A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is writing Pope Francis seeking a meeting to discuss how to stop and prevent current and future child sex crimes and cover ups. (Copy of letter is below.)
Over the past decade, leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, have rarely tried to meet with Catholic officials, saying such efforts over the group’s first 15 years were largely “frustrating and fruitless.” Instead, the group has focused its advocacy work largely on secular officials to reform laws and prosecute those who have committed or covered child sex crimes.
But SNAP has expanded into more nations over the past few years, and “we now better understand just how helpless and fearful so many survivors across the world feel, especially in developing countries and countries where this crisis remains largely unspoken,” said SNAP Midwest Director Peter Isely of Milwaukee. “So despite years of unproductive talks with the church hierarchy, we feel driven, for the safety of at risk children, to try again with this new pontiff.”
“Your predecessor met a few times with a few carefully chosen victims in tightly choreographed settings, as he visited nations where this crisis had reached a fever pitch,” Said SNAP’s letter. “We seek a different kind of meeting – one in which our respective organizations – yours, huge and struggling, and ours, small and struggling – can perhaps begin to work together to safeguard children.”
“Struggling adults who were molested as kids can heal themselves, with or without the help of church officials, through therapy, support groups, and loved ones,” SNAP’s letter said. “But vulnerable kids cannot protect themselves, without the help of church officials. That’s one reason we believe that prevention is where we should all concentrate our energies.”
In his travels, Pope Benedict met with a handful of victims in a few nations including the US and the UK. SNAP was largely unimpressed with those events, arguing that they were largely symbolic with little practical effect on the crisis.
SNAP routinely urges those with knowledge or suspicions of child sex crimes to contact secular authorities, not church figures.
“We stand by that advice,” said SNAP director David Clohessy of St. Louis, who is in Rome. “That’s almost always the safest and quickest way to get a dangerous priest away from kids.”
Still, Clohessy said, SNAP cannot overlook the “immense power” of the pope to make “sweeping changes” in what the group describes as “a long-standing, deeply-rooted and still devastating crisis in the church.”
Twice in the last week, including yesterday, papal spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi mentioned SNAP by name, though not in flattering terms. But SNAP leaders say they are not deterred by such hostility.
“However slim the chances of such a meeting may be, or the chances it will lead to real reform, we simply have to try,” he said. “Some Catholic officials admit that our work is indeed helping to make the church a safer place for everyone. Someday, more will understand that.”
At a news conference in Rome last week, SNAP outlined 20 steps towards resolving the crisis that it hopes the new pope will take during his first 100 days on the job:
SNAP, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for victims of clergy sexual abuse with support groups in over 60 cities US cities and chapters in eight nations.
SNAP’s letter, being sent today by email and fax (if possible) and via overnight express, is below.
Dear Pope Francis,
We are survivors of childhood rape and sexual assault by catholic clergy around the world.
You have chosen as your namesake a man who was one of the greatest reformers in church history, a figure whose memory is universally beloved because he stood for justice. Across the globe, as you know, tens of thousands of childhood survivors of sexual abuse by clergy – priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians and others - are coming forward and demanding justice, accountability, prevention and transparency. We believe they are, by their courageous example, the “St. Francis” of the modern church.
Your predecessor met only a few times with a few carefully chosen victims in tightly choreographed settings, as he visited nations where this crisis had reached a fever pitch. We write today seeking a different kind of meeting – one in which our respective organizations – yours, huge and struggling, and ours, small and struggling – can begin to work together to safeguard children across the globe (not merely make gestures when forced to do so by external pressures).
Despite the differences we may have, we desperately hope we might be able – and you might be willing – to calmly talk with us about ways to better protect children from the devastating, lifelong effects of horrific childhood sexual trauma.
One of the famous sayings of St. Francis is: “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” We believe that as daunting as it seems to rid the church of child sex offenders and corrupt church officials, doing so is necessary, for the sake of justice, healing and prevention. Surely a meeting between us – survivors who have labored in this vineyard for 25 years – and you, the new pontiff of the global church, could be a helpful way to perhaps begin this crucial work in a more positive way.
St. Francis once said “The deeds you do may be the only sermon persons will hear.” The deeds you do or omit to do – during your first days as Pope about the greatest moral challenge to the modern church—the abuse of children and the cover up of that abuse—will indeed be the only sermon that many in the world today are going to hear from you. We hope those deeds will be practical, proven and effective steps to stop child molesting clerics and deter complicit church supervisors from concealing their crimes.
