Bishops Scramble to Respond to Exposure of Widespread Complicity in Hiding Sexual Predators
For immediate release, September 21, 2018
Statement by Tim Lennon, President of SNAP, tlennon@SNAPnetwork.org, 415-312-5820
Last month the explosive Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report exposed that, despite the promises of 2002, the Catholic hierarchy was still covering up for sexual "predators."
This damning Report has had Bishops across the country scrambling to respond to angry parishioners and public outrage. The empty gestures that have been produced so far fall into three categories.
Response #1: Create New Policies
Yesterday the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops announced new initiatives, including a “Code of Conduct,” additional administrative oversight, and an investigation into the "situation" surrounding Archbishop McCarrick.
None of these initiatives makes a single child safer or helps survivors to heal, because not one of them addresses or changes the canon laws that support the systemic cover up of sexual abuse in the Church.
It is perhaps particularly disturbing that the Conference felt the need to develop a "code of conduct." We are amazed that these purported moral leaders need to be reminded that the sexual abuse of children and minors and its cover up is wrong and a crime.
Response #2: Investigate Yourself
Bishops in St. Louis, Kansas City, and now New York Archdiocese have opened investigations into how sex abuse was handled in their dioceses.
We wonder how they expect people to trust them to be honest now and in the future if they have not been honest in the past?
In our eyes Pennsylvania's grand jury report established the bench mark that should be followed in all other investigations. Investigators need the power to subpoena documents and to compel current and former Church officials and staff to answer tough questions under oath.
Moreover, any investigators hired by a Bishop, even former FBI agents or judges, would still in fact be working for the diocese. The Bishop would have complete control over what information the investigators will receive, and most victims will not trust the process enough to participate.
Response #3: Release the Names of Accused Priests
The Fort Wayne IN Diocese and the San Bernardino CA Diocese have released the names of accused priests.
This step does provide a measure of healing for survivors and an opportunity for victims to step forward, tell their truth, and seek help.
However, the names could have been named three months ago, a year ago, five years ago. We cannot help but feel that they are being released for PR purposes, not because of any real concern for those how have been or could be hurt. We also wonder if the names will continue to be exposed after the current fervor dies down?
In addition, a complete look at the scope of sexual abuse in a Diocese would not be limited to those Diocesan priests who have been "credibly accused" of abusing minors. It would include all Diocesan priests accused of sexual abuse, including those alleged to have abused adults. The list would also include Order clergy who worked in the Diocese, women religious, and lay employees.
Responses #1, #2, #3 are all PR motivated and will not get to the root of the problem, or expose all the abusers. We instead urge concerned citizens to prod the Attorney General in their state to launch an investigation just like the on-going one in Pennsylvania.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, is the world's oldest and largest support group for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has a network of more than 25,000 survivors and supporters. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org )
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.