For immediate release: Thursday, February 13, 2014
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
We are grateful a serial child molesting deacon at Fairview Heights' First Baptist Church has been caught and charged. But it's disingenuous for the minister to distance himself from the offender and call the offender a member instead of a deacon.
We have tremendous respect for law enforcement. But we're also troubled by a Shiloh police officer's assertion that he is “confident that none of these acts were committed at the First Baptist Church and that no other personnel at the church knew that the offenses were being committed.”
At best, it seems premature to say this. At worst, it seems unwise to make such a claim, instead of simply begging every person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes by this minister to come forward.
Who knows what other victims, witnesses, whistleblowers or evidence may surface? We think it's best if police and prosecutors keep open minds and not rush to judgment and risk the chance that they'll later have to retract their statements exonerating current or former church staff.
And we hope that anyone who may have information or suspicions about these crimes will promptly report to secular officials, not church officials.
(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 15,000 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)