For immediate release: Monday, Sept. 30, 2013
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
Cardinal Tim Dolan has apparently kept silent for months about an accused child molesting cleric. And instead of urging people to call police, Dolan is makes the same self-serving but hurtful plea bishops have made for decades – asking those with information about child sex crimes to call church officials, not police or prosecutors.
Shame on him.
Deacon Al Mazza has been dismissed from his duties at Church of the Holy Name of Mary Croton-on-Hudson has been “permanently removed from ministry.”
1) Dolan claims he suspended Mazza months ago, but we see no evidence that he made this public in any way. That’s reckless and irresponsible.
Dolan is a media-savvy guy with an efficient public relations team. He knows how to get attention. But he refuses to bring attention quickly on a credibly accused child molesting cleric. Instead, he waits months to warn parents, parishioners and the public about Mazza.
The accusations against Mazza should have been announced – far and wide – when they were made. Or they should have been announced – far and wide – when he was allegedly suspended months ago.
(And if he was allegedly suspended months ago, why is Mazza’s name still on the parish bulletin September 8 and 15 and 22?)
Instead, Dolan keeps quiet until now. And even so, it seems that he notified only the current parishioners at only one of the archdiocese’s 385 parishes. So even now, Dolan is doing the absolute bare minimum.
2) Dolan asks people who want to “report anything in this regard” to three clerics: a priest, a nun or a deacon. Again, shame on him. He knows what’s right: people should report to police and prosecutors, not church officials.
Dolan’s acting selfishly. He’s doing what top church officials have done for decades - trying, again, to make sure that victims, witnesses and whistleblowers come to church staff first, so they can handle this as quietly as possible.
3) It’s inappropriate, deceptive and hurtful for Dolan to brag in the letter. He claims that “the Church leads the way with action and transparency,” and “the archdiocese acts promptly, definitively, firmly, and openly whenever a horrific instance of the abuse of a minor is brought to our attention.”
Right now, Dolan should focus on helping to put a credibly accused child molester behind bars, not on puffing out his chest and bragging. Then, he should focus on finding and helping others who may have been hurt by Mazza, not on puffing out his chest and bragging.
At best, his callous comments are unseemly and inappropriate. At worst, they distract from the most pressing task: helping police and prosecutors get this child molesting cleric away from children. (Even though this one victim can’t pursue justice because of the statute of limitations, we strongly suspect there are other victims who can.)
Dolan claims “The Church learned a painful lesson in not communicating the abuse of minors to the faithful as soon as it became aware of it.” He’s being deliberately deceptive in two ways. First, using the word “learned” implies that it was ignorance that caused church officials to handle child sex crimes secretly in the past. That’s just not true. It’s the selfish obsession with protecting themselves and their reputations and power that lead Catholic officials to be secretive about clergy sex crimes and cover ups. It’s a lack of courage and decency, not a lack of knowledge, that has caused tens of thousands of boys and girls in the US to be hurt by child molesting priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians and other church employees.
Second, the phrase “not communicating” implies there was a failure or an oversight. It wasn’t and it isn’t. Catholic officials took – and still take – affirmative steps to keep child sex abuse reports hidden. It’s a refusal to tell the truth, not some vague failure to “not communicate” that’s a root cause of this on-going crisis.
(Dolan’s uncaring actions are even more stunning here because at least two other clerics - Fr Kenneth Jesselli and Fr. Gennaro Gentile - at this one parish have been ousted because of credible child sex abuse allegations. Of course, Dolan, while claiming to act “openly” in child sex cases, refuses to name these two other child molesters in his letter.)
Since Dolan won’t say it, we will: A potentially dangerous child molester walks free. He now has more time on his hands than before. Our moral and civic duty is clear. Each person who saw, suspected or suffered this deacon’s crimes should find the courage to step forward, call police, expose wrongdoing, deter cover ups, protect kids and start healing.
And anyone with knowledge or suspicions about these crimes or cover ups should not call church officials. That just helps perpetuate this cover up and encourage future cover ups. If you saw, suspected or suffered crimes or cover ups in the church, contact the independent professionals in law enforcement, not the self-serving bureaucrats in church offices.
Now is not the time for complacency. Now is the time for action. Action –not words - protects kids. It’s time for Dolan to stop deceiving and bragging and start helping kids and victims – by taking tangible steps to get Mazza investigated, prosecuted, convicted and jailed.
September 26, 2013
Dear friends in the Lord:
How saddened I am whenever I have to bring difficult news to a parish. How much sadder I am when that news pertains to something as serious as the abuse of minors. You’ve let us know that, when there is bad news, you prefer to hear it from me, not someone else.
I am aware that Holy Name of Mary Parish has already been through much pain and suffering, having had two pastors removed and dismissed from the priesthood for this reason. Now, I must come to you to announce that Deacon Al Mazza has been removed from ministry based on credible and substantiated allegations of the abuse of minors.
Several months ago, the archdiocese received allegations from the Westchester district attorney’s office that Deacon Mazza had many years ago engaged in immoral and illegal conduct with minors. I thank the victims for their courage in coming forward with their somber stories. The allegations had been carefully investigated by the Croton-on-Hudson police department and the district attorney which concluded that, though the allegations were credible, state law precludes a criminal charge. The district attorney referred the matter to the archdiocese for further action. We are grateful to the Westchester district attorney and the Croton-on-Hudson police department for notifying the archdiocese of this matter and their diligence and professional assistance. Immediately after having received the victim’s complaint this summer, Deacon Mazza was placed on administrative leave while the matter was investigated. The matter was then referred to our archdiocesan review board which, late last week, came to the same conclusion, recommending that Deacon Mazza be permanently removed from ministry.
I have accepted the board’s recommendation, and asked Monsignor Edward Weber, our director of priest personnel, to read this letter at the Sunday Masses this weekend so as to assure you that the archdiocese acts promptly, definitively, firmly, and openly whenever a horrific instance of the abuse of a minor is brought to our attention.
As you know, the Church learned a painful lesson in not communicating the abuse of minors to the faithful as soon as it became aware of it. Now, the Church leads the way with action and transparency, with this sad situation here at this parish serving as an example.
To be fair to Deacon Mazza, he will have the opportunity to seek canonical advice, should he desire it, in responding to the allegations made against him and my petition to the Holy Father that he be permanently dismissed from ministry.
Again, I am so very sorry to have to bring this sad matter to your attention, especially given that this parish has suffered so terribly in the past for the same reason.
Please keep the victims in your prayers in a very special way, and please pray for Deacon Mazza as well.
Finally, should anyone have anything to report in this regard, please contact one of our victims’ assistance coordinators, Sister Eileen Clifford, O.P. at 212-371-1000 x2949, or Deacon George J. Coppola at 917-861-1762. If you call your pastor, Father Brian Brennan, he can give you these numbers again.
With prayerful best wishes, I am,
Faithfully in Christ,
Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York