Clergy sex abuse victims are urging America’s Catholic bishops to denounce Owensboro church officials for keeping quiet for 18 years about an allegation against a priest who now faces criminal child sex abuse charges.
At a sidewalk news conference today in Atlanta, where all US bishops are meeting, leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are expressing concern about Fr. Louis Francis Piskula of the Owensboro diocese. Last week, Piskula was arrested and charged with sodomy and child sexual abuse.
Local church officials essentially admitted that he was accused of similar wrongdoing in 1994 and secretly suspended from active ministry in 2002.
“As best we can tell, neither Owensboro Bishop William Medley, his predecessor Bishop John McRaith, nor any other current or former diocesan staffer ever disclosed this crucial fact: that a credibly accused child molesting cleric was living among unsuspecting Kentucky families,” said David Clohessy, SNAP Director.
“It’s hard to imagine a more reckless move than to keep silent about credible child sex abuse accusations for almost two decades,” Clohessy continued. “So Owensboro Catholic officials have, for years, put kids at risk – and broken the church’s abuse policy - by hiding at least one credible child sex abuse allegation against a priest from parishioners and the public.”
“A decade ago, America’s bishops pledged to ‘correct’ each other when clergy sex cases were mishandled,” said Barbara Dorris, SNAP Outreach Director. “That’s what we want to see here. If wrongdoing is ignored, wrongdoing is encouraged. So we’re hoping that – formally or informally – at least a few bishops will be brave enough to publicly say ‘The Owensboro Catholic hierarchy has behaved irresponsibly.’”
The official statement released by last week by the Owensboro diocese admitted that Fr. Piskula "had not been in any ministerial assignment since 2002 in accordance with the policies enacted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."
America’s bishops hold their semi-annual meeting this week. They are scheduled to discuss their ten-year old national abuse policy. SNAP wants that policy “radically revamped” to include penalties for “church officials who “ignore, hid and enable child sex crimes.”