I totally support the efforts to have St. Andrew’s Church preserved as a memorial to the dark history of sexual abuse in the Catholic archdiocese of Boston and, indeed, to the same history in the entire Catholic Church.
What happened in Boston over the years is not a painful episode in the archdiocese’s history, now past. The revelations of 2002 have proven to be a significant moment in the slow but gradual process of uncovering a very dark and destructive side of the Catholic Church. St. Andrew’s Church was the place from which John Geoghan sought out and groomed many of his victims. The destructive effect of his sexual abuse is matched only by the destructive effect of the dishonest and narcissistic response by the hierarchy of the Boston archdiocese.
This church should be preserved as a stark reminder of what happened when the Catholic Church forgot that its most important members were the most vulnerable and not the most powerful. As a memorial to the harsh reality of clergy sexual dysfunction and hierarchical betrayal of trust, St. Andrew’s would remind the archdiocesan structure that it must always be humble and must never forget that the “Church” is not the glitter and power of the clerical aristocracy, but the believing and often long-suffering laypeople. The memorial would remind Catholics and non-Catholics alike of what can happen when an organized church places its own power and control at the center. Finally, it would continuously recall the fact that when the hundreds upon hundreds of abuse victims came forward, the compassion, care and support they needed was offered not by the hierarchy but by the most truly Christian portion of the Church, the laypeople.
Rev. Thomas P. Doyle
The writer is a Catholic priest, canon lawyer, advocate and friend of the survivors of priestly sexual abuse, who in 1985 warned the Catholic hierarchy of the potential scope of the sex abuse scandal and is considered to be an expert on the subject.