- Group blasts Catholic bishop
- He hires off duty police captain
- Abuse victims call for investigation
- SNAP says move “compromises law enforcement”
- And it deters others with information from coming forward
- Organization wants prelate to list predator priests on website
Holding signs and child hood photos at a sidewalk news conference, leaders of a support group for clergy sex abuse victims will urge
-- a Montana Catholic bishop to stop using off-duty police officers to delve into child sex abuse allegations and
-- Montana’s federal prosecutor to investigate the practice.
The group will also
--prod the bishop to permanently post on his website the names, photos and whereabouts of all child molesting clerics who live or work (or have lived or worked) in his diocese, and
--beg anyone who has seen, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Montana to come forward, get help, expose predators, protect kids, and start healing.
Tuesday, April 3rd, 11:00 a.m.
In front of St. Patrick's Co-Cathedral 215 North 31st Street ( corner of 3rd. Ave. N,) Billings, MT
Two-three members of a Chicago-based international support group called SNAP, including a Missouri man and woman who are leaders of several individual groups
In a civil lawsuit filed in February, Timothy Becker of Billings charges that he was sexually abused in the 1970s by Fr. Theodore “Ted” F. Szudera. But months before, Great Falls/Billings Catholic officials say they hired off-duty Great Falls police captain Brian Lockerby to look into Becker’s case and that Lockerby deemed Becker “not credible.” http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2012/01_02/2012_02_09_Bennion_SexAbuse.htm
SNAP is urging Great Falls/Billings Bishop Michael Warfel to stop using police officers to examine sex abuse allegations.
Instead, the group wants the bishop to promptly report all reports and suspicions of possible child sex crimes immediately to police. If law enforcement officials can’t or won’t pursue charges (often due to the statute of limitations), then SNAP wants Warfel to hire retired law enforcement to look into the accusations.
The group also wants the prelate to permanently post on his diocesan website the names, photos and whereabouts of all proven, admitted, and credibly accused child molesting clerics. SNAP feels this is the quickest, easiest and most effective short term step Catholic officials can take to “protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.”
Hiring 'off duty' cops as investigators is legal in Montana (though apparently illegal in some states). SNAP believes that anything that compromises or undermines the integrity or independence of or reduces public confidence in - law enforcement, is problematic, especially in child sex abuse cases (in which victims are particularly, due to of the nature of the crime, distrustful of authorities and fearful of speaking up).
In a news interview weeks ago, Lockerby refused to confirm or deny whether he had investigated Becker’s case, citing client confidentiality problems. Lockerby is listed as a Captain in the Great Falls Police Department. He can be reached at 406-455-8412.
“It’s important for law enforcement officials to avoid even the appearance of any conflicts of interest,” said David Clohessy, SNAP Executive Director. “Any sort of work done off-the-clock that would affect an investigation on-the-clock is a concern.”
SNAP is calling for Michael Cotter, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana (406 657 6101), to investigate this practice and determine whether it is legal and/or ethical, and whether or not there was a violation of the law in this specific instance. Regardless, SNAP wants Warfel to stop this practice.
SNAP is also concerned about the independence of the review board in Montana. According to the diocese, Fr Szudera himself was a member of this board. While he was not sitting on the board at the time of Becker’s allegation, he was in fact placed there after the allegation was received in 2006.
The Diocese of Great Falls is currently faced with a lawsuit filed by ten claimants, including Becker. The abuse alleged in the lawsuit takes place in schools, missions, and churches in the following cities: Great Falls, Absarokee, Hays, Wolf Point, Hardin, St. Xavier, and Livingston. Becker is the only plaintiff who has been publicly named. This is the third lawsuit filed against the Catholic church in Montana since the beginning of last year, and is the first suit against the Diocese of Great Falls/Billings.
At least nine Catholic clerics in the Great Falls/Billings diocese are publicly accused child molesters. They include Fr. Joseph S. Heretick, Fr. Emmett Hoffmann, Fr. Kevin J. Malee, Fr. Joseph Mikulich, Fr. Clarence Moreau, Fr. O’Reilly (first name unknown), Fr. James Reynolds, Fr. Edmund J. Robinson and Fr. Szudera.
The Great Falls Diocese's Vicar General Peterson said that Bryan Lockerby was the one who investigated Becker's allegation and found that it was unfounded.
Many of the Montana victims are represented by Seattle attorney Timothy Kosnoff (425-654-0953 , firstname.lastname@example.org)