MI--Saginaw priest is sued; Victims respond
For immediate release: Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016
A Saginaw priest is being sued for sexually exploiting a college student. We applaud her courage while we deplore the secrecy of Saginaw’s bishop.
For about two years, Fr. Denis Heames of St. Mary’s University parish manipulated, deceived, hired and supervised a student named Megan Winans. For about a month, Saginaw Bishop Joseph Cistone kept silent about Winans’ lawsuit against church officials, which was filed Jan. 14.
Shame on Bishop Cistone for keeping the case quiet for weeks. Why is his delay problematic? Because hours and days are crucial in a sex abuse case. Every minute a predator's crimes are kept secret gives him and his allies’ time to destroy evidence, fabricate alibis, intimidate victims, threaten witnesses and discredit whistleblowers.
We suspect Fr. Heames has hurt other vulnerable students families with similar clerical misconduct. So we urge Bishop Cistone to aggressively reach out to others who may have been hurt by Fr. Heames.
Many know about child molesting Catholic clerics. But few realize priests abusing vulnerable adult parishioners is as or more widespread but still deeply hidden. It’s always wrong and hurtful for doctors to have sex with patients, therapists to have sex with clients and ministers to have sex with congregants. That’s especially true in Catholicism, where parishioners are taught, from birth, to respect and trust priests as holy celibate men who can forgive sins and get them into heaven.
In 17 states, it’s a crime for a cleric to have sex with a congregant.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 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)
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.