A support group is blasting Pittsburgh's Catholic bishop over a short announcement to one parish about a credibly accused child-molesting cleric.
In a letter to Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPNetwork.org), charge that Zubik minimizes the impact of abuse by Fr. John Wellinger and that he may even be hindering police investigations into sex abuse and cover-up in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The letter raises four major concerns:
-- Zubik does not urge victims to call police,
-- Many parishes where Wellinger worked have NOT been warned,
-- Parishes where 33 other accused clerics have worked have not been told about potential child sex crimes, and
-- Zubik does not encourage witnesses and whistleblowers to report what they know to law enforcement.
"You [Bishop Zubik] may believe that since Wellinger is deceased, there is no need to contact the police," the letter says. "But the cover-up of his crimes may still be a criminal offense. Victims, witnesses and whistleblowers may have important and valuable information that can still protect kids and put wrongdoers behind bars."
The letter also criticized the haphazard way that Zubik chose to announce the allegations. "We cannot help but wonder why you have warned only some parishes where Wellington worked," the letter continues. "Plus, you have chosen to make announcements about some credibly accused clerics, but not others. All abuse is criminal and all victims suffer. It is your pastoral and Christian duty to warn all parishes about all accused clergy."
"Wellinger's deceased, so he obviously can't be prosecuted," said Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director. "But anyone with any information about clergy sex crimes and cover ups should always call law enforcement officials, not church officials, even if the predator is dead. There's always a chance that a church supervisors can face charges of destroying evidence, intimidating victims and threatening witnesses."
The group is also begging Zubik to visit every parish where an offending cleric worked. "Most victims want and need the bishop to reach out the them personally," Jones said. "If he does that and encourages every victim to report to the police he can be a real model for change."
Finally, the group is urging Zubik to go to the communities where Wellington worked after leaving the priesthood. SNAP fears there may be victims who have no idea that a former priest predator was "dumped" in their neighborhoods. "Bishop Zubik has an obligation to reach out to potential victims everywhere Wellington worked," Jones said, "even after he was removed from the priesthood."
Letter SNAP sent to Bishop Zubik this morning is posted below:
Most Rev. David A. Zubik
Diocese of Pittsburgh Pastoral Center
111 Boulevard of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222-1618
Fax: (412) 456-3185
Dear Bishop Zubik:
We are members of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPNetwork.org). Our goal is to help protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. We also believe that, as responsible adults, we need to warn families about potentially dangerous predators.
We are writing you now to express our alarm and disappointment at your recent announcement to the parishioners at Saint James in Wilkinsburg. Your terse letter minimizes the abuse experienced by the alleged victims of Fr. John Wellinger and does not address the widespread nature of Wellinger's career or the careers of at least 30 other credibly accused priest predators in Pittsburgh.
More specifically, we are upset because you:
- Did not urge victims to call police, although criminal activity has occurred
- Did not warn many of Wellinger's other parishes about the risk he posed,
- Have not warned parishes where 33 other accused clerics have worked, and
- Do not encourage witnesses and whistleblowers to report what they know to law enforcement.
You may believe that since Wellinger is deceased, there is no need to contact the police. But the cover-up of his crimes may still be a criminal offense. Victims, witnesses and whistleblowers may have important and valuable information that can still protect kids and put wrongdoers behind bars.
We cannot help but wonder why you have warned only some parishes where Wellington worked. In addition, you have chosen to make announcements about some credibly accused clerics, but not others. All abuse is criminal and all victims suffer. It is your pastoral and Christian duty to warn all parishes about all accused clergy.
That is why we ask that you:
- Personally visit every parish and community where Wellinger worked and reach out to victims,
- Reach out to every parish where priest predators worked in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, and
- Urge victims, witnesses and whistleblowers the to contact the police.
Even if one victim is suffering and alone, it is your duty to do everything possible to help comfort the wounded and bring wrongdoers to justice.
We look forward to your response.
David Clohessy, SNAP Director, SNAPclohessy@aol.com
Barbara Dorris, SNAP Outreach Director, SNAPdorris@gmail.com
Barbara Blaine, SNAP President, SNAPblaine@gmail.com
Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest, SNAPjudy@gmail.com