MN- Theologians blast archbishop but are off-base
For immediate release: Monday, Sept. 15, 2014
Statement by Frank Meuers of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (952-334-5180, firstname.lastname@example.org)
While we disagree with their recommendations, we are grateful to St. Thomas professors who are criticizing Twin Cities Catholic officials over child sex crimes and cover ups.
Their recommendations largely involve symbolic or long term moves. But kids are at risk now and need protection now. Gestures and “good will” measures come later. Helping to prevent more child sex crimes and cover ups now must come first.
For instance, the theologians suggest that Archbishop John Nienstedt hold some sort of “penitential mass” or reconciliation service. We oppose this.
Events like this do not safeguard vulnerable kids. And that's the top priority now.
Events like this imply that the abuse and cover ups have ended. They have not.
Events like this suggest that only healing is needed now. That's not irresponsible.
Events like this convey the message that kids are not being molested now. That's a reckless assumption.
Here's what should happen now: every proven, admitted, and credibly accused child molesting cleric must be exposed, suspended, and housed in secure treatment facilities (whether they are diocesan or religious order clerics, whether they're still in the area or not, etc.)
Nienstedt should widely and repeatedly warn parishioners, police, prosecutors and the public about these potentially dangerous individuals, by posting their names, photos, whereabouts and work histories on church websites, both archdiocesan and parishes.
Nienstedt should instruct every Catholic employee to turn over every scrap of possible evidence to law enforcement about any cleric who they suspect may have hurt innocent kids or vulnerable adults.
Nienstedt should start defrocking Fr. Kevin McDonough unless McDonough answers questions from police immediately.
Nienstedt should personally start visiting every parish where a predator worked and, from the pulpit, emphatically beg his flock to help find other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers and prod them to call law enforcement.
These are the kinds of steps that will really make a difference.
Several credibly accused child molesting clerics and Catholic officials are or have been affiliated with St. Thomas. We hope these professors will take the logical, and likely more effective, next step and prod their own university to better protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded by exposing, punishing and denouncing those Catholic clerics who committed or concealed sexual misdeeds and crimes on their campus or while associated with their school.
And at the risk of quibbling, we make two other recommendations.
First, when it comes to clergy sex crimes and cover ups, current and former Twin Cities Catholic officials are not guilty of “failure.” That word, failure, implies a good faith effort that somehow went awry. That's not what happened in the Twin Cities or is happening now in the Twin Cities. These are deliberate, reckless, callous and deceitful actions being taken – time and time again, by dozens of church staff, over decades – that enable more predators to hurt more kids. The archdiocese won't “heal” - and more important, kids won't be safe – if people unwittingly join in Nienstedt's public relations move to depict intentional wrongdoing as “mistakes.”
Second, the emphasis on “how these cases were handled” implies that these days, clergy sex crimes and cover ups are handled differently. They are not. The crimes and the cover ups are still happening. To suggest that somehow all this is “in the past” is a disservice to children at risk and is premature and irresponsible complacency.
There's one thing we all agree “works.” Kids are safer, predators are exposed and healing begins when victims break their silence and report child sex crimes and cover ups. Let's evaluate suggestions on what might help by this simple criteria: does the proposed action make it easier or harder for victims to speak up. That's what matters.
(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 25 years and have 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)