Gemma Hickey is shown at the Mount Cashel Memorial, August 2, 2015, after walking 30 days straight across Newfoundland to raise awareness and funds for Pathways an organization they founded for survivors of religious institutional abuse. has written a letter to Pope Francis, saying the Vatican “owes God an apology” for the mismanagement of abuse allegations. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Gemma Hickey)

The Vatican ‘owes God an apology,’ activist says in letter to Pope Francis

Letter came after a report on sexual abuse of more than 1,000 children in six Pennsylvania dioceses

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.

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, noted that 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.

READ MORE: Pope on sex abuse: “We showed no care for the little ones”

Francis issued a 2,000-word statement addressing the Pennsylvania report, writing that the church “abandoned” the children affected and asking 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 that 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 on Sept. 12, Hickey has not received a response, but did have a chance encounter with St. John’s Archbishop Martin Currie on a recent flight to Halifax.

In a Facebook post including a photo of Currie and Hickey at the airport, Hickey wrote: “He thinks the Pope should could come to Newfoundland, too. It’s going to be an interesting flight.”

In August, the Archbishop of Halifax said the Roman Catholic church was in crisis and there was an urgent need for change. Archbishop Anthony Mancini condemned the new reports of sexual abuse by priests, saying in a statement he is “devastated” and “ashamed” by the scandal.

Mancini said he has wondered why abuse was covered up and the church’s image prioritized over the victims, and decried what he called “the systemic failure of leadership.”

“Our Catholic credibility and identity needs to be rebuilt; our authority must become service and not power; the gospel must be recovered from all that has tarnished it,” Mancini said.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

YVR wants rapid transit connections to Surrey, White Rock improved

In Transport 2050 report, airport authority states it would like to see Canada Line extended to the south

Surrey fugitive captured in California was motivated by revenge, $160,000: court documents

Brandon Teixeira, charged with murder, wants to return to Canada ‘as soon as possible,’ says lawyer

VIDEO: Tsumura Basketball Invitational begins at the Langley Events Centre

Top teams clash in event billed as preview of provincials

Surrey students recognized for ‘outstanding’ support for food bank

Businesses, volunteer receive awards at annual open house

VIDEO: A brief history of bumps in the Trudeau-Trump relationship

Remember Peter Navarro saying ‘there’s a special place in hell’ for a foreign leader who aims to cheat?

University of the Fraser Valley union demands free menstrual products for staff, students

Petition calls it a human rights issue, asks for products at Chilliwack/Abbotsford campus washrooms

Man killed in crash due to ‘absolutely treacherous’ conditions on Coquihalla

Winter means icy roads are dangerous and drivers should be careful, RCMP say

Bag of cocaine left in B.C. grocery store aisle

RCMP: ‘We sure would like to talk to’ person who left drugs behind

Former Burns Lake mayor gets two years for sexual assaults against minors

The Crown is seeking four to six years federal time; the defence wants 18 months in provincial jail

RCMP officer was justified using hose in rooftop standoff: B.C. watchdog

Police watchdog finds officers actions reasonable when man injured in 2018 incident

Cannabis ice cream? Province prepares for B.C. Bud edibles

Mike Farnworth’s special police unit takes down dispensaries

Union for parole officers at B.C. halfway house says public safety at risk

Increase in parole officers’ workload dealing with highest-risk offenders raises concern

B.C. bans logging in sensitive Silverdaisy area in Skagit River Valley

Minister says no more timber licences will be awarded for the area, also known as the ‘doughnut hole’

Most Read

l -->