Restitution (with Sarah Pearson) | Crooked Media
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November 26, 2021
Unholier Than Thou
Restitution (with Sarah Pearson)

In This Episode

This week, Phill is joined by his classmate, Sarah Pearson, who works fighting clergy abuse. She and Phill discuss how high up the chain coverup efforts go, how predatory priests are often relocated into communities of color, and what justice for victims may look like.







Sarah Pearson: Often because the people who are most likely to be involved in this are white, and a lot of them are white men, that’s just the sort of impression around this issue that, you know, this is a white issue or this is an issue of priests who are abusing white teenage boys. And in looking through these files it’s just so clear that that is not the case.


Phillip Picardi: From Crooked Media, this is Unholier Than Thou. I’m your host, Phillip Picardi. OK, y’all, I hope you are full from your Thanksgiving dinner still. And because Thanksgiving is officially over, that means it’s time to cue the Mariah Carey. Holiday season is upon us. And as we are listening to our holiday music and some of us are getting into the Christmas spirit—and you know, I think Mariah Carey’s holiday music is secular, but that’s just my very homosexual opinion—we are also going to be thinking about what this time of year means for spiritual worship and spiritual practice. If you’re anything like me, especially in my past life, I would only go to church on Christmas. It was the only time that I ever actually stepped inside the Catholic Church in earnest. I felt like if we’re going to be doing all this celebrating and all of this gluttony and all these presents, then the least I can do is show up for Jesus on the day of his birth. And the church was always of course packed on Christmas. Never packed any other day of the year, at least in my hometown, but always packed on Christmas. Something that my dad always lamented as someone who attends church very regularly. The thing about Christmas time, especially as a Catholic, or a recovering Catholic as we’re called, or someone who’s just kind of struggling with what it means to spiritually be Catholic but not really love the institution of Catholicism as it currently exists, is that when you go to church, there inevitably comes that time where the baskets come around and it’s time to put your money in to show your support for your local church. This is complicated, because right now the church is caught up in some stuff where your dollars could be funding a legal battle that you would not in any good faith or good conscience support otherwise. I have a colleague at Harvard named Sarah Pearson, who is doing work to end clergy abuse, and Sarah has had a long struggle of trying to bring the stories of people who are survivors of clergy abuse to the fore. And a lot of her work is focused in her home state of Wisconsin but this is an issue that is absolutely global. And contrary to what I think the movie Spotlight may have us believe, this is not an issue that is passed. It is very much an issue that is present. There were two major news stories that broke this year. One about indigenous boarding schools and Catholic abuse and unmarked mass graves being uncovered. Another report, from France, showcasing just how widespread the issue of clergy abuse was in that country. And these reports show us both that there are layers to the story of clergy abuse that we are still very much uncovering and understanding, but also that justice has not been served to so many people who are survivors of clergy abuse, and that the Catholic Church, despite having who we perceive as a progressive Pope, is not doing really much of anything to end clergy abuse. In fact, what Sarah reveals to us in this interview is that they are still working to cover up clergy abuse and protect priests who are still to this day accused of abusing children. This issue is important because as we dive into this topic of today’s episode, which is restitution, it’s hard to think about what justice looks like when you have an institution that kind of hides behind this veil of spirituality or religiosity and yet is one of the most powerful and one of the wealthiest institutions in the world. And so many abusers are hidden within its halls and within its chambers and within its churches. And I wanted to talk about this issue today because Sarah kept pointing out in our classrooms and in our discussions how the cycle, the media cycle, and the attention around this issue is so fleeting. We hear the stories, we lament about how gross it is, and then we all go about our business. And as we’re all making decisions about how we’re going to be celebrating and worshiping this holiday season, I wanted to put this to the forefront and make sure Sarah’s voice was heard really loudly and clearly because I think it’s something we all should be thinking about before stepping foot into any Catholic churches this season. So, again, I want to underscore this is no judgment about how anyone chooses to worship or where one chooses to worship this season. I want to respect everyone’s choices and everyone’s religiosity or spirituality. I just ask that you listen to this episode and keep this in mind before attending church or before filling those coffers this season. OK. Without further ado, here’s Sarah.


