IL/CA- Victims expose secret sex abuse and cover-up letters
Chicago youth activist and LA priest accused of abuse
Official demanded all emails about allegations destroyed
Church officials "quietly removed" cleric from LA parish
He's now working with youngsters in Chicago
Where is the often-promised church “transparency?” group asks
At news conferences in Chicago and Los Angeles, victims of child sex abuse will expose for the first time previously secret letters that show church officials are currently covering up for a high-ranking priest and Chicago youth activist. The letters show that:
-- the priest has a credible accusation of child sexual abuse against him,
-- a church official told priests to "destroy" incriminating emails, and
-- Chicago archdiocesan staff wanted the allegation kept secret
Victims will also:
-- demand complete transparency from Chicago and LA church officials
-- urge both archbishops to reach out to parishes where the priest worked, and
-- offer support to parishioners who have been "kept in the dark."
WHERE AND WHEN:
CHICAGO: Today, Wednesday, September 10, At 1:30 PM outside of the Chicago Archdiocese - 835 N. Rush St (corner of Chestnut)
LOS ANGELES: Today, Wednesday, September 10, At 11:00 AM Outside of San Gabriel Mission Parish- 428 S. Mission Drive (at Ramona) San Gabriel
Three or four adults who were abused as kids by clergy and belong to a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (including a Chicago woman who is the SNAP president and a California woman who is the SNAP volunteer Western Regional Director). SNAPnetwork.org
A Chicago church official recently ordered the destruction of incriminating emails about an LA priest who was recently sent back to Chicago where he previously worked – and now works – as a youth activist.
The secret letters about Claretian priest Fr. Bruce Wellems were written in May by his supervisor, Claretian provincial Fr. Rosendo Urrabazo, who has a history of quietly moving credibly accused predator priests.
The letters, which were written while Wellems was pastor at San Gabriel Mission in the Los Angeles archdiocese, were obtained by SNAP.
The first letter says that Wellems engaged in "inappropriate behavior with a younger child when he was a teen." The allegations were allegedly "rediscovered" in a file review. A second letter says that the Chicago Archdiocese was "reconsidering" any public announcement about the allegations and that priests should destroy all copies of both letters.
Wellems was quietly sent back to Chicago from Los Angeles in May or June where he is now a "missionary" working with inner-city youth. Before working in LA, he was the executive director of Boys Town Chicago, Inc, a short-term residential assessment center in the ‘Back of the Yards’ neighborhood.
After Wellems removal, San Gabriel parishioners in LA formed a Facebook group to bring the priest back. The group's administrators spoke with Fr. Urrabazo, who told them he recently went on a trip to Florida with the Holy Cross/Immaculate Heart of Mary Marimba Ensemble, a youth musical group.
The Ensemble's website says that Wellems is the founder of the organization. Wellems was photographed with children as he chaperoned the Florida trip Fr. Urrabazo informed the Facebook group about just last month.
SNAP wants both the Claretians and Chicago archdiocesan officials to reach out to potential victims and parishioners who are hurt and confused and make public announcements about Wellems and all Claretians who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.
Copies of the letters and other materials will be available at the press conference and at BA.ORG after both news conferences are completed.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have 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)
In Chicago: Barbara Blaine, SNAP President (312-399-4747; firstname.lastname@example.org); David Clohessy, Executive Director (314-566-9790, email@example.com) or Barbara Dorris, Outreach Director (314-503-0003, firstname.lastname@example.org)
In Los Angeles: Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach, SNAP Volunteer Western Regional Director, (949) 322-7434, email@example.com
SNAP will be Representing Clergy Abuse Survivors in Rome!
We are taking the fight to Rome and are standing up for all survivors on a world stage! From February 19-25, Board President Tim Lennon, Seattle Leader Mary Dispenza, Los Angeles Leader Esther Hatfield Miller and Austin Leader Carol Midboe will be traveling to Rome for Pope Francis' Papal Abuse Summit.
If you are a member of the media and looking to get in touch with these survivors while in Rome, click here for our media advisory and contact information. If you are interested in connecting with a survivor in the US from your area of coverage, please contact one of the SNAP leaders in the US listed below:
- East Coast/DC: Becky Ianni (SNAPvirginia@cox.net, 703-801-6044)
- Midwest/Chicago: Zach Hiner (firstname.lastname@example.org, 517-974-9009)
- Midwest/St. Louis: David Clohessy (email@example.com, 314314-566-9790)
- West Coast / San Francisco: Melanie Sakoda (firstname.lastname@example.org, 925-708-6175)
If you are looking to help spread the word about the importance of this summit and for survivors to be heard, add your voice to the conversation on social media using the hashtag #PBC2019. Be sure to follow SNAP on twitter and Facebook and share our posts, add your comments, and let the world know that we are watching!Learn More