For immediate release: Friday, Aug. 15, 2015
We applaud the 42 brave and determined men and women who were assaulted as kids by Kansas City priests. And joined the unusual “breach of contract” lawsuit against KC Catholic officials. Their ground-breaking effort has inspired child sex abuse victims across the country and have shown that civil lawsuits can bring reform, prevention, healing and justice in unexpected ways.
We also want to express our gratitude to two officials: arbitrator Hollis Hanover who awarded this historic judgment and Judge Bryan Rounds who upheld it, the only such award in the country. They are to be commended for doing their jobs justly, showing fairness but not favoritism to Catholic officials who, for far too long, have repeatedly been given every benefit of the doubt by the justice system.
Twice now, Bishop Robert Finn and his diocese have been ordered to pay $1.1 million to these victims because he repeatedly broke at least five of his pledges to improve how he deals with pedophile priest cases. With his legions of lawyers, he can of course find and file some “Hail Mary” appeal. We hope, however, that he chooses to avoid running up even more expensive lawyer bills. We hope he will resolve this without delay so that these courageous individuals can focus on their healing. He and his top staff have already spent millions defending crimes, cover ups and other misdeeds. It's time to stop fighting and start reforming.
We also hope that for the safety of kids and as a sign of contrition, Finn permanently post on his diocesan website, the names of all proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics who are or have been in his diocese.
As best we can tell, there's never been a case like this – anywhere – in which victims have successfully held a bishop responsible in court for breaking the promises he made during a settlement. And the amount of this award is significant because it may well deter more Catholic officials from breaking the promises they make to victims.
We suspect that hundreds of clergy sex abuse victims have reached settlements with Catholic officials that include child protection commitments. We believe that many of them have not been closely monitored.
We hope the arbitrator's award will prompt many victims and attorneys to look hard at whether these pledges are being kept. If bishops are breaking their promises, we hope victims will file more suits like this.
We also hope this will prod more victims to push hard for child safety provisions when they're discussing settlement possibilities. Catholic officials would rather just write a check. But many victims find it more healing when they are able to force Catholic officials to formally pledge to take real abuse prevention steps.
At the same time, however, we suspect that the arbitrator's outcome may make Catholic officials even more reluctant to agree to child safety measure when they settle abuse lawsuits.
Finally, roughly 30 U.S. bishops have posted names of predator priests on their websites, almost always under pressure. Finn should do this so that families, neighbors, employers and others will be warned about these potentially dangerous men. He should also post these names on parish websites and in parish bulletins. It's the very least he can to at this late juncture to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
(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)