IL--Archbishop keeps secret about “new facts” about admitted predator
For immediate release: Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Chicago’s top Catholic official refuses to tell police, prosecutors, parishioners, parents or the public about “new facts” he says his staff have uncovered about an admitted predator priest. That’s reckless and wrong.
Archbishop Blasé Cupich is being as secretive and reckless with Fr. Bruce Wellems as Cardinal Francis George was with Fr. Daniel McCormack.
Arguably, Cupich is being worse than George because Fr. Wellems is an admitted predator, while Fr. McCormack was a credibly accused predator.
We’re glad Fr. Wellems won’t be put back to work in Chicago but Catholics need and deserve to know these “new facts.” Does this mean other victims have stepped forward? Does it mean Fr. Wellems has deceived his flock? Does this mean his direct supervisors, the Claretians, have lied to local parishioners about Fr. Wellems?
Fr. Wellems admits having repeatedly sexually abused Eric Johnson when Wellems was 15 and Johnson was seven. The Chicago Archdiocese temporarily suspended Fr. Wellems but dragged their feet for months while pondering whether to let the predator priest work again in Chicago again.
When confronted about his abusive acts, Fr. Wellems attacked the messenger, saying reports of his abusive acts had “no factual basis.”
In a bizarre twist, when our group warned parents and parishioners about Fr. Wellems, he attacked us, saying we’re guilty of “poor judgment” and “victimizing the thousands of families in the parishes where I have worked.”
Now, Archbishop Cupich should hold a news conference, explain his irresponsible and secretive behavior with this admitted predator and announce this decision to keep Fr. Wellems out of ministry in Chicago.
Fr. Wellems’ backers try to spin this as a story of sin and redemption. That’s disingenuous at best and downright dangerous at worst. This is a story of crime, not sin, and of recklessness, not redemption.
Making excuses and minimizing crimes by calling them “sins” endangers children. Violating “zero tolerance” pledges by keeping admitted molester priests in ministry puts children in harm’s way.
Johnson was prevented from taking legal action against Fr. Wellems and his supervisors because of the stature of limitations.
We’re glad Fr. Wellems won’t be allowed to work in Chicago as a priest but we’re sad that it took months before Catholic officials made this decision. In any other institution, it would have been a “no brainer.”
We hope any families who like or trust Fr. Wellems will now try hard to keep him away from their kids. We hope others who have information or suspicions about his crimes – or cover ups by his colleagues – will step forward. We hope every single current and former Chicago church employee will spread the word and warn others about Fr. Wellems.
Back of the Yards activists and non-profits have, like Cupich and his church colleagues, repeatedly given Fr. Wellems access to kids. So we hope that these individuals and groups will do an abrupt reversal and start actively seeking out other kids who have been sexually groomed or assaulted by Fr. Wellems. That’s their civic and moral duty.
These groups include Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Cornell Square Park Advisory Council and The Resurrection Project.
No matter what else may happen with Fr. Wellems, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(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)
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.