As the Pope’s Summit Ends, Survivors Continue on Their Own Path towards Healing and Prevention with the Help of Secular Officials

For immediate release: February 25, 2019

After four long days in Rome, survivors and advocates who had hoped to see Catholic church officials take concrete action towards ending the clergy abuse and cover-up crisis were left disappointed. At the end, Pope Francis offered only words, “reflection points,” and policies to consider for the future.

No bishop who had been involved in covering-up or minimizing allegations was fired. No directive was handed down to order bishops to turn over their secret abuse files to police. No punishment was agreed upon nor system put in place for disciplining those bishops who continue to cover-up abuse cases in the future.

In other words, no child was made safer and no survivor was helped during this summit.

And so, in many ways, not only was the summit everything that survivors expected it would be, but is also an affirmation that we are right to lay our hopes for change at the feet of secular officials, not those in the church.

This summit was called because of the explosive grand jury reports and investigations in places like Pennsylvania and Chile. The work of independent law enforcement officials compelled catholic leaders to look deeply at this problem once again and, now that those same catholic leaders have failed to take direct action, those secular officials will be the ones we are looking to for action in the future.

And while it is true that the church will need updated policies and procedures to handle this crisis, this weekend should have been about taking immediate disciplinary action and then implementing these policies, not giving church officials who have actively minimized allegations a pass. Now more than ever it is clear that change must be brought from the outside in.

As it is, currently there are seventeen investigations that have been undertaken by state attorneys general and there are rumblings of an investigation at the federal level as well. Based on what we have seen in Pennsylvania and Illinois, we know that independent law enforcement officials won’t give bishops and cardinals who have covered up abuse that same pass.

We hope that, following this summit and inaction from the Pope, attorneys general back here in the United States will continue to launch investigations into clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups. As we had suspected, any hope for change rests with them.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009), Esther Hatfield Miller (estherhatfield@yahoo.com, (562) 673-9442), Tim Lennon (tlennon@snapnetwork.org, (415) 312-5820), Mary Dispenza (mcdispenza@comcast.net, (425) 644-2468), Carol Midboe (SNAPaustin@yahoo.com, 512-934-3473) Becky Ianni, SNAP Board Member (snapvirginia@cox.net, 703-801-6044)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org


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