Local SNAP Leader Pushes for Action on Clergy Abuse in Mississippi
Members of a clergy abuse advocacy organization in Mississippi are demanding action be taken by the state’s catholic and law enforcement officials.
“Around the country we’re seeing dioceses release lists of names and we’re seeing prosecuting attorneys and attorney generals start investigations in order to get to the bottom of this crisis,” said Mark Belenchia, the Mississippi Coordinator of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We want to see that same push for justice and accountability happen here.”
Spurred by the bombshell grand jury report out of Pennsylvania in August, there has been a renewed push nationwide for investigations and accountability into sexual abuse committed in catholic dioceses. “These issues do not exclude the Church in Mississippi”, said Belenchia. To date over 20 states and the District of Columbia have opened independent investigations into clergy abuse crimes and cover-ups in their jurisdictions. Belenchia wants Mississippi to become the next state to announce an investigation immediately.
“We’re a small state, but even so there are people suffering,” said Belenchia. “The sooner that Attorney General Hood begins a truly independent investigation, the sooner we can get to the bottom of this crisis in Mississippi.”
In addition to calling for an independent investigation by Attorney General Jim Hood, Belenchia is also pushing the state’s catholic bishops to publicly release lists of names of those clergy who have been suspended or otherwise accused of sexual abuse. At least 10 priests in the Diocese of Jackson and 4 in the Diocese of Biloxi have been accused of abuse, but no lists have been made public by the diocese. Belenchia says, “that releasing names of accused clergy is only the first step, however”.
“All dioceses should publicly post all the names of accused clergy in parishes and diocesan websites, and then they should join my call to Attorney General Hood for an independent investigation into their files. If Bishop Kopacz and Bishop Kihneman are confident that their dioceses have taken appropriate steps to hold past abusers accountable and prevent more abuse in the future, they should welcome an independent investigation to clear the air.”
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.