LA- Victims blast Lafayette DA & bishop
For immediate release: Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790,firstname.lastname@example.org)
We are disappointed in Lafayette's Catholic bishop and its district attorney. The bishop won't release the names of 15 credibly accused predator priests and the D.A. won't even ask the bishop for them. What an irresponsible decision by both men.
Bishop Michael Jarrell “sees no purpose in releasing their names,” and D.A. Mike Harson is “not sure what purpose it serves me." We hope both men reconsider.
Here, simply put, is the purpose of exposing the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesters – to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. Both of these well educated men know this.
In religious terms, “the truth shall set you free.” And in secular terms, parents can better protect their sons and daughter from predators if they know who those predators are.
Another reason Jarrell should disclose the names: a dozen years ago, all U.S. bishops pledged to be “open and transparent” in clergy sex cases. Roughly 30 U.S. bishops have posted on their websites the names of predator priests.
If dozens of his colleagues can post predators' names on their websites, the least Jarrell can do is to disclose them.
If even one of these 15 credibly accused sex offenders is alive, let's err on the side of safety. If he is too dangerous to put on the job in a parish, then he's too dangerous to live among unsuspecting single mothers in an apartment complex, teach piano lessons in his home, be a volunteer tutor, coach basketball, or babysit his nieces.
And if even one victim or one of these 15 credibly accused sex offenders is alive, let's err on the side of compassion. Disclosing a predator's name can be very healing to his victims.
Now, regarding Harson specifically:
Instead of being a naysayer, he should be vigorously urging those who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups to call law enforcement.
Victims of child sexual abuse aren't apt to break years of silence unless they see officials showing some willingness to pursue predators and safeguard kids. In the absence of such signs, victims are likely to continue to stay trapped in silence, shame, and self-blame.
Conversely, we've seen dozens of instances in which authorities have been successful in publicly prodding victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police and ultimately convict predator priests. And across the country over the years, we've seen law enforcement become more aggressive and creative in successfully prosecuting even older child sex cases and church staff who were complicit in the crimes (on charges like endangering a child, destruction of evidence, intimidation of witnesses, or failure to report suspected abuse charges).
But not when there's an attitude of “I'll just sit by the phone and see if any victim calls.”
Need we remind Harson that America's seemingly-endless 30 year clergy abuse and cover up crisis started in Lafayette when another bishop did precisely what Bishop Jarrell is doing now – putting the comfort and power of the institution and its officials above the safety and healing of its flock.
Let's get specific. Here are two very real scenarios.
If Harson asks for Jarrell's list and gets it, he may find that a proven, admitted or credibly accused child molesting cleric now coaches soccer, teaches school, is a volunteer tutor, or lives next to a day care center. (We've seen hundreds of cases like this – in which a predator priest is suspended from active ministry but quickly and quietly finds some other position – paid or volunteer – that gives him access to children.) Harson may then be able to use pressure – either subtle or overt – to prod the bishop to move the molester.
Then, law enforcement officials could approach the soccer team, the school kids, or the day care center parents and see if any of them report more recent crimes against the cleric, crimes that are within the statute of limitations.
If Harson asks for Jarrell's list and doesn't get it, this is a further sign that local Catholic officials are still wedded to self-serving secrecy, instead of to the safety of youngsters. That alone is progress: when the church hierarchy is publicly revealed to still be reckless, callous and self-serving, still more committed to protecting powerful adults over innocent children. That's something local citizens and Catholics need and deserve to know.
And even by asking for Jarrell's list, regardless of the outcome, Harson could signal other employers that Lafayette's law enforcement community is serious about going after those who commit or conceal child sex crimes. That alone might deter future deceit or recklessness by employers.
In some instances, law enforcement is right to act only when crime victims step forward. This is not one of them. Child sex crimes and cover ups, like gang violence or terrorism, requires a more aggressive and creative approach.
Finally, in our 25 years of helping victims, we can't recall a single instance in which a victim was hurt by a prosecutor's failure to successfully convict a pedophile priest. But we know hundreds of victims who have been hurt because a prosecutor refused to even try. Come on Harson, show some spine, compassion and leadership. At least publicly urge Jarrell to give you those 15 names.
(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 25years and have more than 18,000 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)