Phillip Picardi: Sarah, thank you for joining me for Unholier Than Thou. I really appreciate you being here. I see you twice a week in class and now I get to see you at third time this week.


Sarah Pearson: Thank you so much for having me.


Phillip Picardi: So for that, people at home who are listening, can you give us a quick overview of where you work and what kind of work you are doing?


Sarah Pearson: Well, I’m the Deputy Director of an organization called Nate’s Mission. It’s a Wisconsin-based project of the organization Ending Clergy Abuse. Ending Clergy Abuse is a global collaborative of activists, human rights lawyers, and survivors of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, who are working to bring justice for survivors and end abuse in the Catholic Church.


Phillip Picardi: So what does the kind of work that you’ve been engaged with before coming to Harvard look like then?


Sarah Pearson: Sure. So I have, I’ve done a little bit of everything. Before I came to the clergy abuse world, I was involved in women’s groups with the Women’s March. I did work for an AIDS service organization in New York City. So I kind of bring a different background to the clergy abuse work then probably most people who’ve traditionally been involved in this issue, you know, have. But I guess coming to Harvard, you know, I really wanted to bring some sort of academic and scholarly element to this field to sort of, kind of—things have changed over the years in the way that the Catholic Church, just how it’s situated politically in this country. And I just kind of want to take a deeper look at what kind of elements are, you know, influencing this crisis and the way that it’s been perpetuated across literally millennia and, you know, has continued throughout the last several decades, even while it’s been in the public eye.


Phillip Picardi: What brought you to the field of clergy abuse more specifically?


Sarah Pearson: So I’m a survivor of sexual abuse, and that was something that I had worked on this issue in my work in women’s groups. But I got involved, I had been, a good friend of mine is one of the founders of Survivors Network of those abused by priests. So we had been friends for a while and then we had gotten involved in this political campaign when one of the church’s chief legal counsel during the height of the clergy abuse and cover up crisis decided to run for governor of Wisconsin as a Democrat. And so we got involved in this campaign to sort of, you know, let people know what his role really was as the architect of some of these policies to transfer priests from place to place. And sort of in that effort, you know, I sort of, is when I got into this work and really became familiar, you know, just how the church operates, how this cover up operates, you know what the sort of documents that we go through to look at all this stuff looks like. And, you know, as I was going through it, you know, I think just with my own background, I was reading this and I realized a pattern of racial discrimination, not just in the way that abuse victims were treated, but literally in the way that these priests, who were known to be abusers, who have been credibly accused, were transferred at a higher rate to churches that served communities of color, especially the Black community in the city of Milwaukee, Indigenous communities, schools that serve disabled children. So knowing that and looking at that, you know, I felt like a great responsibility to stay involved in this issue. And you know, if you’ve seen press conferences and, you know, events on television, I think that often because the people who are most likely to be involved in this are white, and a lot of them are white men, there’s just this sort of impression around this issue that, you know, this is a white issue or this is an issue of priests who are abusing white teenage boys. And looking through these files it’s just so clear that that is not the case. And there are, you know, victims that we’ve never heard from. And you know, there just needs to be, in order to solve this issue, I mean, there has to be this collaboration between different groups who are affected by this. That’s why I am excited to work for an organization like Ending Clergy Abuse that’s literally a global organization bringing together survivors from around the world to try to defeat this crisis in the Catholic Church. But it’s important just within this country as well and within my own state of Wisconsin and the city of Milwaukee, you know that we’re kind of taking this approach that this is, you know, a racial justice issue, you know, this is an LGBTQ issue. You know, this is a disability rights issue. This can be all of these things, you know, sort of encompassed in this fight, you know, to stop the sexual violence in the Catholic Church.


Phillip Picardi: So just to put a finer point or maybe to thread through the points that you just made, if I’m hearing you correctly, what I’m hearing is there’s this phenomenon where when a priest is accused of abusing children, the Catholic Church works to cover that up, sometimes in cahoots with elected officials in America. And they relocate those priests to different churches or different parishes throughout the country to effectively help that priest disappear and escape conviction. And when they are doing such a thing, they are often relocating those priests to neighborhoods or parishes that are predominantly composed of people of color, because perhaps they realize that, just like we saw with, for example, the Gabby Petito case, that the instances of disappearing or abused children, murdered and missing indigenous women, missing Black children, abused Black children or abused children of color—those stories do not tend to capture national press attention, and therefore it would be easier for an abuser to be there and not get caught in the act and therefore not continue to bring press scandal to the church. Am I understanding that right?


