MO--Victims urge new KC bishop to order staff to see film
For immediate release: Friday, Nov. 20, 2015
Victims to Bishop Johnston: “Make your staff see new film”
“Stop promoting complacency, start urging vigilance,” SNAP says
A victims group says Kansas City-St Joseph top Catholic official should make every parish and chancery employee go see a new film about the child sex abuse and cover up crisis in the church.
The highly acclaimed movie, Spotlight, opens at Kansas City area theaters today. It’s about how newspaper reporters uncovered decades of complicity in clergy sex crimes in the Boston archdiocese.
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are writing Bishop James Johnston about the film. Officials at the Washington DC-based US Conference of Catholic Bishops have also sent public relations advice to every US diocese about the movie.
SNAP’s letter, sent today by fax and email, says “Instead of promoting vigilance, which protects kids, you and your brother bishops keep promoting complacency, which endangers kids. It’s time to stop pretending your weak, vague and unenforceable internal church abuse policies, protocols and procedures make any real difference and using them to mollify your flock and staff. It’s time to start using opportunities like this film to help make sure that cover ups and clergy sex crimes stop.”
“Johnston should engage in public education, and insist that every church staffer see Spotlight so they’ll better understand and hopefully never repeat the callous, reckless and deceptive moves that have been made, over and over again, by Catholic officials across the US,” said SNAP outreach director Barbara Dorris.
“As ‘Spotlight’ opens in theaters, Johnston should order every church staff member to see it. That is the best, quickest and cheapest way he can protect more kids,” said SNAP director David Clohessy. “It’s easy for bishops to claim they have changed, but taking this step and acting with real openness would prove real change. Kansas City parents and parishioners can only benefit by learning more about the church’s on going abuse and cover up crisis. Johnston should be promoting this movie if he truly cares about the safety of children.”
A copy of SNAP’s letter to Johnston, sent this morning, is here:
Dear Bishop Johnston:
For the safety of children, we urge you to make sure every single Catholic employee in your diocese sees the film Spotlight. This is an extraordinarily simple move you could make to show good faith, make a difference, and educate thousands about the church’s continuing abuse and cover up crisis.
Instead of promoting vigilance, which protects kids, you and your brother bishops keep promoting complacency, which endangers kids. It’s time to stop pretending your weak, vague and unenforceable internal church abuse policies, protocols and procedures make any real difference. It’s time to STOP using those impressive-sounding but largely toothless words on paper to mollify your flock and staff. It’s time to START using opportunities like this film to help make sure that cover ups and clergy sex crimes stop.
You and their colleagues refuse to take the most simple and effective way to protect kids from child molesting clerics – prominently and permanently posting their names, photos and work histories on diocesan and parish websites (whether they are diocesan or religious order clerics).
About 30 US bishops have done this. You have refused to do so.
Again, you and your colleagues tout church policies, protocols and procedures. But kids aren’t being hurt and crimes aren’t being concealed because of inadequate policies, protocols and procedures. They are hurt by deliberate, repeated, selfish decisions by Catholic officials who have never been exposed or punished and are largely still on in high ranking church positions now.
At least 25 Kansas City-St Joe priests are publicly accused of assaulting kids. (See BishopAccountability.org) Dozens of their church supervisors and colleagues knew of or suspected these crimes and ignored or hid them. No words on paper, regardless of how impressive they may sound, will change this. Only exposing and punishing those who commit or conceal child sex crimes stops this horror. But you and the vast majority of your US colleagues continue to keep a tight lid on this cover up, while clerics who perpetuated it are often still on the job, sometimes winning promotions and continuing their complicity.
Instead of patting yourselves on the back, church officials should be begging anyone who sees, suspects or suffers clergy sex crimes to call law enforcement. Instead of making self-serving reassurances, you should be warning parents about known predators. Instead of bragging about alleged reforms you were forced to make because of public pressure, shame and ridicule, you should be exposing and firing ‘enablers’ – those who ignored or hid the child sex crimes of fellow clerics.
A perfect way to reverse course, stop the PR spin, and start down a more honest and healthy path – the path of truly effective prevention, justice and healing – would be to insist that every Kansas City-St Joseph church employee see this film. We hope you will give serious consideration to this simple request.
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP outreach director, 314-503-0003 cell, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org