MO- St. Louis Catholics are not powerless
For immediate release: Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
Catholics, you may feel powerless but you aren't. You can donate to groups that prevent abuse, not institutions that hide it. You can write letters to lawmakers urging better child safety laws. You can invite child sex abuse victims and their advocates to speak in your churches or to your organizations. You can speak out – in public and online – because secrecy only helps the bad guys.
You can look at the list of 51 proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting St. Louis Catholic clerics at BishopAccountability.org. You can ask every current and former Catholic you know about these predators – your friends, your family, your neighbors. You can get specific, and ask “Did any of these priests, nuns, seminarians or brothers hurt you?” If they say yes, you can beg them to call police, prosecutors, therapists or our support group. You can assure them that healing is possible, and sometimes justice and prevention are possible too. You can encourage them to explore any legal options they may have – criminal or civil.
You can beg your colleagues – fellow parishioners – to report what they know or suspect about clergy sex crimes to law enforcement. You can remind them that nothing is too small, old or seemingly minor to report. You can tell them it's their duty to share what they've heard or seen, and it's law enforcements' duty to decide what's worth investigation or prosecuting.
You can plead with your parish staff – current and former – to tell independent sources about everything they've heard, seen or suspected about possible clergy sexual misdeeds, whether it's clear or unclear.
You cannot, however, give up, not if you want a safer church for kids. For 25 years, we in SNAP haven't given up. And we never will.
You can't just pray or walk away or ignore this crisis or assume others will fix it – not if you want a safer church for kids.
And we submit that you cannot contact Catholic officials if you want real reform. Calling and writing to secular authorities, not church figures – that's the most effective way to protect kids, expose wrongdoers and deter cover ups. Contacting church officials is, at best, a waste of time. At worst, information shared with them can enable them to better hide abuse and impugn you or your motives.
Whatever you do, please know that silence and inaction are the best friends of those who commit and conceal heinous child sex crimes. Consider the words of therapist Judith Herman:
“It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering.”
Earlier today, Carlson, through his public relations team, issued a statement saying he's a leader in the church on abuse. He's half right. He's a leader in four ways, each of them disturbing.
--He's a leader in recklessness.
We know of no other sitting archbishop who is, right now, letting a twice-arrested predator priest live unsupervised just six minutes away from the parish where he allegedly assaulted a boy and a girl. We're talking about Fr. Joseph Jiang, who is living at Grand and Lafayette with Dominicans.
--He's a leader in alleged evidence tampering.
We know of no other sitting archbishop who reportedly asked a victim's family to give him evidence in a criminal case. We're talking about Fr. Jiang again, who, according to police, prosecutors, civil attorneys and a victims' parents, left a $20,000 check with those parents after they confronted him with his crimes and he admitted them. According to the parents, the police and the prosecutors, Carlson reportedly called the mom and asked for the check, instead of telling her to give it to law enforcement.
--He's a leader in importing predator priests.
We know of no other archdiocese where more proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics are accepted from other places. We're talking about Catholic facilities here called RECON, the Vianney Renewal Center, St. Joseph's infirmary, and other church centers in Shrewsbury and Webster Groves.
--He's a leader in hardball tactics.
We know of no other sitting archbishop who has successfully gotten a clergy sex abuse case tossed out by claiming his archdiocese isn't responsible for a predator priests' crimes because those crimes were on private property, not church property. We're talking about the Fr. Thomas Cooper case, in which a judge found that:
--a victim “has evidence” that the archdiocese knew a priest “had a history of sexual abuse,”
--that church officials knew that leaving (the priest) alone with kids was “certain. . .to result in harm to (others),”
--that they disregarded that known risk, and, as a result,
--(at least one boy) “was sexually abused by (the priest.)”
We challenge Archbishop Carlson to dispute these facts, any or all of them.
Still, Archbishop Carlson is a lucky man. He's got people talking about what he says. People should focus instead on what he does. That's even worse. He's playing legal hardball, exploiting legal loopholes, and denying victims their legal right to confront wrongdoers in court.
He's talking like a compassionate shepherd in public while behaving like a cold-hearted CEO in court.
He continues to protect child predators and endanger innocent kids.
This whole avoidable situation fills us with deep sadness.
It's sad that Carlson is again blaming the media instead of admitting his wrongdoing.
It's sad that Carlson claims he “can't recall” what he's said and done in clergy sex cases. If you tell the truth and do what's right, it's easier to remember.
It's sad that, just like with Congressman Todd Akin, once again St. Louis is in the national spotlight because of hurtful comments by a powerful official about sexual crimes.
It's sad that Carlson claims to worry about re-opening the wounds of clergy sex abuse victims, instead of taking real steps and responsible action to prevent those wounds in the first place and heal them properly, through taking responsibility and exposing cover ups.
But we can't be paralyzed by our sadness. Kids depend on us. Kids need us. So please, please don't give up! Keep fighting against a centuries-old, still-powerful culture and practice of secrecy around clergy sex crimes and cover ups. Keep helping us reach out to those who are suffering in shame, silence and self-blame because of child molesting clerics and employees and their complicit church colleagues and supervisors.
(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 18,000 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)