National group blasts Syracuse diocese over child-molesting allegations against monsignor
By John O'Brien
October 2, 2014
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- A national victims' advocacy organization today criticized the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse over its handling of a child-molesting accusation against a monsignor.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests questioned why it took more than a year after receiving the allegations for the diocese to permanently remove Monsignor Charles Eckermann from ministry.
"Why on earth does it take a more than a year - and consultation with church bureaucrats in Rome - to determine whether a child sex abuse report against a New York priest is 'credible'?" asked SNAP's director, David Clohessy, in an email to Syracuse.com.
"When officials move slowly and quietly in abuse cases, they break their promises to be 'open and transparent,' and they endanger other children," Clohessy said. "Child abusers rarely abuse once. There is no telling how many more children might have needlessly been victimized."
Kevin Braney, now 41 and a school district administrator in Colorado, first told the diocese in February 2013 that Eckermann had raped him 12 to 15 times in 1988 and 1989. Braney was an altar boy, 15 and 16 years old, at St. Ann's Church in Manlius when he was abused, he said. The diocese found the accusation credible in April of this year.
The Vatican confirmed that determination today.
Danielle Cummings, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said the diocese took action in 2013 against Eckermann after receiving Braney's allegations.
"The accused was immediately removed from ministry while the allegation was investigated in 2013," she said in response to SNAP's criticism. "The findings were given to the Diocesan Review Board which found the allegation to be credible."
The Vatican's affirmation means Eckermann "is permanently removed from priestly ministry and will no longer be able to function as a priest, wear clerical garb or present himself as a priest."
"The Diocese of Syracuse continues to invite any and all those who may have been harmed by a member of diocesan personnel to come forward," Cummings said. "We will pray for all those harmed by child sexual abuse and remain ever vigilant to keep our children safe."
Clohessy also criticized the diocesan officials for saying they could not determine whether Braney's accusation against another priest was credible. Braney said the Rev. James Quinn raped him once at St. Ann's rectory in 1989. The diocese was unable to make a determination because Quinn was not assigned to that church and because he's dead, Cummings said.
"That's ridiculous," Clohessy said. "Child molesting teachers don't abuse only at the school where they work. Child molesting Scout leaders don't abuse only kids in their troop. And child molesting clerics don't just assault youngsters in their own parishes."
Clohessy said SNAP, based in St. Louis, applauds Braney for having the courage to come forward.
"Children are safer now because he was brave and strong enough to speak up and expose wrongdoers," Clohessy said. "May his responsible actions prod others who were assaulted as kids to come forward, get help, protect kids and start healing."
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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.