For immediate release: Monday, Sept. 23, 2013
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
A coadjutor bishop has been named for the Newark Archdiocese.
Any step, however small, that in any way reduces Archbishop John Myers’ authority or status is positive. At the same time, however, Pope Francis is again missing a clear opportunity to discipline, demote, denounce or even defrock a blatantly reckless, callous and deceitful prelate and send a powerful signal that cover ups will no longer be tolerated.
It will be tempting for many to read more into this appointment than they should. Because Vatican officials usually refuse to disclose the rationale for their actions – or are notoriously vague when they do so – no one can really know whether this move is in any way connected to Myers’ repeatedly irresponsible actions with predator priests.
But many Catholics will assume this. We caution them against leaping to conclusions. No one person caused the horrific scandal in Newark. No one person can fix it. The real solution isn’t juggling secretive church officials. The real solution requires every single current and former Catholic church employee and member to call law enforcement with any knowledge or suspicions of clergy sex crimes and cover ups, no matter how old, small, vague or seemingly insignificant that knowledge or those suspicions might be. That’s what protects kids – the courage of many adults, not the shuffling of two officials.
Bishop Bernard A. Hebda is a lawyer, a fact that worries us. Most bishops approach clergy sex abuse and cover up cases like lawyers, instead of shepherds.
And he’s worked in two states with particularly archaic, predator-friendly child sex abuse laws, which means it’s hard to really assess how he’s handled clergy sex crimes and cover ups.
Neither of those dioceses has posted names of predator priests on their websites, as roughly 30 US bishops have. And Hebda has done nothing in Gaylord that indicates to us that he’ll be any different or better than the overwhelming majority of his clerical colleagues who continue to conceal clergy sex crimes.
The safest course for Newark victims, witnesses and whistleblowers is to keep calling secular officials, not church officials, when they see, suspect or suffer clergy sex crimes and cover ups.