Last week, Ashley Gonzalez, a courageous 22-year-old security guard at the Church of St. Michael the Archangel in New York, came forward with a report and video documentation of sexual misconduct by esteemed priest Rev. George William Rutler. While much of the reporting on this incident has been focused on the misconduct in contrast to Rev. Rutler’s influential stature, charity work, and famed conservatism, what is less obvious, and arguably more chilling, is how this incident highlights the insidious culture of misconduct and abuse thriving in the shadows of the Archdiocese.
Rev. Rutler’s misconduct is shocking when measured against his reputation, but not when measured against the flood of clergy sexual abuse claims filed against the Archdiocese since the New York Child Victims Act opened courthouse doors to survivors in 2019. This behavior is part of a well-maintained system of secrecy and abusive power in which sexual misconduct lives and breathes behind the façade of piety the Archdiocese has been working tirelessly to maintain. But with each report of sexual misconduct and child sexual abuse, the façade cracks, the cracks widen, and the true nature of the Archdiocese of New York is further exposed.
The integrity of investigative measures pledged by the Archdiocese ring hollow. According to a spokesperson for the Archdiocese, “Father Rutler, after discussions with the archdiocese, voluntarily stepped away from his duties as pastor for the good of the parish and the archdiocese […] He does not have an assignment at this time. He is not serving as a priest.” This means the Archdiocese officials are asking the public, yet again, to trust their ability to police themselves and trust that Rev. Rutler won’t offend in the meantime. It’s out of the same playbook Archbishop Dolan used to protect another celebrated priest of the Archdiocese, Monsignor John Paddack, earlier this year. The same plays have been used by the Archdiocese for decades, and they are as disheartening as they are dangerous.
Archbishop Dolan is choosing the play he knows and trusts because it has worked for years to hide the crimes of clerics, to protect the reputation of the Archdiocese and the Church, to keep the façade maintained. But we know the play, and every survivor who shares their truth does too. It’s time to shine the full light of truth of the shadows of the Archdiocese. Rest assured, if Archbishop Dolan won’t, survivors will.