PA- Catholic bishop dodges victims group's requests
For immediate release: Friday, March 28, 2014
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
Scranton's Catholic bishop has responded to our recent letter by ignoring three of our four concerns, but pledging to write the Pope about a predator priest. (A copy of the letter is below.)
Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera dodges our plea that he
–publicly reveal the records that allegedly show that Scranton diocesan officials warned “the appropriate” church staff about Fr. Carlos Urrutigoity,
– launch an independent investigation into who, if anyone, in the Scranton diocese may have ignored or concealed Fr. Urrutigoity's crimes, and
–aggressively reach out – using church bulletins, parish websites and pulpit announcements - to anyone else who may have seen, suspected or suffered Fr. Urrutigoity’s crimes and urge them to call law enforcement.
In addition, Bambera has made one promise: to contact Pope Francis about Fr. Urrutigoity. That's something, but not much. If he follows through, that will be a step forward, but a small one. As we've said before, private letters between church officials about predator priests usually seem to protect no one except the reputations of those involved. And we're not optimistic about this because even if Bambera writes the strongest possible letter to the Pope, we doubt Francis will act. His track record on abuse cases – both as pope and as archbishop – has been and remains dismal.
Finally, we question Bambera's claim that he “will continue to encourage anyone who may have suspected, witnessed or suffered abuse at the hands of Father Urrutigoity or any other cleric to immediately report this crime to law enforcement.” He has two options. He can passively sit back, do little or nothing to find these people and say the right things if or when one of them step forward. Or he can actively reach out – as we've urged him to do - using church bulletins, parish websites and pulpit announcements - to find these people.
Based on the language of his letter, it sounds like Bambera is opting for the timid and passive approach instead of the responsible and aggressive approach. We hope he will prove us wrong.
(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 15,000 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)
March 26, 2014
David Clohessy, Director
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
St. Louis, MO 63143
Dear Mr. Clohessy and Ms. Dorris:
I received your March 25, 2014, letter via email communication at my diocesan office and wish to respond to the concerns that you presented to me. Thank you for sharing them with me.
As you are aware, the incardination of Father Carlos Urrutigoity into the Diocese of Ciudad del Este in Paraguay took place prior to my assuming the office of Bishop of Scranton. I share in the outrage that you expressed regarding the conferral of public ministry on him by the local bishop following Father Urrutigoity’s incardination into the presbyterate of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este. It is particularly distressing to hear of his recent advancement to the office of Vicar General in that same diocese. My intention is to do all I can to make sure this matter is addressed appropriately and expeditiously.
First, however, I feel it is important for me to reiterate that Bishop Martino consistently expressed his grave reservations about this cleric’s suitability for priestly ministry and cautioned the Bishop of the Diocese of Ciudad del Este, Paraguay regarding Father Urrutigoity’s past, troubling behaviors and the accusations that were lodged against him. Bishop Martino did this on several occasions, strongly expressing his objections concerning Father Carlos Urrutigoity, who was identified as posing a serious threat to young people. It is my understanding that Bishop Martino was under the clear impression that the bishop of Ciudad del Este understood these concerns.
As Bishop of Scranton, I have no jurisdiction over the Diocese of Ciudad del Este or Father Urrutigoity. However, considering the position of authority that Father Urrutigoity now maintains and the fact that the warnings of my predecessor regarding his suitability for ministry have not been heeded, I have begun the process of bringing this dire situation to the attention of the Holy See in the hopes that the matter will immediately be examined further by those with competence over it.
I will continue to encourage anyone who may have suspected, witnessed or suffered abuse at the hands of Father Urrutigoity or any other cleric to immediately report this crime to law enforcement. Additionally, it has been and continues to be my expectation, as well as diocesan policy, that in all instances where sexual abuse of a minor is reported to have occurred, the Diocese shall make a report to the proper civil authorities even when the person is no longer a minor.
†Joseph C. Bambera
Click here to see our letter to Bambera and press release.
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.