IL- Twice-accused priest will “self-restrict,” archdiocese claims
For immediate release: Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-503-0003, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
The Archdiocese of Chicago says a twice-accused predator priest will stay in a parish, but has supposedly agreed not to be alone with children.
This is ridiculous. It's like putting a drug addict to work in a pharmacy and claiming “he's agreed to never be alone with pills."
This is precisely the claim that hundreds of bishops made for decades: that somehow, priests could still be in parishes and stay away from kids because their colleagues will supervise them 24/7.
This is precisely the claim that had led to thousands of children being molested by priests, nuns, brothers, seminarians and bishops.
This is precisely what bishops promised they would stop doing more than a decade ago, when, in Dallas in 2002, they committed to a much-ballyhooed but rarely enforced "zero tolerance" policy for child molesting clerics.
Fr. Michael W. O'Connell faces two accusers. The most recent one met with and is being taken seriously by law enforcement officials. A criminal investigation has been re-opened. Yet Cardinal Francis George and his staff insist on keeping Fr. O’Connell in a position where he will undoubtedly encounter children.
We challenge Chicago Catholic officials to explain in detail how they'll make sure Fr. O'Connell will keep himself away from kids.
And here's the icing on the cake: Now, Chicago archdiocesan officials are breaking the US bishops' national abuse policy. Instead of imposing restrictions on alleged abusers, archdiocesan officials are letting accused priests decide themselves whether to restrict themselves.
No church abuse policy anywhere – national or local – contains any “self-restriction” provision for twice-accused child molesting clerics.
This confirms what we've said for decades: church abuse policies are toothless window dressing, ignored and broken time and time again, as Catholic officials do what they've always done: handle each case in whatever way is most convenient for them at the time, regardless of the risk to kids.
According to the Sun Times, “Unless there is further information that warrants additional action,” O’Connell will remain in active ministry, the archdiocese said, noting that he “has agreed not to be present in the parish school or alone with a child, until these issues are resolved.”
Cardinal George is not insisting that Fr. O'Connell be suspended or be sent away for treatment or move to a secure, remote facility (so he can be monitored). Cardinal George has apparently asked Fr. O'Connell “Hey Mike, would you mind staying away from kids for now please?”
And Fr. O'Connell has apparently agreed.
We are not the least bit reassured and we suspect many Chicago Catholics and citizens aren't either.
We beg anyone who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes, misdeeds or cover ups to speak up now. Please find the strength to step forward and call independent sources of help: police, prosecutors, therapists or support groups.
(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)
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.