For immediate release: Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
Today’s AP report about whether and when Milwaukee Catholic officials did and didn’t call police about predator priests is inherently flawed. It’s based solely on information from church staff.
Reporting known or suspected abuse is the bare minimum. What bishops virtually never do it take real steps to help law enforcement convict predator priests.
When abuse reports or admissions surface against clerics, bishops should promptly hold a news conference and beg victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police. They should personally go to each parish or school where the accused worked and beg those with knowledge or suspicions to call police.
They should post notices on every parish website and in every church bulletin and make pulpit announcements everywhere, urging victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to contact law enforcement. And they should immediately give every single piece of written information about the accused to police.
But virtually no Catholic official has ever done this.
Finally, bishops almost always fight against reforms of archaic-predator friendly child sex abuse laws that make it harder for victims, police and prosecutors to get and keep predators locked up. (In fact, in the 1990s, high ranking Catholic officials lobbied successfully against including clergy as mandated reporters of child sex crimes. And more recently, they’ve lobbied against reforms that would enable more child sex abuse victims – of any predators, not just predator priests - to expose predators in court.)
That’s what a caring shepherd should do.
And it’s disingenuous – and irresponsible – for church officials to claim they kept silent about dangerous criminals to protect the privacy of victims. ("We always felt that if an adult wanted to report it, they could do it themselves," said one of Archbishop Jerome Listecki’s public relations team.) We suspect that if a pastor caught a layperson stealing church funds, top archdiocesan staff would focus on stopping, solving and deterring crimes, not on the privacy of those involved.