Sarah Pearson: Yes, that’s correct. And I can give you an example, in the city of Milwaukee, just the way that government has collaborated with the church. It’s literally documented, and these documents are publicly available, where there is a conversation between Archbishop Weakland and the District Attorney. And you know, he’s, Weakland, the archbishop is telling the district attorney that he has this priest, you know, who’s been accused several times of abusing children and the district attorney says to him, Well, take him out for a few years, and if nothing else happens, put him back in. And I mean, that’s what they literally did. It’s documented. And, you know, because of that, the district attorney, you know, chose not to run for election because I think he knew this was out there. But this is not unique to the city of Milwaukee. You know, this is a pattern that’s very well known. On top of that, as we’re looking through these documents, there’s another priest who had been transferred between these different parishes in, that were serving Black neighborhoods in Milwaukee, and he, you know, admitted in a psychologists report, he literally said: I didn’t do white kids. That he sought out children of color to abuse and that he had a pattern and practice of doing this over and over again. The church knew about this for decades, and they chose to keep him in these parishes and allow him to continue abusing children. And you know, I work with this attorney who is Seattle-based but he represented victims in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and he actually commissioned this study that demonstrated—because, you know, this is something that he observed as well, and he wanted to know more—he commissioned the study that demonstrated that there was, you know, a nonrandom pattern, you know, that had emerged of these priests, you know, being transferred to predominantly communities of color and low-income communities at a higher rate.


Phillip Picardi: It’s, you know, it’s so disheartening to hear. I think a lot of people watched the movie Spotlight, for example, which, you know, all of that took place in Boston, right here, which is why it’s so, I guess, eerie or something that you’re here, maybe even fitting that we’re here in Boston having this conversation—but of course, that’s the story of the Boston Globe uncovering the layers to clergy abuse and the scandal that kind of rocked the Catholic Church afterwards. But I do think that public consciousness was kind of not done any favors by that movie in a way, because yes, while it exposed the layers to the abuse and the layers to the ills of the Catholic Church, it also made it seem like an issue that had been handled or done justice. But what I’m hearing from you is this is still a very pervasive issue, and it’s not getting the attention it deserves.


Sarah Pearson: You know, I think we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of, you know, what we know about this issue or just what’s in public consciousness. You know, I think for one, you know, Spotlight was great at just about bringing this issue, you know, into, I guess, the spotlight. And you know, people really, you know, were moved by it. You know, I’ve read a lot of, I’ve heard from friends or, you know, I’ve just read that there are a lot of Catholics, there are former Catholics who watched that, and that was just, you know, such a meaningful film because, you know, it spoke to that experience. I mean, I think for one, films like that are great, but it shows this from the perspective of the media and not necessarily from the survivors. And you know, I don’t know if you remember this from the film, but there’s a survivor, you know, who’s speaking with these reporters from the Boston Globe and they’re like, How did we not know about this? And he’s like, I’ve been bringing this material to you for years. Like, I’ve done this research, like I’ve been trying to tell somebody. And that’s, you know, very consistent with what the experience has been like, you know, for survivors in Wisconsin. You know, my partner in this work has been doing this for 30 years—30 years—and they finally just opened an investigation into this with the Wisconsin attorney general. So that’s the product of know years and years of advocacy and work. You know, but I think that now, I mean, this is something that’s been well known in indigenous communities and well documented, but it just hasn’t been reported on by the mainstream media really up until this year. But there’s this issue of these mass graves, these unmarked graves containing the bodies of Indigenous children who died or were killed at these Indian boarding schools and residential schools that were mandated by the U.S. government. And they have them in my state of Wisconsin. They have them all over the Midwest, but they’re really across the country. And it was this being reported on in Canada through their own choosing reconciliation committee that brought this, you know, to the forefront in the United States. But, you know, like I said, I think we’ve only scratched the surface on really getting into what happened here. And I’m really glad that Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the nation’s first Indigenous secretary of the interior, has taken the initiative to open this investigation and look into it because, you know, this needs to be reported. The truth needs to come out. But in general, you know, that’s just what we are doing. The truth needs to come out all over the place. And in order to do that, we have to have an understanding of how this issue has specifically impacted marginalized people, particularly Indigenous people, communities of color, and the disabled and LGBTQ communities.


