IL--Victims write Peoria bishop about accused priest
For immediate release: Wednesday, September 2, 2015
For more information: David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, firstname.lastname@example.org, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Dorris (314 503 0003, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org), Jeff Jones, Peoria SNAP leader (jjones10072gmail.com, 815 985 9441)
Victims challenge bishop about alleged predator priest
He’s a “credibly accused child molester,” church admits
But group worries that his whereabouts now are secret
“We fear he has hurt others or is hurting others,” SNAP says
Cleric reportedly also led weekend retreats for Catholic teenagers
A victims’ group is prodding Peoria’s bishop to be more honest about a just-suspended priest who allegedly committed child sexual abuse. It also wants Catholic officials to “aggressively seek out others who may have seen, suspected or suffered these crimes so the wrongdoers might be prosecuted.”
Last week, Fr. Terry Cassidy was removed as pastor of St. Anne’s parish in Peoria because of accusations of child sexual abuse. The announcement was made in a news release from the Peoria Diocese. But Bishop Daniel Jenky would “not specify a number of victims, when the misconduct occurred or when the allegations were made,” according to the Peoria Star Journal.
Leaders of a support group called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests are writing to Jenky urging him to “take decisive action to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth.”
Specifically, SNAP wants the bishop to disclose:
--where Fr. Cassidy is now,
--how much time elapsed between the first abuse report against Fr. Cassidy and his suspension, and
--how many individuals have reported child sex crimes by Fr. Cassidy.
They also want Jenky to
--put Fr. Cassidy in “a remote, secure, independent and professionally-run treatment center, so that kids will be safe,”
--personally visit every place where Fr. Cassidy worked, “begging victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call law enforcement,” and
--turn over to law enforcement all church records about Fr. Cassidy.
“Catholic officials will often oust child molesting clerics from parishes because it’s a smart legal defense and public relations move for them,” said Jeff Jones, SNAP’s Peoria leader (jjones10072gmail.com, 815 985 9441). “The real issue is: Will church officials warn and help protect the public from these dangerous predators? That’s what almost every bishop refuses to do.”
“We hope Bishop Jenky will show some courage, go beyond the bare minimum and do what any caring shepherd would really do, by aggressively seeking out victims, witnesses and whistleblowers,” said David Clohessy of St. Louis. He is SNAP’s director. “For starters, Jenky should tell parents, police, prosecutors, parishioners and the public where Fr. Cassidy is now so that kids can be kept away from him.”
“We’re afraid Fr. Cassidy may be hurting kids right now,” said Clohessy. “And it’s very likely others who were hurt by him are “still suffering in shame, silence and self-blame. So Peoria’s bishop, priests and lay Catholics should do everything possible to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.”
For roughly three decades, Fr. Cassidy was at 16 Illinois churches and helped lead weekend retreats for teenagers. He’s also had two leaves of absence.
“No matter what Jenky and his staff do or don’t do, we hope every single Peoria area Catholic will ask their loved ones ‘Did Fr. Cassidy hurt you’ and urge anyone who was hurt by him to speak up and get help from independent sources, not church officials,” said Barbara Dorris, outreach director for SNAP. “Fr. Cassidy belongs in jail. Bishop Jenky can help put him there, if only he’ll show some spine and use church bulletins, websites and pulpit announcements to nudge those with knowledge or suspicions about Fr. Cassidy’s crimes to call law enforcement.”
A copy of SNAP’s letter to Jenky, sent today by fax and email, is below.
Dear Bishop Jenky:
We are leaders of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Last week, you removed Fr. Terry Cassidy as pastor of St. Anne's parish in Peoria because of credible accusations of child sexual abuse. We are very disappointed that you did not specify a number of victims, when the alleged crimes occurred or how long ago the report was made to you or your staff.
We urge you to take decisive action to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth. We specifically urge you to disclose where Fr. Cassidy is now and how much time elapsed between the first abuse report against Fr. Cassidy and his suspension? Also, how many individuals have reported child sex crimes by Fr. Cassidy?
We also urge you to put Fr. Cassidy in a remote, secure, independent and professionally-run treatment center, so that kids will be safer. You should personally visit every place where Fr. Cassidy worked begging victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call law enforcement.
Finally, it is imperative that you turn over to law enforcement all church records about Fr. Cassidy.
Bishop Jenky, we hope you will show some courage, go beyond the bare minimum and do what any caring shepherd would really do, by aggressively seeking out victims, witnesses and whistleblowers. For starters, you should tell parents, police, prosecutors, parishioners and the public where Fr. Cassidy is now so that kids can be kept away from him.
We're very concern and worried that Fr. Cassidy may be hurting kids right now and it's very likely others who were hurt by him are still suffering in shame, silence and self-blame. Please do more than the bare minimum. Suspending him is smart public relations and a smart legal defense move. But you’re a shepherd. Your duty goes beyond protecting you, your colleagues, and your reputations. Your duty is also to do all that you can to help make sure Fr. Cassidy is kept away from kids and, if possible, prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Executive Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
St. Louis MO 63143
Peoria SNAP director
Outreach Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
6245 Westminster Place
Saint Louis, MO 63130
314 503 0003, bdorris@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.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
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.