CA - SNAP Letter to Los Angeles District Attorneys

Dear Mr. Birotte and Ms. Lacey;

We are members of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org). Our mission is to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth.

We are urging you both to convene new grand juries to investigate possible criminal charges against current and former LA Catholic officials for committing perjury, obstructing justice, destroying evidence, and similar offenses.

We’re aware that the LAPD has announced it is combing through the files, and we have confidence in the police.

But we believe a grand jury is a better approach, in part because of its subpoena powers. We also feel that if a grand jury is empanelled, other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers (including some with information about more recent wrongdoing by church officials) may voluntarily step forward.

In the very short term, we also hope that both of you will explicitly and emphatically beg victims, witnesses, and whistleblowers to come forward and share what they know or suspect about clergy sex crimes and cover ups.
This is especially important in light of:

• both sets of recently-released long-secret church records that show more sophisticated and determined wrongdoing by top LA archdiocesan officials,

• accusations that Archbishop Jose Gomez and his lawyers may still be violating a court order by withholding pages of records they are mandated to disclose and excessively redacting information about complicit church officials.

In 2011, a grand jury in Philadelphia released a report that resulted in criminal charges against three priests and one teacher for sexual assault, and a high ranking church official for child endangerment. In 2012, former Philadelphia Vicar General Msgr. William Lynn was convicted of child endangerment. Last month a priest and lay teacher also indicted by the grand jury were convicted of child sexual abuse.

Over the past decade, there have been statewide clergy sex abuse and cover-up investigations by attorneys general in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, plus local investigations by prosecutors in Philadelphia, Westchester County NY, and Suffolk County NY. All have culminated in lengthy and scathing public reports.

We know that several years ago, the LA U.S. attorney’s office investigated the archdiocese but brought no charges. Some speculated that alleged violations of the federal “honest services” law were being considered but the U.S. Supreme Court narrowed the potential use of that statute.

But we also know that, often, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” We know that it’s extraordinarily unlikely that centuries of recklessness, callousness and deceit in an ancient, rigid, secretive, all-male hierarchy doesn’t magically get reversed in a few short years. We also know that virtually no Catholic employee – from custodian to Cardinal – has ever experienced any real consequences for ignoring or concealing or enabling child sec crimes. So since long-time enablers of child sex crimes remain in power (despite the symbolic recent moves involving Bishop Curry and Cardinal Mahony), it’s very tough to imagine that there’s been much real change in sex cases by the LA archdiocese.

According to the independent website BishopAccountability.org, there are 260 publicly accused child molesting clerics in the LA archdiocese. (At least a handful of them have just been outed, we believe, in the recently released records.) We believe the actual number of LA area predator priests is considerably higher.

Given these figures, and the almost certain covering up that is found in nearly every clergy sex crime, it’s nearly impossible to believe there aren’t at least a few clerics whose wrongdoing is recent enough and well-documented enough to enable criminal prosecution.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

Joelle Casteix 
David Clohessy 
Barbara Dorris

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