PA--Victims on Altoona: “Probe is on-going, so act!”
For immediate release: Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 503 0003 cell, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org)
The Altoona abuse and cover up investigation is on-going. It’s key to remember that. Just because there are no criminal charges now doesn’t mean there won’t be any later.
We believe it’s the moral and civic duty of every Altoona area Catholic to actively seek out others who saw or suspected or suffered crimes by these 50 predator priests. We believe Altoona area church staff have the same duty. But we know that virtually none of them will take action, because they’re too timid, whether they’re a bookkeeper or a bishop. And since they won’t, it’s crucial that rank-and-file church members do this outreach.
We beg Catholics and citizens to read carefully the parts of the report that deal with how Catholic officials deal with abuse reports now. It’s worth reading this piece from PennLive.com:
The bishop controlled the Allegation Review Board.
Bishop Adamec created the Allegation Review Board to allegedly determine the credibility of an allegation of abuse.
However, the purpose of creating the board, the grand jury said, was to convince people that the days of a mysterious bishop deciding how to handle a scandalous and heinous report of child molestation were over.
"In reality, the bishop still exclusively makes the decision how or what to do with a report of child molestation," the grand jury said. "Nothing has changed but the trappings of how a report is procedurally made."
The grand jury said victims who believed they were reporting to a board of unbiased and neutral observers "would be sadly mistaken."
Diocese 'victim advocate' looked out for the church, not the victims.
The grand jury concluded, upon interviews with victims and reviews of documents, that the diocese "victim advocate" is an advocate for the diocese against the interest of the victims. The victim advocate was identified as Sister Marilyn Welch.
"Where the advocate can shuffle a victim into the Allegation Review Board without the involvement of legal representation for a victim, she does so," the grand jury reported.
"Money is offered. Confidentiality and release claims are signed by victims and the diocese to avoid public scrutiny."
Sadly, we believe that this is the norm throughout the church, not just in Altoona.
It should also be remembered that:
--One Altoona predator priest was ousted last year only because the AG’s office insisted. (Fr. Martin Cingle)
--No one ever asks “Do teachers still molest kids?” Or day care workers. Or Scout leaders. We know child molesters always have and always will seek out those jobs. It’s the same with priests.
--Precious few kids can promptly report current child sex crimes. There always has been and always will be decades of delay between when child sex crimes happen and when they’re reported. So years from now, we’ll hear from the kids being assaulted today by priests. It’s silly to assume otherwise.
And in related developments elsewhere:
--Last month, a high-ranking Catholic official told bishops they need not report child sex crimes to police.
--Last month, Vatican officials lifted the suspension of a priest who pled guilty to molesting a girl last year. (Fr. Joseph Jeyapaul)
--In January, two US bishops who’d resigned for hiding child sex crimes were quietly put back on the job in different states.
We frankly feel Bishop Mark Bartchak is no better on abuse than Hogan or Adamec. He has been forced to act because of brave victims and criminal investigations. He benefits from an extraordinarily low expectations bar since he replaces such blatantly corrupt predecessors.
Finally, shame on Bishop Bartchak for saying “I deeply regret any harm that has come to children.” What a cop out. Harm didn’t COME to kids. Harm was CAUSED to kids, by clerics who knowingly and repeatedly committed and concealed heinous crimes. If Bartchak can’t bring himself to use appropriate language to describe abuse and cover up, he can’t be counted on to stop abuse and cover ups.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 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)
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.