October 16, 2013
Dear Bishop Taylor:
Last month, Kathy Griffin was convicted and sentenced for refusing to promptly call authorities when she knew of or suspected child sex crimes at a Catholic school in your diocese.
And this Saturday, her backers – many of them Catholic - will hold a fundraising event for her.
We are worried about the child who was hurt longer because Griffin broke the law and stayed silence. We are also worried about other child sex abuse victims who will be discouraged and depressed – when they see adults publicly rallying around and raising money for a convicted criminal. And we are worried that ignoring this callous injustice will encourage others in the future to publicly back those who commit and conceal child sex crimes.
Imagine, Bishop, that you’re a 13 year old boy who’s being molested by his soccer coach or a 12 year old girl who’s being molested by her uncle. In each case, the predator tells the child “If you speak up, no one will listen or believe you. I’m a popular person around here. Everyone will think you’re lying or crazy.”
Then this Saturday, that boy or girl walks into Cotham’s in the City and sees signs, balloons and posters supporting Griffin. He or she asks “What’s the celebration about?” and learns that perhaps dozens of adults are publicly backing a former teacher who was found guilty in a court of law of endangering kids and hiding child sex crimes. Imagine how that boy or girl will feel. And imagine how unlikely it is that the boy or girl will find the courage and strength to speak up, call police, expose wrongdoers and protect others.
Let’s get more specific. One of your flock, an Arkansas Catholic girl, was hurt by Kelly O’Rourke, a teacher at a Catholic school in your diocese. That hurt likely went on longer because Griffin, another teacher at the same Catholic school in your diocese, stayed silent.
Imagine how this victim, her family and her friends will feel if they find out about this fundraiser? And when they realize that you could have done something but instead did nothing.
You can try to stop this. You can try to spare others more pain. If you try, you may even succeed. You can certainly denounce this publicly and deter people from attending.
Bishop, this isn’t rocket science. It’s simple compassion. It’s simple justice. And it’s simple abuse prevention.
So we are asking you to take four steps.
-- publicly denounce the event this Saturday,
-- forbid Catholic employees from attending it,
-- do all you can to prevent others from holding similar events supporting those convicted of committing or concealing child sex crimes, and
-- aggressively reach out to anyone else who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by the two teachers or any other Catholic employee in the state.
If your do nothing, you’re essentially siding with a criminal and re-victimizing a victim. Staying silent about such a callous event directly contradicts every pledge every made by every bishop to treat child sex abuse victims with compassion.
Whether intentional or not, this event sends a very strong message to any church employee who’s tempted to conceal child sex crimes: “You’ll be supported, no matter how egregious your wrongdoing is.”
Is that the message you want sent throughout your diocese?
Victims who’ve been sexually violated by Catholic employees should not have to see or hear about Catholics publicly raising money for a convicted criminal who stayed silent about suspected child sex crimes. Again, we urge you to at least publicly denounce this kind of incredibly insensitive and intimidating behavior.
People who want to support either Griffin should do so privately and not publicly “in ways that scare and depress other child sex abuse victims into staying silent.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
Kris Ward of NSAC, National Survivors Action Coalition Kristine Ward, Chair, National Survivor Advocates Coalition (NSAC), KristineWard@hotmail.com, 937-272-0308