Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson asked to cancel appearance at Fairfield University

March 11, 2012

Most Rev. Geoffrey Robinson
Saint Joseph's Presbytery
126 Liverpool Road

Dear Bishop Robinson,

I am writing to strongly urge you not to set foot on the Fairfield University campus later this month but, instead, to select another venue for your scheduled appearance in Fairfield, Connecticut on March 24, 2012.

In your book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church: Reclaiming the Spirit of Jesus, you wrote, "I am convinced that if the pope had spoken clearly at the beginning of the revelations, inviting victims to come forward so that the whole truth, however terrible, might be known and confronted, and firmly directing that all members of the church should respond with openness, humility, honesty and compassion, consistently putting victims before the good name of the church, the entire response of the church would have been far better."

I can assure you, Bishop Robinson, that having said these words, you will know instinctively that your presence at Fairfield University will be an insult to an entire group of courageous child sexual abuse victims in Haiti who have been neglected, rejected and ostracized by Fairfield University and Jesuit officials - and whose pursuit of truth and justice has not been supported in any way by your hosts; members of Bridgeport Voice of the Faithful and Dr. Paul Lakeland, Chair of Fairfield University's Center for Catholic Studies.

Each time I asked for just ten minutes, and even though Project Pierre Toussaint (PPT) is sponsored and supported by organizations that are right in their own back yard, VOTF Conference officials would not allow me to speak at either of the past two conferences about the horrific plight of the abuse victims in Haiti. The kids were in desperate need of emotional and practical support, including food, clothing, shelter, and tuition for school.

In December 2010, Fairfield University alumnus, Douglas Perlitz, the founder and former executive director of Project Pierre Toussaint in Haiti, was sentenced in Connecticut federal court to almost 20 years in prison for sexually abusing boys who were under his care.

Project Pierre Toussaint was supported and funded by many Catholic organizations including the Order of Malta, the Roman catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, the Knights of Columbus, Fairfield University, the New England Society of Jesus and the Haiti Fund, Inc., a Connecticut based non-profit whose chairman, Rev. paul Carrier, S.J., was the long-time campus ministry director at Fairfield University.

In August 2007, a Haitian journalist by the name of Cyrus Sibert, listened with concern to the victims' cries for help and, at great danger to the victims and himself, Cyrus began to report about the abuse on his blog and radio program in Cap-Haitien.

In response, Fairfield University and New England Jesuit officials ran as fast and as far away from the hurting victims as they could. Instead of offering comfort and support to the frightened victims, Father Carrier and eleven other prominent and influential Fairfield County Catholics wrote a letter to the Haiti school's donors calling the victims' liars.

Donations dried up, the school closed and the victims and other displaced students were forced back onto the streets of Cap-Haitien with no food or shelter.

In past years, Fairfield University bragged about and promoted itself as a partner in the humanitarian work being accomplished at PPT by awarding Perlitz an honorary doctor of laws degree and a "Magis' alumni award for his service to the poor and needy in Haiti.

At the present time, though, three high powered law firms, hired by Fairfield University and the New England Jesuits, are engaged in hardball legal tactics against twenty-one homeless Haitian street children who have filed a civil lawsuit in federal court in Connecticut seeking fair and just reparations for the harms and injuries inflicted upon them as a result of their abuse and the negligence and failure to protect them by a group of responsible parties.

Two days ago, the local sheriff served me with a subpoena from Father Carrier's lawyers who are ordering me to produce confidential emails I may have shared with the boys in Haiti who were abused.

It's not complicated, Bishop Robinson. The civil lawsuit enables these poor and vulnerable Haitian kids to be placed on a level playing field with the powerful and influential people and institutions who are doing everything they can right now to avoid responsibility and accountability for their roles in the coverup of sexual abuse of children at PPT.

But, when all is said and done, when Fairfield University, the Jesuits and Father Carrier and the other parties have exhausted their legal filings, their legal objections and their legal maneuvering (technicalities and loopholes), everyone will be forced to gather together in a federal courtroom, face to face with the abuse victims, take an oath to tell the truth, and then we'll begin to sort out who knew what, when they knew it and how and why it was possible for so many children to be raped and sodomized for so many years under everyone's watch.

There's so much I could tell you, Bishop Robinson. I have met with the victims in Haiti on two occasions. It would break your heart to hear their stories. It will also break your heart to know that so many people who advertise themselves as devout Christians and/or practicing Catholics, including your hosts and most of the planned attendees, have avoided and neglected these poorest of the poor children in their time of need.

The Jesuits taught me that the service of my faith must include the promotion of justice. When the rubber hit the road, though, their words were meaningless.

I have written extensively about the trauma, pain, suffering and needs of these victims. These are brave and courageous kids whose lives have been permanently altered by the violence of the abuse perpetrated upon them. These are kids who get up everyday with nothing to eat, having slept with one eye open in an abandoned building or on a rooftop. During the past couple of years, a small group of victims' advocates in New England has raised money to help provide the boys with a weekly ration of rice and spaghetti, books, school uniforms and tuition payments. It is important, we think, to show these kids that there are people who care about them. After all, there is no one to tuck these boys into bed at night and tell them they are loved.

I beg you, Bishop Robinson to stand in solidarity with these struggling abuse victims by instructing your hosts to immediately locate another venue for your March 24th appearance.

By refusing to speak at Fairfield University, an institution that is not responding in good faith "with openness, humility, honesty and compassion, (by) consistently putting victims before the good name of the church" (your words) you will, with all due respect, be putting your money where your mouth is.

Paul Kendrick
Freeport, Maine
Fairfield University, 72
207-838-1319 (cell)

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