MN--Victims blast predator priest’s “healing center”
For immediate release: Tuesday, Sept. 8
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 503 0003, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org)
We are alarmed that a convicted Minnesota predator priest is trying to raise money and start a “healing center.”
We believe Fr. Gil Gustafson is a smart, charming, charismatic person. We know he’s an admitted and convicted serial child molester. We oppose the effort by Fr. Gustafson and others to start this purported non-profit. And we call on St. Paul archdiocesan officials – Archbishop Bernard Hebda and others – to harshly denounce this move designed to boost the reputation and career of a proven predator.
(NOTE – Fr. Gustafson has not been defrocked. So he is still a priest and presumably getting money from the archdiocese. He should not be called Mr. Gustafson” or “a former priest.”)
According to BishopAccountability.org, Fr. Gustafson admitted that he had sexually abused three boys and pled guilty in a criminal case of abusing one of them. Fr.Gustafson was also accused of sexually abusing a girl for five years. (In 2005, she received a settlement from the archdiocese.)
Still, from 1983 onward, church officials let him work in the chancery office (the archdiocesan headquarters), sit on an interfaith board on sexual trauma, and be a chaplain for nuns.
In 2002, Fr. Gustafson was finally removed from ministry. Still, in 2009, he was hired by Christo Rey Jesuit High School as a leadership consultant, and in 2010-2011 Fr. Gustafson was involved with a leadership training program at a Minneapolis monastery for nuns.
Last year, one archdiocesan official said that he believed Fr. Gustafson had between 4 and 15 victims.
Fr. Gustafson claims he has “reformed” and wants to help kids. If so, he should
--tell law enforcement everything he knows or suspects about Twin Cities predator priests and their complicit colleagues.
--publicly admit to all of his crimes. (Simply saying “guilty” in court to charges that were “pled down” from his most serious offenses is not an honest admission.)
--make tangible amends to each of the families he hurt.
--speak and write about how he groomed kids and how parents can better protect their kids.
--seek jobs where he won’t be given power, prestige and access to wounded, vulnerable individuals.
--donate as much as he can to legitimate, proven non-profits that help prevent child sexual abuse.
Can child molesters be rehabbed? Who knows. But they shouldn’t be given positions of trust, power and prominence which they can parlay into more access to wounded or vulnerable individuals.
Should child molesters be hungry, homeless and ostracized? No. But that doesn’t mean they should seek jobs where they’ll have access to and power over wounded or vulnerable individuals.
MPR also reports that Fr. Gustafson’s name doesn’t appear on the paperwork of this new non-profit. It’s hard to be optimistic about a project that starts with deceit.
Finally, those of us who oppose this will be depicted as bitter, wounded, short-sighted people who can’t see beyond our own pain and are caught in dualistic, black-and-white thinking. That’s simply not true.
Those of us who oppose this are deeply worried about more people being hurt, plain and simple. We believe in forgiveness, but not recklessness and callousness. We believe a convicted drunk driver should be hired, just not as a school bus drive.
We are deeply worried that Gustafson is doing what so many predators do: claiming genuine remorse, rebuilding his reputation, accumulating titles and positions that gradually enable him to befriend more parents, groom more kids and commit more crimes.
This isn’t about forgiveness. It’s about public safety. Why take risks with a proven serial predator? How will Fr. Gustafson’s donors feel a decade from now when he’s charged with assaulting a boy or girl whose parents he met through the job donors helped him fund?
(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)
Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, email@example.com, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org), Frank Meuers (952-334-5180, firstname.lastname@example.org), Verne Wagner (218- 340-1277, email@example.com)