Fate of suspended Philly priests may be released, SNAP responds

Fate of suspended Philly priests may be released, SNAP responds

Soon Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput will disclose the status of perhaps dozens of accused child molesting clerics. No matter what he specifically announces, we remain highly skeptical of church abuse processes.

We also believe that Chaput has recklessly kept kids in harm’s way by sitting on most of these decisions for months. At the outset, we said that citizens and Catholics need and deserve to know as soon as possible whether church officials consider each allegation credible. And we predicted that for public relations reasons, Chaput would wait and announce all the decision at once. How will he and his lawyers and staff feel if it turns out that a child was sexually assaulted by one of these clerics while Chaput delayed announcing that he was credibly accused?

(Chaput’s claim that to announce his decision about these priests might violate a court gag order is spurious.)

We’re skeptical because the so-called “reforms” made in Philly in recent months are virtually identical to the so-called reforms made by bishops across the US in 2002. Given the church hierarchy’s continuing horrific track record on abuse, we just can’t be reassured by or give real credence to the workings or findings of internal church abuse proceedings.

A good example is that of Fr. Michael Kelly in Stockton CA. Years ago, Kelly was accused repeatedly of abuse, yet church officials insisted that their own internal process was thorough and that their finding of Kelly innocence was correct. Despite this, after yet another abuse claim, an impartial jury found Kelly guilty last month after hearing weeks of evidence. Kelly has since fled to Ireland, and police in Stockton are reporting that they have spoken to several more who say he molested them.

It's not just the job of the archbishop and his lawyers to delve into child sex charges. Every current and former Catholic church employee and member should ask everyone they know "Did a church employee - any of them – ever hurt you?" That’s how we find every victim and help them begin to recover. That’s how we help substantiate abuse allegations. Each of us has a duty to do what we can to help get information that can help authorities – religious and secular – remove child predators from positions of power over and access to kids.  And each of us has an obligation to try to find those trapped in shame, silence and self-blame – and help them get better.

We suspect that some of the allegations will be deemed “unsubstantiated.” If so, current and former church staff and members should – in conversations - bring up the names of any accused clerics against whom child sex allegations may be called "unsubstantiated." Leaving accusations “unsubstantiated” is often a cop-out by church officials, who have the resources and ability to get more information about allegations, but often lack the courage to further pursue them.

It's not just the job of the archbishop and his lawyers to delve into child sex charges. Every current and former Catholic church employee and member should ask everyone they know "Did a church employee - any of them – ever hurt you?" That’s how we find every victim and help them begin to recover. That’s how we help substantiate abuse allegations. Each of us has a duty to do what we can to help get information that can help authorities – religious and secular – remove child predators from positions of power over and access to kids.  And each of us has an obligation to try to find those trapped in shame, silence and self-blame – and help them get better.

Furthermore, we remain unconvinced that Cardinal Chaput has any real interest, however, in doing away with these private and fruitless internal investigations and promptly involving the secular justice system in child sex cases. As archbishop in Denver, Chaput:

--Repeatedly tried to bully survivors into church-run “mediation” in order to keep the truth about their abuses from going public (http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2006/05_06/2006_05_25_Gorski_ChurchReady.htm).

--Repeatedly tried to deny justice for victims using legal technicalities and loopholes, such as in a case from January of 2011 in which Chaput and his lawyers argued that “sexual misconduct is outside the scope of a minister’s duties, and therefore not something the Catholic Church can be liable for,” and in that same case implied that an alleged rape was “just a date gone wrong.” (http://www.snapnetwork.org/snap_statements/2011_statements/012411_chaput_attacks_alleged_rape_victim_w_legal_hardball_snap_responds.htm

--“Massaged” the numbers of reported abuse cases in his diocese in an effort to underreport the statistics and number of predators that have worked in the Denver Archdiocese.  (http://www.bishop-accountability.org/usccb/natureandscope/dioceses/denverco.htm)

So what is needed is not more church-run investigations, but for more victims, witnesses, and whistleblowers to come forward to police and let outside investigations take place. And Pennsylvania lawmakers must reform the state’s archaic, arbitrary and predator-friendly child sex laws that give predators and their pals incentive to destroy evidence, intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, discredit whistleblowers and “run out the clock” on heinous crimes against kids.

Until the time comes when church officials advocate for these real reforms, reasonable people can put no stock in their largely self-serving and ineffective “reforms.” 

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  • published this page in Media Statements 2012-05-02 12:56:24 -0500