Phillip Picardi: Yeah, the issue of the Indigenous boarding schools is such an important one because I don’t think a lot of people realize how much a part of state history that is. Like that, that is a part of American history that goes so unnoticed and also is so interesting because it shows how the Catholic Church worked with the American government, to quote unquote, “Americanize” Indigenous kids, right? It seems so removed from our history and from our present that Indigenous people were by law, forbidden from practicing their culture or their religion or religious ceremonies up until very recently in American history. And Christian and Catholic organizations worked with the American and Canadian governments to start these boarding schools to basically, quote unquote, “Americanize” aka commit cultural genocide, right, to erase these kids of their histories and of their cultures, and in doing so, these kids were at boarding schools. My understanding, too, is that some of these kids never made it back to their families. My other understanding of this is that some of these kids, these unmarked graves that were recovered, right, these are people’s family members. These are children, you know that families never knew what happened to them because it was all sort of disappeared by the church. And so in this act of cultural genocide, you know, the state is complicit in that. Our governments are complicit in that genocide, in that, in that ongoing and recent genocide. Which means that like this isn’t about Thanksgiving and colonization from, you know, centuries ago, this is the past 50 years of American and Canadian history.


Sarah Pearson: And you know, I think you’re right, this was a cultural genocide. There’s a well-known phrase that, you know, was employed by a member of the U.S. government who was talking about this policy. And he literally said: kill the Indian, save the man—which was what that policy entailed. But some of these schools, you know, were open until the ’70s in the ’80s. You know, I recently read this qualitative study by Dr. Denise Lajimodier who’s done this, you know, great work around this issue, and you know, there were survivors as young as 50 who were contributing their stories to this, you know, so the survivors are still very much alive. But, you know, even for this abuse that occurred in the past, this sort of intergenerational trauma that emerges from an experience like this, and you know, one of the themes in this study, it was just that a lot of these children, because they were taken from their parents, because they weren’t, you know, raised by loving parents, they were raised by these abusive clergy members, these abusive priests and these abusive nuns in these schools, you know, it’s like they never learned what it was like to have a parents. And then, you know, imagine leaving a scenario like that and then, you know, trying to raise your own family, having never had that experience. So I mean, that trauma just sort of resounds through generations. But I mean, it really was, these are some of the most horrific accounts. And you know, I read documentation like, you know, police reports, psychologists reports, you know, internal memos, about abuse all day long. These are some of the most horrific things I have ever read. And you mean these kids, it was literally, you know, physical and sexual torture is what they were made to go through. You know, they were punished for speaking their Native language and it was, you know, a concerted effort on the part of the U.S. government and with the help of religious organizations, chiefly the Catholic Church, among them, to destroy culture. And you know, it’s horrific and I think it needs to be reported on and there has to be some form of reparations, not just from the U.S. government to the different tribes, but also, you know, from the Catholic Church. And that’s a demand that groups have put out there as well.


Phillip Picardi: Yeah, it’s so important because I used the word recent history and what you point to is that this is actually a living present, right? Because as trauma happens, it gets recycled through generations. And even the concept of these sexual predators, right, it’s predatory in general to dis-enfranchise a group of people who are, of course, here first, right, like the American and Canadian governments did in colonization and in this entire imperial effort, right, that is these projects known as America and Canada today. And then to really leave these parents with no option but to say this is the only way your child will be successful or have a quote unquote, “normal” life or receive an education, right? Like these people were forced into this lose-lose situation to send children to these boarding schools thinking they were doing potentially what was best for the child.


