For immediate release: Tuesday, Oct. 8 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)
We are grateful this step has been taken – the re-opening of the investigation into Fr. Jonathan Shelley’s alleged child porn - but we're confused as to why law enforcement officials weren't more aggressive about this case to begin with. And are outraged that Catholic officials refused to turn over evidence to police when asked to do so.
Law enforcement needs to investigate those who commit AND conceal child sex crimes. It’s too easy to fixate on the offender and ignore those who help the offender.
Recently released archdiocesan records show that the secrecy and deceit shown in the cases of Fr. Shelley, Fr. Wehmeyer and Fr. Henrich are not aberrations. They are the norm. In clergy child sex cases, hiding as much as you can and doing as little as you can continues to be the archdiocesan modus operandi.
These are not "missteps" or "mistakes" or "oversights." Catholic officials are well-educated and smart. So are their lawyers and their public relations professionals. They act with great care in clergy sex cases.
But they're torn. While common sense and parishioner outrage and public relations concerns might tempt Archbishop John Nienstadt to discipline men like Andrew Eizenzimmer, Fr. Kevin McDonough, Fr. Peter Laird and others, the archbishop fears that demoting, defrocking or denouncing these men is problematic, because they could then "turn on" Nienstadt and become whistleblowers themselves.
That's likely also true with predator priests. Nienstedt fears that if he “cracks” on them hard, they’ll reveal embarrassing information they have on their colleagues and supervisors.
Based on documents given to Minnesota Public Radio, the Pioneer Press reports that "Archbishop John Nienstedt drafted a letter to the Vatican last year about whether the pornographic images found on (Fr. John Shelley's) computer hard drive could 'expose the Archdiocese, as well as myself, to criminal prosecution.'"
Yet Nienstedt still refused to call police. Why?
We suspect two reasons. First, it's clear that Nienstedt was concerned about his own clerical career (which is why he considered writing to the Vatican instead of calling the police).
Second, we suspect that Nienstedt suspects or fears that Fr. Shelley is also aware of crimes or misdeeds - sexual or financial or others - by top archdiocesan officials.
That's why we suspect that Catholic officials asked Fr. Shelley for his computers and apparently did little or nothing when Fr. Shelley destroyed one and refused to turn over another.
The Pioneer Press also reports that "in 2004, (church officials) asked that Shelley allow (them) to examine his two other personal computers. 'When he received that request, Father Shelley immediately destroyed one of the computers, and while he initially indicated he would permit an analysis of the third computer, he changed his mind and never provided the Archdiocese with access to it," (Jennifer) Haselberger wrote.
In another institution, police would have been called, not an alleged criminal.
In another institution, if an alleged criminal destroyed evidence, he would have been fired or disciplined.
But in most other institutions, there's not widespread corruption and secrecy, so officials have little or no fear of involving law enforcement in cases like this.