For immediate release: Friday, October 4, 2013
Statement by Barbara Dorris, SNAP Outreach Director, 314-862-7688 SNAPdorris@gmail.com
We are grateful that a Minnesota prosecutor is investigating the alarming Fr. Jonathan P. Shelley case, in which several high ranking Twin Cities Catholic officials kept thousands of images of child pornography on a priest's computer were kept for a decade from law enforcement. We hope other county prosecutors in Minnesota open similar investigations into clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Minnesota.
We agree that local and federal prosecutors should work together. In order to pierce the extraordinary secrecy of top church staff, the help of local, state and federal authorities and statutes will be critical.
It’s just not right for authorities to sit back and let complicit officials hide crimes until an arbitrary deadline passes, then shrug their shoulders and walk away. Serious, on-going recklessness that endangers children requires an aggressive response by law enforcement.
In recent years, we’ve seen more police and prosecutors become more assertive and creative in pursuing even older cases of child sex crimes and cover ups. It’s a welcome trend. And it’s obviously a necessary trend if there’s even a chance of getting secretive, self-serving institutions to ever change their decades-old patterns of putting their interests above the safety of youngsters.
Law enforcement, however, can only do so much. Regular citizens - brave individuals like Jennifer Haselberger and Joe Ternus - must also step up. They must overcome their fears and pick up the phone and share every tidbit of information and suspicion they have heard about clergy sexual misdeeds. They must put worries about their parish or their archdiocese aside and put the well-being of children first.
Some say this is like the Fr. Shawn Ratigan case in Missouri. It’s not. It’s much worse.
Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn’s top staff hid clear evidence of child porn for months, and the predator was prosecuted. Archbishop John Nienstadt’s top staff hid clear evidence of child porn for years, and thus the predator was not prosecuted.
Thankfully, eventually Bishop Finn was convicted for endangering kids, like his colleague, Msgr. William Lynn in Philadelphia. That must happen more often. It’s helpful to prosecute those who commit child sex crimes. It’s even more helpful to prosecute those who conceal child sex crimes. Going after both predators and enablers is the best way to stop current cover ups and prevent future cover ups.
Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com)