Sarah Pearson: In a lot of instances too—if I can interject—I mean, they were literally forced to the point, I believe it was in 1891 that the government passed this, there’s a sort of mandate that allowed the federal government to mandate attendance at these schools. So they would come and they could use, you know, as a tool to force parents to give their children to these schools and to the government, they could withhold rations, like they could withhold food, they could withhold firewood. And if you’re in like North Dakota, you can’t live without firewood, like you can’t live without these things. So it was really a life or death choice for these families or, you know, it wasn’t a choice at all. And you know, that’s the really sad thing. I think it’s two thirds of, you know, indigenous people have gone through that.


Phillip Picardi: Which is a, it’s a horrible legacy to be reckoning with. And then at the same time that I was noticing a lot of those stories about the boarding schools kind of surface, specifically from Canada, we get this massive report about clergy abuse in France. Can you tell me more about what that report revealed?


Sarah Pearson: Sure. I mean, it just kind of revealed the scale of this, the scale and the scope of this issue, to see, you know, hundreds of thousands of victims and thousands of perpetrators. You know, and I think that just seeing that number alone was very shocking for a lot of people in the United States. But, you know, if you kind of, the pattern and the practice that you know, contributed to a report of that magnitude or problem of that magnitude in France is, you know, is and has been present in the United States as well. And I think that, you know, if the investigations that are conducted, you know, I think it’s over 23 state attorneys general, you know, have done an investigation or are currently investigating this issue—these are Republicans and Democrats who are doing this, you know, some investigations better than others—I think if done correctly, like they would reveal a problem of that magnitude in the United States as well. So I mean, I think we still have to wait. There was a groundbreaking report in 2018 in Pennsylvania that sort of put this issue back in the forefront, you know, that revealed something similar with, you know, thousands of victims and hundreds of perpetrators. And you know, I think that that is something that would hold across the United States as well.


Phillip Picardi: Yeah. And it. I heard some sort of statistic, like when I was listening to NPR about this issue that said, the issue is so widespread in France that it technically made it so that you were more likely to be sexually harassed or abused within the Catholic Church than you were at a nightclub in France, which is wild.


Sarah Pearson: It is wild. I mean, it just kind of speaks to the pattern and practice in the church, the kind of culture, you know, that’s been developed over time among the clergy, you know, for this to be permissible and sometimes even like, encouraged, you know, which is a terrible, terrible thing.


[ad break]


Phillip Picardi: A lot of people listening will think to themselves, and I don’t blame them for thinking this, well, thank God we have Pope Francis as our pope, right? Because clearly he’s going to handle this as our progressive, as our most progressive pope ever. What would you say to those people who are feeling that way and feeling that optimism related to this issue about our current pope?


Sarah Pearson: Well, I hate to disappoint them, but unfortunately, you know, Francis has not lived up to his reputation in the way that he has dealt with this issue. And it’s disappointing. You know, I can see for a lot of people who are Catholic or still consider themselves Catholic, you know, to hear someone who speaks the way that he does about poverty and capitalism—I mean, I can see how that you know, you wanna, you’re drawn to that kind of figure. You know, you’re drawn to that kind of person and you want to believe that you know, that his actions match the rhetoric. But unfortunately, you know, we haven’t seen a change under Francis. It was, I believe, in 2019 that he lifted papal secrecy. So what that would mean is, you know, there’s these archives that exist in, you know, the dioceses across the United States, and they’re backed up at the Vatican. And you know, he lifted this papal secrecy, which would, you know, for so long, this has been a secret archive which would allow, you know, investigators, academics, you know, Catholics in the United States to, you know, look through these records and get some sort of semblance of truth from them of the scope and magnitude in what the church knew. You know, he said that he was doing this. To this date, none of those documents have been provided. And like I said, there’s over 23state attorneys general who are investigating this and they don’t have access to that archive. It’s like, how do you conduct an accurate investigation without access to this? And you know, in the state of Wisconsin, in my own city of Milwaukee, the archdiocese literally refused to cooperate with the attorney general. It’s like they have this, you know, Vatican policy of, you know, lifting papal secrecy and meanwhile you have these dioceses like the one in Milwaukee or archdioceses who are just literally refusing to cooperate at all, saying, you know, we won’t provide any documents about, you know, this historical abuse. So that’s one of the major problems that are faced. The other one is zero tolerance. You know, that’s just a policy of automatically removing someone from ministry when they’re accused of sexually assaulting a child or vulnerable adults and that’s another policy that, you know, activists and advocates have been asking for for a long time. And, you know, they say, Oh, that’s our policy. Well, that’s not in canon law. It clearly hasn’t been enacted. In Wisconsin, there was a case of a priest who was accused of abusing a teenage girl and you know, they, the trial ended in a mistrial. And he was put back in ministry right away. You know, so this is something that happens all the time. There’s a famous clergy member in Chicago who is accused of abusing three boys, and he’s back in ministry. So under Francis, these things are still occurring. And unfortunately, you know, he hasn’t followed through with these policies that he said that, you know, he would implement. They just haven’t happened. And, you know, activists have been asking about this and there doesn’t seem to be anybody from the Vatican or from these dioceses who really want to, you know, communicate or move on this issue.


