,
there were four other people on that panel who had been abused, and 10 people lined up
to ask a question. Four of those talked about their own experience. Since I talked about my experience, gotten
e-mails and calls from people coming up. In this very studio, somebody came up and
said, thank you for speaking out. JUDY WOODRUFF: When you were here talking
about it? JOHN CARR: Yes. JUDY WOODRUFF: OK. JOHN CARR: So, I think there is a sense of
solidarity. What we need is action. The — people want to talk about healing. We need reform and renewal before we get to
healing. And it’s not just the crimes. It’s the culture that permitted this. JUDY WOODRUFF: You’re nodding, Susan Reynolds. What does that mean, reforming, and reforming
the culture? SUSAN REYNOLDS: I think it all comes down
to clericalism, the way in which priests and bishops, those who are ordained, have been
regarded in some way as superhuman by the rest of the faithful. This is a culture that needs to end. And the only way that it ends is if laypeople
are given an authentic voice within the structure of the church. People feel unheard. They feel in the dark. They don’t know what, if anything, the church
is doing to begin to address these horrific crimes. It’s time in some way for the church to throw
open the windows of the authority structure and let in the voices of laypeople. JUDY WOODRUFF: Becky Ianni, what — I mean,
just listening to all this, what has your own experience meant for your relationship
with the church? BECKY IANNI: Well, when I went to the church,
and I wanted — I wanted three things. I wanted them to tell me it wasn’t my fault. I wanted them to tell me I wasn’t going to
hell for telling on a priest, because that’s what my perpetrator told me. And I wanted them to tell me they believed
me and they were sorry. And I didn’t get any of those things. And they took 12 months for me to even go
in front of the review board. And, during that 12 months, I felt completely
abandoned. So I gave up the church, because it hurt me
too much. And not only did I give up the church. I gave up God. And so now I had this huge gap, because I
felt like God had abandoned me. And so that made me just feel more alone than
ever. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, John Carr, as somebody
who has worked with the church, worked with people at the highest levels in the church,
how can the church — how can people who trusted this institution trust it? JOHN CARR: Well, as somebody who has worked
for the church, the first thing I want to say is, sorry. BECKY IANNI: Thank you. JOHN CARR: What happened to you is terrible. And the way you were treated was wrong. My experience, recent, was a little different. I talked to the provincial. He did apologize. He did acknowledge. There was no suggestion that this was my fault. But that’s not enough. I think what we need to do is to take on this
culture. Somebody asked me, is this about theology? Is this about morality? Is this about ecclesiology? No, this is about power, and people who have
abused their power, the people who committed these crimes, and the people who have abused
this culture. And Pope Francis is a cleric. And he has been slow in some ways to act on
this. But he has identified clericalism as a fundamental
problem. And I think there will be a big test, this
meeting in February, where they bring everyone together. A moral test, a fundamental measure of the
Catholic community of faith is whether we acknowledge that this is a global problem,
and that our experience is not our fault, it’s not isolated. It is a moral test, how the church responds. And I think Pope Francis, when he listens
to victims, people like us, he responds. And so my hope is, we’re moving from a period
where we protect the institution to listening to the people who have experienced this, and
their families. There is a lack of empathy. They don’t understand the anguish. JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Susan Reynolds, after
all these stories, in parish after parish, diocese after diocese, if the message hasn’t
gotten across by now, what’s going to get the message across? SUSAN REYNOLDS: I think that’s a great question. And the anguish that Becky describes, I think,
encapsulates this perfectly. The lack of compassion that we have heard
in some ways from those at the highest level of the church seems like such a dissonance
from the horrors of the crimes that have been exposed. And this is exactly what’s needed. We need to believe victims. And the only way that we can do that is to
begin, as John said, to dissolve this cultural clericalism, which has promoted this sort
of self-protectionism. JUDY WOODRUFF: Becky, coming back to you and
the painful experience you have been through, what do you and other survivors need now? What do you want? BECKY IANNI: I think what we want is, we want
what happened to us never to happen to another child. And so we need action. We — I’m so tired of saying, we’re going
to do a healing mass. Healing mass might be good for those that
go to church, but how many survivors who were abused in a church going to — a healing mass
going to help? We really need them to take action. And, quite frankly, I have sort of given up
on the church in many ways. I haven’t given up on the people in the pews,
but I have given up on the bishops and the priests making changes. It’s been too long. And I can’t put my heart out there again and
have it dashed, as it’s been many times. I think that I’m going to rely on secular
society. I’m going to rely on the attorney generals
doing their job. I’m going to — I’m going to fight for better
laws that will protect children, because, for me, that’s my main goal, protecting children. JUDY WOODRUFF: John, hearing that… JOHN CARR: I respect where Becky’s coming
from, but I hope for more from the church, frankly. This is a time when they need to step up. They need to protect the vulnerable. They need to be accountable. It’s not that hard. They expect us to keep our vows. They should keep their vows. I will do anything to protect my children. They should do everything to protect our children. And I’m accountable for my actions. They ought to be accountable for theirs. JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, it is such a painful
subject. So important to look at it directly and think
about what it means for each one of you and for the Catholic Church overall. Susan Reynolds, John Carr, Becky Ianni, thank
you. JOHN CARR: Thank you, Judy. BECKY IANNI: Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *