AK--Victims blast Juneau bishop over abuse remarks
For immediate release: Friday, March 4, 2016
An Alaska bishop is posturing on children’s safety instead of preserving children’s safety We urge him to stop making promises and start making progress toward exposing and punishing Catholic clerics who commit and conceal child sex crimes.
Juneau Bishop Edward Burns claims it’s “shocking to hear of the (Altoona) grand jury report about more than 50 priests assaulting hundreds of kids in central Pennsylvania. That’s baloney.
More than two dozen similar reports and governmental inquiries across the globe (at least eight here in the US) have documented the very same patterns: across continents and decades: many priests abusing many kids, many church supervisors and colleagues ignoring and concealing those crimes, many priests eventually getting exposed as predators through civil suits and criminal probes, and many bishops promising to “do better” but refusing to do anything more than promulgate more meaningless and rarely enforced internal church policies.
If Burns has paid any attention to this crisis, he can’t be “shocked” by what has happened and is happening in Altoona. If he’s “shocked” by Altoona, let’s see him act to remedy it. He’s the head of the US bishops sex abuse committee. He has an enormous bully pulpit. He can use it to exhort church staff to act responsibly. Instead, he postures.
And he controls his own diocese. But he’s done nothing more than the bare minimum that’s required of him regarding abuse.
About 30 US bishops have posted predators’ names on their website. Burns refuses to do so.
PennLive summarized the most alarming part of the Altoona grand jury report. This is the part that Burns should focus on fixing, instead of claiming “shock” and professing sadness:
The bishop controlled the Allegation Review Board.
Bishop Adamec created the Allegation Review Board to allegedly determine the credibility of an allegation of abuse.
However, the purpose of creating the board, the grand jury said, was to convince people that the days of a mysterious bishop deciding how to handle a scandalous and heinous report of child molestation were over.
"In reality, the bishop still exclusively makes the decision how or what to do with a report of child molestation," the grand jury said. "Nothing has changed but the trappings of how a report is procedurally made."
The grand jury said victims who believed they were reporting to a board of unbiased and neutral observers "would be sadly mistaken."
Diocese 'victim advocate' looked out for the church, not the victims.
The grand jury concluded, upon interviews with victims and reviews of documents, that the diocese "victim advocate" is an advocate for the diocese against the interest of the victims. The victim advocate was identified as Sister Marilyn Welch.
"Where the advocate can shuffle a victim into the Allegation Review Board without the involvement of legal representation for a victim, she does so," the grand jury reported.
"Money is offered. Confidentiality and release claims are signed by victims and the diocese to avoid public scrutiny."
Decisive action protects kids, not public relations pablum. It’s long past time when Catholic officials, especially Bishop Burns, should take decisive steps to expose predators, punish enablers and protect kids.
Finally, let us do here what Burns and his brother bishops refuse to consistently or effectively do: Please, if you saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes or cover ups – in Alaska or anywhere – speak up. Protect kids by calling police, not church officials. Start healing by calling therapists and getting help from independent sources, not church officials. Expose wrongdoers by calling journalists, not church officials.
Three years ago, we prodded Burns to make two simple, cheap, proven prevention steps. He ignored us:
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has 30,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
A Statement by Bishop Edward J. Burns of Juneau, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, March 3, 2016
This week brought painful, but important, reminders that we must remain vigilant in our efforts to protect children from the scourge of abuse. The movie "Spotlight" won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It chronicles the courage of the victims and the journalists who told their story. In statements from Cardinal O'Malley in Boston and the Vatican newspaper in Rome, the Catholic Church renewed our determined and firm resolve to protect children and felt deep sorrow for the tremendous pain.
On Tuesday, we received news of a grand jury report out of Altoona, Pennsylvania. Although I can't speak to the specifics in Altoona and would defer to the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference as to any statewide impact, like everyone, I read the news with great pain.
It is heart wrenching and shocking to hear of this grand jury report or of any incidents of abuse, and it is even more disturbing when we learn that innocent children were abused by priests within the Church. Once again, the wounds inflicted through these heinous crimes have caused great pain and further mistrust in the Church. We must never lose sight of the fact that every victim/survivor has personally experienced profound injury, suffering, and betrayal.
These moments are a reminder why the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002, exists and must be followed. This highlights all the more the importance that we never grow complacent. As stated in the Charter, we are to cooperate with law-enforcement agencies, permanently remove those who have offended, and effectively create a safe environment for our children. Only with vigilance can we ensure that children are kept safe and so allow the Church to help our people in a process of healing and address the mistrust that rises from these cases.
MEDIA CONTACT - Norma Montenegro Flynn 202-541-3202
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.