NY--Group to victims: “Careful with Cardinal’s plan”
Group to victims: “Careful with Cardinal’s plan”
Advocates feel it’s designed “to keep cover ups covered up”
Instead, they push for a new church whistleblower reward fund
And Dolan should not ask victims to give up their legal rights, they say
Holding signs and childhood photos, advocates and clergy sex abuse victims will prod New York Catholic officials to
-- set up a reward fund for church staff who call police about suspected predator priests,
-- help victims without insisting that they “sign away” their rights to file lawsuits, and
-- stop blocking secular child safety law reforms like the civil “window” bill pending in Albany.
They will also urge
-- victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to report everything they know, see or suspect about abuse to law enforcement (not church officials),
-- seek help from independent sources (not church, school, camp or coaching staff), and
-- join the growing movement to end or extend archaic, predator-friendly statutes of limitations.
They will also discuss two other similar Catholic church pay off schemes (in Milwaukee and Cincinnati) that they say were “deeply flawed and perpetuated secrecy.”
TODAY, Friday, Oct. 7 at 2:00 p.m.
Outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral (5th Avenue entrance) in Manhattan
Two clergy sex abuse victims and two veteran attorneys who’ve handled hundreds of abuse cases. The victims are with an international support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org), including 1) a Missouri man who is the organization’s long time director and 2) a New York restaurant owner who was abused as a child in Pennsylvania. (Both have lobbied for statutes of limitations reform.)
--1) Instead of a “top-down, internal, self-serving pay off plan,” victims and attorneys are urging New York Catholic officials to set up a new ‘whistleblower’ fund, offering cash rewards to current and former church staff who call law enforcement – not archdiocesan officials – with information or suspicions about sexually abusive church employees. They charge that a deeply-rooted "climate of secrecy" still afflicts the Catholic church and that Cardinal Tim Dolan must send a strong signal to church staff and members that reporting abuse to secular authorities is crucial and will strengthen, not weaken, the church.
“A reward fund would be a sign of good faith, a tangible step toward safer parishes and a stronger assurance that crimes and cover ups will be handled by independent, experienced professionals in law enforcement, not by biased, inexperienced amateurs in chancery offices,” said SNAP director David Clohessy.
--2) The attorneys and victims are also highly critical of Dolan’s new pay off plan.
They believe Dolan’s goal is to a) convince New York lawmakers that no legislative reform is necessary and b) get victims to sign contracts preventing them from ever suing church officials, in exchange for some short term financial gain.
Specifically, they feel Dolan is essentially signaling to legislators “Stop trying to extend the statute of limitations. We’re handling this problem ourselves.”
They want Dolan to help victims without insisting that they sign contracts that prohibit them from filing lawsuits against church officials to help protect kids, expose predators and deter cover ups. And they object to three other features of Dolan’s plan: Victims of abuse by religious order clerics (about one third of the total US clerics) are excluded. Victims must act by January. Victims can get from a church lawyer, which is ethically problematic.
The attorneys and victims are also urging New York victims to “move slowly and carefully” before meeting with church representatives and to consult with independent sources of help – especially their own lawyers – first.
While clergy sex abuse and cover up lawsuits attract considerable media attention, most victims of pedophile priests can’t seek justice in court, SNAP says, because bishops 1) exploit archaic, predator-friendly deadlines called “statutes of limitations” which “give wrongdoers incentives to intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, discredit whistleblowers, destroy evidence and ‘run out the clock’ on child sex crimes and cover ups.” Worse, SNAP says, bishops are spending “hundreds of thousands of dollars” on “high-priced lobbyists” to block moves to reform these rigid statutes.
SNAP opposes such “reckless, callous expenditures” that “save bishops’ reputations but endanger innocent kids.” The group wants state lawmakers to pass civil “window” laws that “make it easier for struggling victims to protect others, expose predators, deter cover ups and seek justice.” About six states (CA, HI, MN, DE and Guam) have enacted civil “window” laws. (In recent years, New York lawmakers have been increasingly receptive to the proposal.)
Dolan opposes this measure. Similar legislation is pending in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, where church officials are also leading the opposition.
As a result of civil “windows,” hundreds of adults who committed child sex crimes have been exposed, fired, demoted or otherwise punished and dozens of criminal prosecutions have taken place that likely would not have, SNAP maintains. The group says “windows” are “the single quickest, safest and cheapest way to expose predators, safeguard kids and end cover ups of child sexual assaults.”
Because bishops block “windows” and exploit tight statues of limitations, very few victims are able to “out” their perpetrators in court. (In the Milwaukee archdiocese, which Dolan headed for years before coming to NYC, for example, over the last four years, 575 victims have come forward reporting abuse by clerics there. But the identities and whereabouts of roughly 100 of these clerics remain hidden because victims cannot file lawsuits against them. The same is true of dozens of clerics who ignored or hid these crimes.)
Catholic officials disingenuously claim “window” measures “unfairly target” churches, SNAP says. But they are “neutral” bills that usually include all private non-profits where child sex crimes are most often covered up. Bishops say over time “witnesses die, memories fade and evidence is lost.” SNAP says these factors just make it harder on victims, who face the burden of proof in such cases.
“By opposing these bills, Catholic officials are “putting more kids in harm’s way in all kinds of institutions, secular and religious,” says SNAP director David Clohessy. “And they contradict all the nice-sounding things they say and Pope Francis says about safeguarding the vulnerable and healing the wounded.”
In New York, former Assemblywoman Marge Markey of Flushing (718-651-3185, 518-455-4755,MarkeyM@assembly.state.ny.us) and NY Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) have been most supportive of the civil window.
(For more on Dolan’s track record on abuse and cover ups, see
(For more on two similar church funds, see:
Contact: David Clohessy 314-566-9790 cell, firstname.lastname@example.org, Attorney Pat Noaker 612-839-1080,email@example.com, Attorney Lee James 208-818-6775, firstname.lastname@example.org, Barbara Dorris 314-503-0003 cell,bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org