Phillip Picardi: And I think another thing that’s confusing for a lot of folks is like we see report after report of Catholics, especially in America, losing people in the pews. And a lot of Catholics have left the church. Even if they still identify as Catholic, they don’t go to church anymore just because of how unsavory they feel about this issue in particular, or any number of other things that we could talk about with the Catholic Church: their treatment of LGBTQ people, their treatment of reproductive justice, their treatment of women, etc.—but regardless, the Catholic Church still is able to protect these priests because I don’t think a lot of people realize just how much money they have. And that their money is coming from Catholic hospital networks in countries all over the world, land that they own in countries all over the world, right? Like this is a very wealthy institution that has all of the power that they need to protect abusers.


Sarah Pearson: Yes, I mean, that is so correct. There was a poll that came out from Georgetown University, I believe that’s just this past summer that revealed—I don’t remember the exact number—but it was something like 60-something percent of Catholics still say they’re, you know, concerned about this issue. And these are, you know, Catholics, not just the general public. So I mean, they’re, Catholics are still paying attention to this. They’re still really concerned about this. Those that have even, you know, remained Catholic or remained a part of the church. And it’s just not being addressed. And, you know, one would think like, why is it that the church is just allowing this to happen, that they’re just allowing people to know, slip out of the pews and fall away from the church? And it seems like in that sense, they’ve really lost influence. But when you look at the holdings in the United States and the kind of money that’s involved in this, you know, it doesn’t, they don’t seem to be losing steam in that department. It was reported by the AP that the Catholic Church was the largest single recipient of COVID relief money. You know, that they got, you know, potentially over $3.5 billion. So, you know, when you think about, you know, these independent contractors or these small businesses, you know, that we’re going under, all these restaurants that have closed, you know, in our neighborhoods—and you think that the church was getting, you know, a large portion of this money. And you know that in many cases resulted in surpluses because a lot of them, you know, weren’t losing out on donations during the pandemic. And if you look at too, you mentioned hospitals, the Catholic Church now, I think one sixth of hospital beds in the United States are from, in Catholic hospitals. In many communities, there’s, you know, the only option is a Catholic hospital, and that’s somewhere where you know, you aren’t going to have access to reproductive health care, you aren’t going to have access to gender-affirming health care. So that’s concerning in and of itself. But the Catholic hospitals as well, you know, raked in a ton of money in federal aid.


Phillip Picardi: Yes. We all know how much money hospitals make in America. Yes.


Sarah Pearson: Yes. And that has not been, you know, I don’t think that has been really thoroughly investigated yet, you know, the economic impact of COVID. But a lot of these hospitals came out better after COVID than before. So it’s kind of alarming to look at that. And you know, I think the disheartening part is I remember reading a tweet from Pope Francis earlier this year where he said something, you know, like, you know, health care should be, you know, free and available for everyone. And I’m thinking like, you’re the manager of 25% of the world’s hospitals and this is a problem. You know, how can you say that when this is going on? And it’s not even just hospitals. Like, I mean, they also have health insurance companies. Like in the state of New York that was huge thing. I believe that they sold it off, you know, when dioceses were filing for bankruptcy because of the abuse issue. So there’s a lot going on here. I mean, even under as I was looking through Ascension Health Care, you know, they’re considered a nonprofit, but they have for-profit subsidiaries that are under the umbrella of Ascension Health Care and like one of them, is like a, you know, medical debt collection agency. So it’s like this, the rhetoric is one thing, and then the practice is another, and they just, they don’t match up. So I mean, something this, this money issue, this capital issue in the Catholic Church really has to be investigated as well because it’s a huge part of the abuse crisis.


