MT- Victims' phone line doesn’t work, SNAP responds
For immediate release: Monday, July 14, 2014
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
For almost two weeks, a toll free phone line giving information to victims of clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Helena has malfunctioned.
This is problematic for several reasons, including the fact that there's a rigid deadline by which victims must come forward to get help, because Helena Catholic officials are exploiting U.S. bankruptcy laws to keep clergy sex crimes and cover ups covered up.
Never mind what lawyers do or don't do. The person responsible for the crimes of child molesting clerics is the bishop. The person whose duty it is to reach out to those hurt by predator priests is the bishop.
Bishop George Leo Thomas of Helena must step up efforts to find and help victims now. He should personally visit every parish where pedophile priests worked, begging victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to speak up. He should post the names of every proven, admitted and credibly accuse child molesting cleric in every parish bulletin. He should apologize profusely for his error and more aggressively than ever seek out those who are in pain because Catholic priests assaulted kids and Catholic officials hid those crimes.
(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)
Published in the Gallup Independent, Gallup, NM, July 12, 2014:
Telephone snafu snarls diocese’s abuse line
By Elizabeth Hardin-Burrola, Independent correspondent, firstname.lastname@example.org
GALLUP – A toll free phone line, set up to provide information to people with clergy sex abuse claims against the Diocese of Gallup, was discovered to be malfunctioning for nearly two weeks because of a phone system snafu.
The phone line failure, which apparently occurred between June 25 and July 7, also affected two other similar toll free numbers that were set up to serve individuals with sex abuse claims against the Diocese of Helena in Montana and the Diocese of Stockton in California.
All three telephone lines were being monitored by the California law firm of Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones. Attorney James I. Stang, a founding partner in the firm, serves as legal counsel for the Unsecured Creditors Committees in all three church bankruptcies. The committees advocate for the interests of clergy sex abuse survivors who file claims against the Roman Catholic dioceses in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
The Gallup Diocese filed its Chapter 11 petition on Nov. 12, 2013. It was followed this year by the Stockton Diocese on Jan. 15, and the Helena Diocese on Jan. 31.
The toll free phone lines, which are being advertized to the public, were set up in the three cases to provide information to sex abuse survivors wanting to file abuse claims before the “bar date” deadline next month. The Gallup and Helena abuse claim deadline is Aug. 11, and the Stockton deadline is Aug. 15.
Inoperable phone line
The Diocese of Gallup’s phone line was discovered to be not working on Monday by a reporter seeking to provide information to an abuse survivor. The line’s answering machine prompt transferred callers to dead air and silence.
Stang and other officials in the Diocese of Gallup’s bankruptcy case were notified of the inoperable phone line Monday.
In an email Thursday, Stang said the problem was caused when his office changed phone systems at midnight on June 25. Once notified that the toll free lines were not working, he said, the telephone programming was corrected July 7 at 3 p.m., Pacific Time.
According to Stang, during those 13 days, only one other phone number besides the reporter’s was listed on the Diocese of Gallup’s caller identification equipment. Stang said his staff was attempting to track the second number, which he said may have been made by a “robo-marketing” number in a foreign country.
“My office took immediate steps to correct the error and to determine its cause,” Stang said. “The Committee is glad that no abuse survivor or member of the public was injured by the error.”
Stang was not asked about the number of calls made to the Diocese of Helena or the Diocese of Stockton’s phone lines.
From now on, Stang said, his office will call Gallup’s toll free number each day to make sure the line is working properly.
In light of the phone failure, Stang and diocesan attorney Susan G. Boswell, were asked about the appropriateness of using a telephone answering machine to record the names and contact information of clergy abuse survivors rather than having a trained person answer the toll free phone line.
“Your question goes to fundamental issues of the best means of communication with an abuse survivor,” Stang said. “I do not believe that your question is appropriately answered in this setting.”
Boswell, the lead bankruptcy attorney for the Gallup Diocese, said she agreed with Stang.
“I would also point out that Mr. Stang and I used this same process in the Fairbanks Diocese case without concerns or problems being expressed or identified,” she said.
David Clohessy, the executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was contacted for comment.
“It’s extraordinarily hard for many victims to summon the strength to speak to others about their horrific pain,” Clohessy said in an email Friday. “When they do, they should be dealt with in the most compassionate way possible. This foul up exacerbates the already often dreadfully impersonal processes that characterize church bankruptcies.”
Because of the absence of calls to the Gallup number, both Stang and Boswell said they did not see the need to notify the public that the toll free phone line was not working those 13 days.
Boswell pointed out that the toll free number is not the only method by which individuals can obtain information about the bar date and how to file an abuse claim against the Gallup Diocese. The information is also posted on the diocese’s website, she said, and contact information for the case’s attorneys is included in the legal pleadings.
Boswell said the Diocese of Gallup will be publicly advertising the bar date deadline and claims process one more time at the end of July.
Diocese of Gallup claim information:
Abuse claims forms and instructions: http://voiceofthesouthwest.org/2014/04/11/notice-of-deadline-to-file-claims/