MO--Victims prod new Springfield bishop
For immediate release: Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Tomorrow, the diocese once headed by the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law will be headed by Bishop Edward Rice. We are disappointed by Rice’s promotion. But we hope he’ll take quick action against three predator priests.
Rice comes from the St. Louis archdiocese, which has a troubling track record on abuse. An admitted predator priest (Fr. Vincent Bryce) is still on the job in St. Louis, along with a priest who’s faced three accusers (Fr. Alex Anderson).
It’s an archdiocese that has, for years, quietly let bishops from across the US to send their predator priests here where those priests have sometimes molested again.
It’s an archdiocese that is letting a twice accused predator priest (Fr. Joseph Jiang) live with virtually no supervision near the parish where he allegedly molested a boy just a few years ago.
Throughout all of this, Rice has been conspicuously and irresponsibly silent.
So we are not confident he’ll be any more honest or proactive in Springfield than he’s been in St. Louis. In a worldwide institution, surely Francis could have found a more courageous and compassionate man for this job.
There’s a ton of work Rice must do in Springfield to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
---Last year, three priests who worked in the Springfield-Cape Girardeau Catholic diocese were publicly identified for the first time as credibly accused child molesters. They are Fr. Thomas Meyer, Fr. James Vincent Fitzgerald and Fr. Michael Charland.
Fr. Charland is now a psychologist in the Twin Cities area.
Long secret church records about them were also released. We asked Springfield church officials to aggressively reach out to anyone who may have been hurt by these priests and who may still be still suffering in shame, silence and self-blame.
We were ignored.
---For years ago, we urged then-Bishop James Johnston to reach out to anyone who may have been hurt in Springfield by Missouri’s most notorious serial predator priest, Fr. Thomas J. O'Brien, who faces more than two dozen civil lawsuits accusing him of molesting kids. (Most of them have been settled.) O’Brien has sometimes committed these crimes in concert with other clerics. He has been forbidden to present himself as a priest. http://www.snapnetwork.org/snap_letters/2011_letters/022611_letter_to_bishop_johnston.htm
We were ignored.
But five years ago, then-Springfield Bishop James Johnston disclosed to his flock that Fr. John Weiberg was a credibly accused predator priest.
Bishop Rice should do the same with O’Brien, Charland, Meyer and Fitzgerald. That would be a very modest step forward.
(Besides these six, there are eight other publicly accused child molesting clerics who are or have been in Springfield: Fr. Leonard R. Chambers, Fr. Walter G. J. Craig, Fr. Eugene Deragowski, Fr. Lawrence Gregovich, Fr. Paul McHugh, Fr. Stephen A. Schneider, Fr. Amel A. Shibley and Fr. Louis Wyrsch.)
No matter what Rice does or doesn’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions in Springfield to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(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)