Phillip Picardi: Yeah. And I—just a quick aside, because I do think it’s so important to say related to the Catholic hospitals—if one sixth of our hospital beds in America are owned by Catholic hospitals, that is one sixth of our hospital beds that are not LGBTQ-affirming or affirming of reproductive justice. And it’s super important because Sarah has taught me in our class that a lot of these Catholic hospitals exist in health care deserts where they are often the only or, you know, one of very few options available to people. And so it should be an issue that is concerning to women, to LGBTQ folks, and to people who care about us, who are who are listening to this podcast. But moving on from that more specifically, you know, when we think about Time’s Up, we saw and I think what Tarana Burke and the MeToo movement and what Time’s Up helped us to see was that the system favors abusers in so many ways and that abusers are protected in so many ways. And the Catholic Church, oddly enough, Spotlight had shown us that through this religious perspective, how religion, and the Catholic Church in particular, is an institution that is so matrixed and hiding in between all of the layers of this labyrinthine business—which is what it is—are all of these ways to hide and protect people who are accused of sexual assault. And so for me, these struggles are all intertwined, and it’s super important that we understand the Catholic Church as yet another industry that is shielding people from proper justice. So if we can have a better understanding of that, what can the average person do to help you and the kinds of work that you are doing to end clergy abuse? What do we all need to be doing besides just knowing what’s going on?


Sarah Pearson: I mean, I think for one—this sounds kind of trite—but it’s difficult, I mean, like funding. It’s just, it’s hard. You know, I think a lot of funders want to invest in projects and things like that but what is really needed is, you know, people on the ground, like activists and survivors to be able to dedicate themselves full time to something like this. So, you know, funding is incredibly important in that sense. And I think too just to, you know, share these stories and talk, talk to people. And I think, especially I feel, to amplify the narratives and the stories of Indigenous survivors of this abuse, of LGBTQ survivors, of disabled survivors, of survivors of color—I think that that is so important and that’s just an untold aspect of this crisis that needs to be examined and that needs to be talked about.


Phillip Picardi: Yeah. And also, we’re heading up to Christmas season. So, you know, lots of people go to their local Catholic churches on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day alone, and then they never go back for the rest of the year. No judgment here. But what happens when the baskets come around asking for donations, Sarah?


Sarah Pearson: I’m going to make a suggestion, and you know, no one get mad at me for this, but maybe instead of giving your money to the church this year, because as I have read, they have a lot of it and they seem to be doing OK, you could go to www. ECA and maybe donate to some of the international activists and activists in the United States so they can continue doing this work. You can visit our website www.Natesmission .org, learn more about our work or help by donating to survivors and activists in the state of Wisconsin who want to ensure that the attorney general puts out an accurate report by engaging survivors across the state around this issue and getting the word out, and continuing to bring attention to this, especially in the way it impacts marginalized people.


Phillip Picardi: Excellent. Sarah, this was great. Thank you so much for enlightening us on this issue, and good luck with the continued fight and the important work that you’re doing.


Sarah Pearson: Thank you so much for having me.


Phillip Picardi: OK. That’s all for our show today. Thank you again to Sarah, and we will be putting all of the resources that Sarah talked about in our show notes for this episode if you are looking to get involved or looking to make a donation. And please keep in mind, we only have two episodes left of season two of Unholier than now. They are two of my favorite episodes of the season. And yes, that lovely Dr. Darien is coming back for our finale. So stay tuned, and I hope you have a wonderful and safe start to your holidays and that you are traveling safely. I will see you next week.


Unholier Than Thou is a Crooked Media production. Our executive producer is me, Philip Picardi. Our producer is Lesley Martin, and Brian Semel is our associate producer. Our editors are Karim [unclear], David Greenbaum and Sara Gibble-Laska. The theme music is by Taka Yasuzawa.