MA - Abuse Victims Ask Bishops To Censure Law & Strip Him Of Positions
For immediate release:
Monday, Dec. 9, 2002
For more information:
David Clohessy 314 566 9790, 314 645 5915
Mark Serrano 703 771 9606, 703 727 4940
The nation's leading clergy abuse survivors group is urging three of America's top bishops to speak out against Cardinal Bernard Law, and strip him of any positions he holds within the nation's bishops conference, in light of the most recent horrific disclosures of abuse cover up by Boston archdiocesan leaders.
The three are Wilton Gregory of Bellville, head of USCCB, Harry Flynn of St. Paul, head of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, and Robert Brom of San Diego, head of the USCCB's committee on bishops accountability.
The text of the letter is below.
Meanwhile, in Washington DC, SNAP's founder and president is receiving a Woman of the Year Award from Ms. Magazine. Barbara Blaine, a social worker and attorney, started SNAP in 1989. The Toledo native made headlines in her hometown recently when she spoke at the University of Toledo Law School. When asked for a comment on her visit, a priest who serves as the Toledo diocesan spokesman replied "Where do we plant the bomb? And you can quote me on that." SNAP has asked that the priest be removed from his position. He has apologized.
9 December 2002
The Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory
222 South Third Street
Belleville, Illinois 62220
Request by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) for the
Censure of Bernard Cardinal Law, Archbishop of Boston, Massachusetts.
In the preamble to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, America's Catholic bishops pledge to respond to sexual abuse in a way that manifests their accountability to God, to God's people, and to one another. Without diminishing the importance of broader accountability, this letter focuses on the accountability that flows from the Church's episcopal collegiality and fraternal solidarity - a moral responsibility that each member of the hierarchy maintains for one another.
While bishops are ordained primarily for their diocese, they also are called to protect the unity of the Body of Christ and to promote the common discipline of the whole Church (Canon 392). Participating together in the college of bishops, you have pledged responsibility to act in a manner that reflects both effective and affective collegiality, including fraternal support, fraternal challenge, and fraternal correction. (www.nccbuscc.org/bishops/commit.htm)
The time has come for you and your fellow USCCB officers to exercise the spirit of collegial and fraternal correction regarding Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston.
Many Catholics are disgusted and dismayed by the extent of sex crimes committed by dozens of Boston-area clergy, and covered up by several bishops, during Cardinal Law's tenure. Therefore, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests believes that USCCB leaders must publicly censure Cardinal Law, in order to heal the trauma of the Church there as well as send a message to the faithful nationwide that the hierarchy
acknowledges the crimes that have been committed against children and the healing so desperately needed within our spiritual family.
As stated in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People: "Let there be no doubt or confusion on anyone's part: For us, your bishops, our obligation to protect children and young people and to prevent sexual abuse flows from the mission and example given to us by Jesus Christ himself, in whose name we serve." (www.nccbuscc.org/bishops/charter.htm)
Clearly, the ongoing disclosures of sex offenses committed by some Boston priests and the concealment of this criminal activity from the proper authorities are the foundation for redress. Recently released church records show that Cardinal Law has protected a member of the priesthood - Father James D. Foley - who has admitted fault in the death of the young woman who fathered his children. Father Foley remained in parish ministry until last week.
While we wait for prosecutors to investigate the tragic death of this young woman, SNAP believes that the USSCB should speak out clearly and forcefully against Cardinal Law. USCCB officers should also consider taking similar action toward those who served as members of Cardinal Law's senior management team.
Article 5 of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People: states unequivocally: "We repeat the words of Our Holy Father in Address to College of Cardinals of the United States and Conference Officers: There is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm children." (www.nccbuscc.org/bishops/charter.htm)
The precedent for the removal of bishops well established. Some bishops who have been removed from office and censured in recent years include:
-Archbishop Juliusz Paetz, Poznan, Poland, March 28, 2002: alleged sexual abuse of seminarians.
- Bishop Brendan Comisky, Ferns, Ireland, April 1, 2002: aided and abetted known Irish pedophile priests.
- Archbishop Rembert Weakland, Milwaukee, May 23, 2002: paid $450,000 in hush money to cover up long-term abuse allegations. Cited Church mandatory retirement at age 75 rather than resigning.
