For immediate release: Thursday, July 24, 2014
Statement by Tim Lennon of San Francisco, SNAP Leader, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (415-312-5820, email@example.com)
The Los Angeles Archdiocese evidently believes that Fr. John Wadeson is a credibly accused child molester. A decade ago, they listed him as an “accused” priest. We see no evidence that they've changed their minds or are even reconsidering.
And the Guam archdiocese suspended Fr. Wadeson this week. The Archdiocese of Agana announced Tuesday that Apuron has removed Wadeson from "active and public ministry" in response to "concerns in the community." "The Archdiocese of Agana has a policy regarding sexual misconduct and sexual harassment and takes these matters seriously," the local archdiocese stated.
But Provincial Fr. Tom Ascheman says that "the allegation was never substantiated, no formal accusation was ever made, and no settlement was offered, or made."
So we fear that Fr. Wadeson may soon be back on the job here in San Francisco among unsuspecting colleagues, neighbors and families.
The archdioceses of Los Angeles and Guam are acting responsibly. The Archdiocese of San Francisco is acting irresponsibly. Fr. Wadeson should not be allowed to work as a priest here. If he's already doing so, we urge Archbishop Salvatore Joseph Cordileone to suspend him.
Reluctantly and belatedly, under tremendous pressure, Los Angles Catholic officials have publicly released the names of hundreds of proven, admitted and credibly accused predator priests. As best we can tell, they've never gone backwards and said “We were wrong about this guy. We should have never listed him as 'accused.'”
In fact, we don't know of a single Catholic official on the planet who has disclosed child sex abuse allegations against a priest who has later said "Oops, I made a mistake. I shouldn't have done that."
At least four church officials must step up here, tell the truth and warn others about Fr. Wadeson.
First, San Francisco Archbishop Cordileone should tell what he knows about these allegations and explain why Fr. Wadeson was apparently allowed to work as a priest here even though he was ousted elsewhere. Not one of his aides. Not one of his spokespersons. But the archbishop himself.
Second, the Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez should explain, in detail, why LA officials banned Fr. Wadeson from ministry. He should release all necessary documents, post them on his website, and keep them there.
Third, the Guam Archbishop Anthony Apuron should explain why he let a credibly accused child molesting cleric work unchecked in his archdiocese and why he suspended him this past week.
Fourth, the head of the religious order, Divine Word Missionaries, Provincial Fr. Tom Ascheman to which Wadeson belongs should also take steps to ensure Fr. Wadeson does not present himself as a priest.
We believe each of these prelates has a moral and civic duty to use their websites, parish bulletins and pulpit announcements to beg anyone who saw, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Wadeson to call police immediately.
And it should go without saying – but we'll stress it here – that US bishops pledged “zero tolerance” of abuse and “one strike and you're out.”
They did NOT pledge “zero tolerance” only if there's a “formal complaint” or a “settlement offered,” or a “settlement made.” So these phrases by a San Francisco Catholic official are irrelevant dodges.
There's one worst course of action here. It's the one that's most tempting for each prelate. It's the one we most commonly see in cases like this. It's the one that breaks every real promise made by bishops for the past decade or more, especially the promise to put kids’ safety first and be transparent about clergy sex crimes. And it's the one that most endangers kids.
It's saying or doing nothing.
For each of these prelates, that's dreadfully reckless and callous.
But regardless of what Catholic officials do or don’t do, they aren't the only ones with power in this situation. Every single church employee or member – past and present – has power too. They can bring up Fr. Wadeson's name to friends, family, and colleagues. They can warn parents and parishioners about him. They can ask loved ones and acquaintances “Did you ever spend time around Fr. Wadeson? If so, did he hurt you or did you see something suspicions? If so, will you please call police or prosecutors right away?”
That will help protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. The real power and responsibility lie with Catholic officials. But even custodians and secretaries and lay people can – and should – spread the word and protect kids by warning people about Fr. Wadeson.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 20,000 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)