DC--Catholic teacher arrested; Victims respond
For immediate release: Friday, July 17
A Catholic school teacher faces child sex abuse charges. Cardinal Donald Wuerl must step up now and aggressively seek out anyone else who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes.
That’s the only way to really break the long-standing, deeply-rooted and, sadly, on-going secrecy and timidity within the church about child sex abuse and cover ups. A terse, vague news release won’t do it. A tiny notice on the archdiocesan website won’t do it. Passing the buck to underlings won’t do it. Only action by the highest-ranking and highest profile Catholic official in Washington DC will do it.
That’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Imagine the powerful signal it would send if Wuerl would go to Connelly School of the Holy Child and beg anyone with information or suspicions about Justin Andrew Gordon to call law enforcement right away. But virtually no bishop takes this kind of effective prevention step. They prefer distancing themselves from these heinous crimes and hiding behind their public relations staff and defense lawyers while comfortably ensconced in their cozy offices.
According to the Washington Post, “Montgomery County police said they think other students might have also been abused.” We agree. That’s almost always the case with child predators.
That’s why it’s crucial that Wuerl help these two victims, their families, other victims, and the police and prosecutors by making an immediate, clear, personal appeal for other victims witnesses and whistleblowers to step forward.
Almost never does a Catholic bishop actively help police investigate and prosecutors pursue criminal cases against child molesting clerics, teachers or other church staff. Almost always, bishops make brief and self-serving public statements claiming remorse and reform about abuse. But that’s public relations. And decisive action, not public relations, protects kids.
So we call on Wuerl to go to the school on Monday and meet with all parents and staff. We call on him to explain to them that secrecy only helps wrongdoers. We call on him to explain that others might have hidden or ignored Gordon’s crimes and should be reported to law enforcement too.
Wuerl is responsible for the safety of Catholics in his archdiocese. Most important of all, of course, is the safety of children, whether they attend archdiocesan school or an “independent” Catholic school. We beg him to go beyond the bare minimum and help make sure that Gordon is convicted and kept away from kids for as long as possible.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has 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