- Bishop J. Kendrick Williams, Lexington, Kentucky, June 11, 2002: founding bishop, three allegations of pedophile crimes are made against him. A class-action lawsuit was filed May 30 alleging a cover-up of sexual abuse of at least 100 male minors by diocesan priests dating to 1983. The diocese has been appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court to keep abuse files secret.
- Auxiliary Bishop James F. McCarthy, Archdiocese of New York/Westchester County, June 11, 2002: admits long-term sexual affairs with several adult females. Secretary to Cardinal John O'Connor.
- Archbishop Edgardo Storni, Santa Fe, Argentina, August 24, 2002: 47 seminarians allege sexual abuse.
- Bishop G. Patrick Zieman, Santa Rosa, Calif., 1999: a series of sexual abuse allegations and embezzling, with his boyfriend, an estimated $30 million. A protégé of Roger Cardinal Mahony, Los Angeles.
One bishop, Anthony J. O'Connell of the Diocese of West Palm Beach, was removed in March, following disclosures of his allegedly criminal activity perpetrated against students at St. Thomas Aquinas High School Seminary in Hannibal, Missouri, from the late 1960s through the 1980s.
Bishop O'Connell is close friend and protege of Cardinal Law. The two men worked together in Missouri when O'Connell was rector of the seminary in the Diocese of Jefferson City, and, then Bishop Law led the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Bishop Law sent high school students to St. Thomas and visited the seminary often to celebrate Mass with the young candidates for the priesthood there.
The USCCB acknowledges in Article 6 of the Charter that the Church has "clear and well-publicized . . . standards of ministerial behavior . . . for clergy and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people." As a result of the bishops' own pronouncements, as leaders of the Church, they cannot ignore the damage to children that the criminal actions of Cardinal Law and his subordinates have inflicted on the faithful members of the Body of Christ.
Because sexual abuse of minors is a crime in all jurisdictions of the United States, for the sake of the common good and observing the provisions of canon law, Cardinal Law must be removed from positions of authority. Our Lord Jesus uttered the grave warning in the Gospel of Luke (18:6) that anyone who would lead children astray, saying that "it would be better for such a person to have a great millstone hung around his next and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." (www.nccbuscc.org/bishops/charter.htm)
We realize, however, that only the Pope can force Cardinal Law to step down. We also realize, however, that you and your fellow bishops can publicly condemn Cardinal Law's behavior. We further believe that this must be done, if there is to be even the possibility of true healing and progress in the Boston Archdiocese and the American Catholic Church as a whole.
Ministerial misconduct, whether the molestation of children or serving as an accomplice to the crime, leaves no room for doubt. The bishops must have the wherewithal to resume responsible leadership and purge these malefactors from their midst. For the sake of our children, please take action now.
Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children, refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Jeremiah 31:15
National Director, SNAP
7234 Arsenal St.
St. Louis MO 63143
3143 566 9790, 313 645 5915
Dr. Ann Hagan Webb,
New England, SNAP
303 Worcester Street
Wellesley, MA 02481
781 239 1182, 617 513 8442
New England, SNAP
775 Lunns Way
Plymouth, MA 02360
508 743 0297, 508 524 4179
cc: The Most Reverend Harry J. Flynn
Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
Chairman, USCCB Ad Hoc Committee of Sexual Abuse
226 Summit Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55102
The Most Reverend Robert Brom
Chairman, USCCB Committee on Bishops Accountability
Diocese of San Diego
P.O. Box 85728
San Diego, CA 92186-5728
Tel: 858 490 8200, 858 490 8370
FYI - other members of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee of Sexual Abuse include:
Bishop William E. Lori, Bridgeport, Connecticut
Bishop John R. Gaydos, Jefferson City, Missouri
Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Albany, New York
Bishop Joseph A. Galante, Dallas, Texas
Bishop George H. Niederauer, Salt Lake City, Utah
Archbishop Stefan Soroka of Philadelphia for Ukrainians, Pennsylvania
Auxiliary Bishop W. Francis Malooly, Baltimore, Maryland
Bishop Thomas J. Rodi, Biloxi, Mississippi
Bishop James A. Murray, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Bishop Thomas G. Doran, Rockford, Illinois
Bishop Blase J. Cupich, Rapid City, South Dakota
Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Stockton, California
Bishop Robert F. Vasa, Baker, Oregon
Bishop Robert J. Baker, Charleston, South Carolina
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.