Tag Archives: religion

Day 183: Pope Francis

Photo: L'Osservatore Romano

Photo: L’Osservatore Romano

Five years ago I met John Wojnowski on Day 121 of my Year of Giving. He’s an intriguing man. Every day he sits in front of the Vatican’s embassy here in Washington with signs condemning the Catholic Church. I wondered why, so one day I went to talk with him.

It turns out Wojnowski, who is Polish but moved as a child to Italy, says that when he was 15 he was sexually abused by a Catholic priest in Milan. Despite the Catholic Church settling hundreds (possibly thousands) of cases of sexual abuse in recent years, they have been reluctant to consider Mr. Wojnowski’s claims because, according to Wojnowski, the priest has since past away and the incident happened more than a half century ago.

I have no doubts about Wojnowski’s claims – only something that hurtful and disturbing would make you lead such a personal and vulnerable crusade for nearly 20 years. He claims that a financial settlement will resolve this for him. I’m not so sure about that, but if that is what he thinks will give him peace, I hope that he receives it.

Day 183-2

Your Holiness,

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing to you with a suggestion.

I live in Washington, D.C. Many things change here. Republicans and Democrats come and go with the change of administration. But one thing that has remained constant since I have lived here is John Wojnowski.

Day 183Every day for the past 17 years Mr. Wojnowski has stood in front of the Vatican’s embassy at the corner of Massachusetts and 34th Street holding signs that condemn the Catholic Church. The signs say thing like, “My life was ruined by a Catholic pedophile priest” and “The Vatican hides pedophiles.”

I’ve met Mr. Wojnowski – he shared with me the story of his sexual abuse by a Catholic priest in Milan, Italy in 1958. He’s a very troubled man who seeks financial restitution from the Church.

In the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People it details that the Catholic Church has paid more than $2.2 billion to settle 500+ sexual abuse cases in the U.S. in the past 13 years.

If you took the time to meet Mr. Wojnowski you wouldn’t doubt his story for a minute. He’s a simple man – he travels an hour each day, taking two buses, to get to the Vatican’s nunciature.

My point is this. He’s killing your image – thousands of people drive by him every day. He’s been doing this for nearly 20 years, he’s not going to stop until he dies or gets restitution. It just seems that the right thing to do is to offer him settlement. He can then move on with his life and you will not have someone tarnishing your brand every day. What do you think?

I hope that you will consider looking into this.
Reed Sandridge

P.S. I respect how you have led the Church these past two years. In a time when less people are identifying themselves as religious, you’re creating a renaissance, bringing younger Catholics back to the Church. And while I think there are still many reforms needed, it is inspiring to witness your leadership.


Day 150: Rev. Charles

Rev. Randolph C. Charles at The Church of the Epiphany. Photo: epiphanydc.org

Rev. Randolph C. Charles at The Church of the Epiphany. Photo: epiphanydc.org

Street Sense, an organization that I’ve supported for many years, has been housed at The Church of the Epiphany on G Street in downtown Washington for as long as I can remember. The staff is extraordinarily welcoming and kind to the staff and the many men and women who sell the Street Sense newspaper.

I learned yesterday that Rev. Charles, who has skillfully led the church for many years, is retiring. I’ve only met him briefly, but his kindness and compassion toward the organization has touched the hearts of so many and I thought I would send him a note to thank him and wish him well.

Day 150


Dear Rev. Charles,

Yesterday I learned that you were retiring from your position as pastor at Church of the Epiphany. I’ve been on the Board of Directors of Street Sense for 3 years and appreciate very much everything that the church and you personally have done for the organization. Your warm, welcoming spirit has touched the hearts of many of the men and women experiencing homelessness that are involved with Street Sense. As a pastor, you recognize the importance of community, fellowship and establishing a home – the Church of the Epiphany has been a home to all of us who visit. Street Sense would not be able to do the work that it does and help so many people find their way home without the leadership and friendship you have provided to so many. Thank you! On behalf of Brian Carome, our staff, vendors, volunteers and fellow Board members, I thank you and wish you well in all of your future endeavors. May our paths continue to cross.

With great appreciation,
Reed Sandridge
Street Sense Board Member


Day 88: Tim Cook, Apple Inc.

Photo: apple.com

Photo: apple.com

Lately tempers have been flaring over the incendiary legislation being introduced into several state legislatures. They’re referred to as Religious Freedom Bills – something that would be hard not to support given the history of our our earliest immigrants. But if the very freedom that a bill provides establishes a lawful way to discriminate against a certain part of our population, then we fail in creating a society based upon the immortal declaration that Thomas Jefferson so carefully instilled into our history. We strip our history of the progress made in civil rights – we might as well be having this conversation 55 years ago at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, wrote an excellent opinion piece for the Washington Post where he offered a different lens in which to view this discussion. I encourage you to read it and trust that it will provoke you to “think different” about this situation – after all that is Apple’s motto.

Day 88

Dear Mr. Cook,

Your open letter to the Washington Post was outstanding. I was extremely impressed by the way you talked about the debate over “religious freedom” legislation. You did something brilliant in the letter – you changed the story from one about politics and religion to one about a more universal value about how we treat our brothers and sisters in our community. Skilled leaders do just that – change the narrative to one that allows a greater audience to see a subject more clearly.

Thank you for thinking differently,

Reed Sandridge
PO Box 53065
Washington, DC 20009

 P.S. Good luck with that watch!