MO - Former St. Louis Priest Named Abuser in Alaska
For immediate release:
Friday, Apr. 9, 2004
For more information:
David Clohessy, SNAP National Director (314) 566-9790 cell
Barbara Dorris, SNAP Outreach Coordinator (314) 862 7688
Sex Abuse Victims Applaud Bishop's Openness
SNAP Worries That Cleric May Have Molested Here
In an unusual move, a former St. Louis priest was publicly identified last week as an abuser by Alaska Catholic church leaders.
In the March 31 edition of the Anchorage Daily News (http://www.adn.com/front/story/4904277p-4839172c.html), the Anchorage archdiocesan chancellor said that Father Robert Wells was accused in 1992 or 1993 of sexually molesting a girl. The archdiocesan sexual misconduct committee found the woman's allegations credible and have since paid for her therapy.
Most dioceses do not name known or suspected molesters unless forced to do so through civil or criminal litigation or when bishops are forced to suspend them in the wake of credible allegations.
Leaders of the nation's largest support group for clergy abuse victims today applauded Schwietz's decision to name the priest, though questioned why it took so long and why Wells' victim wasn't consulted or warned beforehand.
"We are encouraged every time a bishop takes one small step toward greater openness," said David Clohessy of St. Louis. Clohessy is national director of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). "We understand that Schwietz.could and should have handled this more promptly and sensitively. But at least he did what all bishops have repeatedly promised: he was open."
Barbara Dorris, SNAP's local St. Louis chapter leader, said she suspects that Wells might have spent time at one of the St. Louis area treatment centers for abusive clergy. "But we just don't know. He could have worked in a parish here and molested kids here too," she said.
Wells, a Redemptorist who worked at two Kenai peninsula parishes in Alaska from 1974-1990, died on April 20, 1992. He was born on May 22, 1923, was ordained in 1958 and worked in St. Louis around 1959.
In the obituary, the Rev. Michael Hornick said Wells was an intellectual who spoke French and loved fishing, photography, his missionary years in Thailand and visits to Hawaii.
Sister Charlotte Davenport, the Anchorage chancellor, initially defined it as a "one time" abusive incident that took place in the mid 1970s or early 1980s. The following day, however, the archdiocesan vicar general issued a correction, noting that the abuse lasted nearly eight years.
For more information:Sister Charlotte Davenport, Chancellor 907 276 3455
Father Donald Bramble, Vicar General 907 276 3455
Alaska attorney James Butler