Susan Matthews – “Catholics4Change” – Guest Posting

SUSAN MATTHEWS, Founder & Editor-in-Chief

Susan Matthews, is a former sections editor of The Catholic Standard & Times, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. She also contributed to the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Living Religion section. She has received several Catholic Press Awards and a Philadelphia Press Award for Best Coverage in the Public Interest. Currently, she is a freelance writer living in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband of 20 years and two children, who attend Catholic school. Please visit her published postings at Catholics4Change. com. This site has 114,000 hits since February of this year.

Susan is kind enough to allow me to use her recent posting presented below.  It’s entitled, “And Who Are You?” What feedback can you share about this event and specifically about Susan’s  encounter with the Cardinal and the local pastor? What does it communicate to you about our local church? What does it communicate about GoodPeople 2 GoodPriests? Looking forward to your feedback.

“Stepping into the Archdiocesan Office Building just minutes before the press conference, I spotted two former colleagues from the Catholic Standard and Times. As I said hello, the elevator doors opened. Cardinal Rigali and Archbishop Chaput emerged and stopped to greet them. Turning to me, Cardinal Rigali extended his hand and asked with a smile, “and who are you?”


I extended my hand and introduced myself. His Eminence recognized my name. It was a polite, uncomfortable and a profoundly sad moment for me.

He had graciously met with my husband, Damian Dachowski, when he ran for a political office a couple of years ago. When I sent the request this past Spring, I really believed the Cardinal, or at least one of the Bishops, would meet with me. I wanted to share concerns on behalf my readers. Many of them are faithful Catholics leaving the Church or on the fence because of the child sex abuse scandal that emerged with the 2011 Grand Jury Report. We needed ministry. Instead, we received a carefully-worded response from the Office for Communications.

Between his time in Rome and a reluctance to personally deal with this issue, it is my impression that Cardinal Rigali left much of the clergy sex abuse issues to his Bishops. Does this let him off the hook. No. His apologies during Tuesday’s press conference seemed genuine but do nothing to help the victims and those whose faith in the institutional Church is shattered.

Later, I would meet a pastor who was brave enough to speak candidly about the issues and recognized the severity of the cover up and its cost, both spiritually and financially to the Archdiocese. He offered me what seemingly so few clergy could – hope. Someone in the clergy “got it.” That hope has kept going.

Now, we need a leader who can renew the hope of all Catholics in Philadelphia. While I’m aware of Archbishop Chaput’s history in Denver, I’m not a fan of knee-jerk reactions. We can leave our minds open – along with our eyes.”


5 Responses to Susan Matthews – “Catholics4Change” – Guest Posting

  1. Dear Susan,

    I am happy that you found cause for “hope” by that pastor . Does he speak these things publicly? I am guessing he does not or feels he can not. I could relate more to your paragraph where you stated:
    “I really believed the Cardinal, or at least one of the Bishops, would meet with me.” “Instead, we received a carefully-worded response from the Office for Communications”. Trust me. Even when they meet with you, nothing changes.
    This is what reflects the true reality. Catholics in the pews still believe or want to believe that these people actually care. And the sad reality is — -They do not. They just do not care about us. They care about their power and they care about money. I have seen and heard this message repeatedly with my involvement in Voice of the Faithful and SNAP. MY husband is a survivor, yet our faith remains strong.
    We are practicing our faith in a small Catholic faith community. My hope is in people like you who are organizing groups like Catholics4Change. I know how devastating the disillusionment can be. Archbishop Chaput will be yet another challenge for thinking Cathoics in Philadelphia. As Joan Chittister wrote in a book signing to me. “Speak up, Speak out, Speak on”!

  2. ed gleason says:

    I read that the chief financial officer of the Philadelphia Arch. Diocese was fired Friday 7-22 for suspected embezzlement of ‘hundreds of thousands’. I conclude that these embezzlements, including a June one in Oakland diocese is that the ‘insiders’ see so much corruption that they are ‘going to get theirs before the ship sinks’. Jason Berry has anew book, which I have not yet read, about this money ‘thing’ .
    The increasing money looting in the Church, which is not replicated in the private secular sector that has no moral pretense, is a sign of institutional pathology. How have my wife and I managed to keep our faith? We have joined an inner-city Franciscan parish. just six blocks from the Chancery but really light years away. We worship with and minister to the marginalized. We have noted that almost all ‘order’ staffed parishes have taken pains to step back from diocesan control. It would be wise to watch/join and encourage this trend. More and more laity moving’ to the Church’s margins is a temporary answer to the institutional pathology. CCKF ..

  3. Speaking-Up says:

    This may come as a surprise to you but there is no reporting-hierarchy, only independent, feudal pockets of power, without checks and balances. If you take your grievance up the chain of command, you will be sent back, down the ranks, to the original abuser, at whose hands you will be re-traumatized. There is no concern for the victim’s pain, sense of betrayal, hurt, faith-crisis etc. In the Philadelphia Grand Jury Report of 2011, the victim-assistance coordinator passed on the victim’s confidential records to the perpetrator, in order to improve his defense. There is a serious conflict of interest in this situation, because the victim-assistance coordinator is also an employee of the Archdiocese. Clericalism is a complex and sophisticated system that protects its own and punishes the dissenter or whistle-blower. Criminal prosecutions, civil law-suits or the threat of public-scandals brings some transparency, accountability and social justice. A global public-outcry is what is needed, along with measures for reform, similar to the actions taken by Martin Luther with his ‘Ninety-Five Theses’ or a Gandhi-style ‘Catholic-Disobedience Movement.’ The social-media outlets gives us a global-voice that the Roman Church may find difficult to ignore.

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