Thank you for your comments and encouragement of me in my efforts here, and now. Yes, you know, I did also read while researching Mr. Burke’s comment that he was from Ireland, and I was struck by that fact and interested. However, in trying to quickly find where and when he made that statement (about how evil continues without the concerted efforts of good people protesting loudly in unison against it), I ended up copying and quoting what seemed to be the most salient explanation and context wherein he was described as being English. (I guess the British and Americans thought him so fine a man, that they all wanted to “claim” him!!!) Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to you, Dr. McHugh, and thank you for your work with victims of clergy sexual abuse! I’m sorry to tell you, but my goal is to someday make an end to there being any patients for you to treat who have suffered this particular tragic mental and physical trauma caused by other humans. I’m sure you would be happy as well, to be able to turn your focus to patients who are sick with other illnesses than those caused by pedophile, Catholic priests and laity, though! The silence must be broken! Shining the light on this evil, will change the circumstances substantially. I am convinced of that.
Best regards to you, as well,
I enjoy reading your down-to-earth and very practical comments. As an Irish American who went to medical school at Trinity College Dublin, I would like to mention on this St Patrick’s Day, that Edmund Burke was an Irishman. He graduated from Trinity College Dublin and there is a fine statue of him gracing the front entrance of Trinity College in Dublin. He did move to England and worked in politics, so I can understand you thinking that he was English. Please keep up your fine work in giving a voice to victims of clergy sexual abuse. Thankyou.
Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois
Please send your letter to the pope, again. (I almost wish it were possible to "hammer and nail a copy of it onto the church doors, as martin luther did during the reformation.) In my opinion, your request and suggestions for change should be made very, very public, and now is really an ideal time to make it known and public.
So, since you cannot hammer and nail a copy of your letter to the doors of the church, please send your letter again and try to tell the press and media representatives staying there for tomorrow’s installation (of the pope), that you have sent this letter to the new pope, twice. And, please let the “outside” media/press there, know the content of your letter. Please let the rest of the world know that there are in fact good people such as yourself, and me and other people of faith, who WANT THIS TRAVESTY in the church, THE SEXUAL ABUSE OF CHILDREN IN THE CHURCH, STOPPED!!!
I seriously doubt that he was encouraging the actions that SNAP has put forward, but if it is true that he was the only commenter on this heinous situation, then maybe, with much continued encouragement by SNAP and others, maybe more cardinals and the pope, in particular will finally have an epiphany.
from: The Henrik Hudson School District Library Media Centre http://www.lhric.org/henhud/library/RGModelPaper.html provides a model essay for students which ends with the words,
“Perpetrators, collaborators, bystanders, victims: we can be clear about three of these categories. The bystander, however, is the fulcrum. If there are enough notable exceptions, then protest reaches a critical mass. We don’t usually think of history as being shaped by silence, but, as English philosopher Edmund Burke said, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph [of evil] is for good men to do nothing.’ (this is a commonly known quote and does not need to be cited)”
So, please Mr. Clohessy and all the members of SNAP, take heart and stay bolstered in your efforts and know that there now exist notable and numerous exceptions to the silence. We bystanders are no longer willing to “do nothing”, nor are we any longer willing to allow those who might otherwise be good and decent people in the church hierarchy, to do nothing. The Pope must take action!
THE POPE, PRIESTS AND LAITY CANNOT CONTINUE TO HAVE IT “BOTH WAYS” ON THIS ISSUE. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH EITHER PREVENTS PEDOPHELIA BY CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND LAITY, NOW, OR IT DOESN’T. IT REALLY IS THAT SIMPLE.
THANKS TO PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ALL THE MEMBERS OF SNAP AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS, THERE IS NOW A LANDSLIDE OF EVIDENCE MADE PUBLIC (AND CURRENTLY BEING UNEARTHED IN CATHOLIC CHURCHES AROUND THE WORLD),THAT SURELY IF WE ALL PERSEVERE, CAN NO LONGER BE IGNORED BY ANY OF THEM, AND WILL NO LONGER BE TOLERATED BY THE MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH.
THANK YOU FOR NOT “LOSING HOPE” IN YOUR EFFORTS!
“Jesus had harsh words for anyone who would destroy the innocence of a child. SNAP is focused on the protection of children from sexual abuse by priests.”, and;
“If the leadership of the church is serious about dealing with this issue, then it would be wise for the leadership to work with, and not against, SNAP.”
Sadly, today I saw brief television news coverage of the first mass the new pope said at the vatican, today, March 17, 2013. I say “sadly”, because he spoke in a language I don’t understand, and the news commentator summarized (and I’m paraphrasing, here) that the pope talked about the huge and immense capacity of God, to forgive.
I don’t hear or see yet, in this man, this priest who is the new pope of the catholic church, any sign that he understands or feels any need to speak to the abused catholic children and their families, and/or to literally help the survivors of such abuse by telling the world that he plans to change the status quo. I don’t hear or see yet, any sign from him of wanting to deal with this overwhelming and overriding issue of the 21st century church. And, pope francis specifically speaking about “God’s forgiveness” today, at this specific time, seems antithetical to acknowledging the Gospel as told in Matthew, Mark and Luke, and the joyousness most of us Christians feel about Christ and the gospel HE brought to this earth.
