August 19, 2004
Dr. Anne E. Pulsifer, Ph.D.
Diocese of Portland Review Board
Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland
Dear Dr. Pulsifer,
We, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), respectfully urge you to immediately step down from your position as a member of the Diocese of Portland Review Board.
In published remarks this past weekend, you defended a former diocesan chancellor, Msgr. Joseph Ford, who has been accused of covering up sexual abuse allegations against one of his brother priests.
Whether your published remarks are right or wrong is not the issue. Your perceived objectivity, and therefore your effectiveness, is the issue.
Review board members must be perceived by the community as being impartial and unbiased. Members must refrain from speech, gestures or other conduct that could reasonably be viewed as supporting either victims and their supporters, or accused clerics and their supporters. Any review board member who manifests bias impairs the Board as a whole and casts doubt upon its fairness.
Victims of clergy sexual abuse must believe that they can trust members of the review board. If that trust does not exist or is damaged, victims will not come forward, the board will not be effective, abusers will remain in ministry, and children will still be at risk
At the same time, due process must be rendered to clergy members who have been accused of sexual abuse. In your role as member of the board, you should have abstained from public comments that could be perceived as prejudicial to either side.
Victims are often afraid to report their abuse. They fear the consequences of disclosing information and are often convinced that no one will believe them. They often blame themselves for the abuse and fear retaliation from the abuser and other authority figures if they tell. They fear that no one will believe that a highly regarded and well loved priest could have sexually abused any child. To overcome these factors and fears, victims need to believe they will be met with open arms, hearts and minds. Your comments about Msgr. Ford make it harder, not easier, for victims to beak their silence.
Dr. Pulsifer, we realize that resigning from the review board will be a difficult and heart wrenching decision for you to make. However, your decision will not be made in vain.
By stepping down, you can demonstrate that you take your board membership seriously, and genuinely want to do all you can to encourage wounded men and women to step forward, protect others, and begin to heal.
We look forward to your prompt response.
National Director, SNAP
St. Louis MO
314 566 9790 cell
312 399 4747