(Readers, you may note that I often do not use capitalization when speaking of the catholic church and its priests and popes and saints. it isn’t because i don’t know how to type in that fashion, it is because sometimes I just do not “have it in me” to make the extra effort to type that way, and sometimes I feel like neither church nor any of its laity, deserve my respect yet, in taking the extra effort.)
I am a disabled adult, and I am thus very grateful to the founders and members of SNAP who it seems WILL PERSEVERE until the catholic church changes itself or the rest of the world changes the church, for them. A practicing, pedophilic catholic clergy and laity CANNOT BE ALLOWED TO CONTINUE. full stop!!!! (period!!!!)
Jesus had harsh words for anyone who would destroy the innocence of a child. SNAP is focused on the protection of children from sexual abuse by priests.
If the leadership of the church is serious about dealing with this issue, then it would be wise for the leadership to work with, and not against, SNAP.
Sexual abuse is a crime. Therefore it is important for all cases of clergy sexual abuse to be referred to the police for investigation as well.
Sincere thank you to Barbara Blaine, David Clohessy, Barbara Dorris, Peter Isely and everyone involved in SNAP for giving a voice to the victim/survivors of clergy sexual abuse.
I hope and pray that Pope Francis will meet with and work with SNAP, for the greater glory of God!
Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, Illinois, USA
And, on this subject I personally do not tolerate any attempt at making the subject “humourous”.
PEDOPHILE PREDATOR PRIESTS AND LAITY COMMIT HEINOUS CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY,
LITERALLY, HEINOUS CRIMES AGAINST THE MOST VULNERABLE AND LEAST OF US. NOTHING ABOUT TRYING TO BRING AN END TO SUCH HORRIFIC CRIMES, THE PERPETRATORS OF WHICH ARE CURRENTLY BEING ENABLED AND HIDDEN BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, IS FUNNY. THESE PEDOPHILES WHO HAVE BEEN HARBORED BY THE CHURCH, MUST BE STOPPED. FULL STOP.
Thank you, David Clohessy, for writing the new Pope. Thank you for having the courage to request in writing, a meeting with Archbishop Bergoglio, now, new Pope Francis in these next few days.
And, thank you for posting the contents of your letter here on this site.
I actually hope that you will post your letter in as many places as possible in this modern era of global communications! In my opinion, there should be nothing private or privileged about requesting a meeting with the Pope regarding the requests of the people to change the church’s past action(s) or perhaps to be more articulate, past inactions and evasion of the reality of pedophilia in the ranks of the clergy and laity, for hundreds if not, thousands of years!
Yes, I am glad that he has chosen “Francis” for his new name, and I do hope that he chose it because he wants to be similar to St. Francis of Assisi. However, we do not know, yet. (As has been mentioned, he may have chosen St. Francis’ name, simply to pay homage and show respect to the Catholics of Italy, whose Patron Saint, I have now learned, is St. Francis of Assisi.)
So, it is difficult for me, to yet ascribe as much significance to Father Bergoglio’s choice of his new name. Difficult for me, to believe in such “proof” of “greatness”, as other people have already ascribed to him in their haste to be happy and in their rush to “glorify” and exalt the voting Cardinal’s selection, of this particular Priest to be the next Pope.
Thank you, Mr. Clohessy, for your calmness and clarity of purpose at this time in particular.
Personally, I do believe, whether or not this Pope is actually ready at this time in his life, to attempt the reform that once accomplished, will most certainly be gargantuan; and will be, in effect the most monumental reform in the Catholic Church on Earth, since its inception.
I truly believe that.
Personally, I, as a currently “wavering” Catholic, who am a mother and grandmother of Catholics, am more proud of your courageous actions and persistent haste and timeliness to pursue such needed change in the Catholic Church.
I am quite honestly, relieved to know that you and your associates and friends and co-sufferers, as the founding members and leaders of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), are requesting to meet with the new Pope, at this time.
And, I pray that God and the Trinity, give you strength of your knowledge and of your convictions, to continue to believe in the real possibility that this Pope might actually be the person on earth, who will “reclaim” the children, all Jesus’ children of the earth and save them from the heinous crimes of child predators who have until very recent times, well “hidden” themselves, deep inside the Catholic Church.
May God truly BLESS YOU IN YOUR CONTINUED EFFORTS. MAY HE BRING REAL RESULTS FROM YOUR LOVING PERSISTENCE! MAY GOD GRANT YOU RELIEF FROM ALL YOUR SUFFERING IN THIS EFFORT! Please BELIEVE IN YOUR OWN WORK AND CONTINUE YOUR HONEST AND GREAT EFFORTS ON BEHALF OF US ALL.
And please report to us all from your meeting with Pope Francis. I think that I do believe, and know, that I most certainly hope and pray that he will respond to your request! Please remember my earlier comparison of this battle and your participation in it as being similar to (perhaps, your namesake) David, and Goliath. Please believe and REMEMBER that this is the time and that you can and will be successful. I think and believe that those optimists among us are all praying for your success, David!