Victims hold rooftop candlelight vigil in Rome
Event is just before Pope John Paul II is named a saint
With St. Peter's as backdrop, group honors 'the wounded, not the complicit'
They’ll also read an 'open letter' to victims & whistleblowers urging persistence
Group urges all who saw, suspected or suffered crimes & cover ups to 'speak up now'
Holding candles, signs and childhood photos, clergy sex abuse victims from four or five countries will stand in a small rooftop vigil with St. Peter's Basilica in the background. They will also read aloud an open letter - in French, German, Spanish and English - to victims, witnesses, and whistleblowers, urging them to
– keep speaking up and reporting crimes, even though complicit Catholic officials (including Pope John Paul II) keep getting honored and promoted,
– report every single incident or suspicion of clergy sex crimes and cover ups to secular officials, not church officials, and
– boldly but compassionately keep reaching out and offering help to every single person who they know of or fear was sexually assaulted by clergy.
They will especially remember and honor dozens of victims of the world's most notorious predator priest – Fr. Marcial Maciel – whose extensive crimes and misdeeds were ignored and hidden during Pope John Paul's long papacy.
Friday, April 25 from 8 p.m.-10 p. m. (Rome time/Central European time)
On the rooftop of the Hotel Orange (4-5 stories up), Via Crescenzio, 86, 00193 Roma, Italy; +39 06 686 8969 (near the Vatican)
Four-five clergy sex abuse victims from Spain, Austria, Australia, and the U.S. who are leaders in an international support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org)
SNAP leaders worry about clergy sex abuse victims feeling disheartened and current and former Catholics feeling betrayed by what they call the “irresponsible and hurtful” canonization of Pope John Paul II and the continued practice of top church officials ignoring or rewarding those who conceal child sex offenses.
The victims will describe their own experiences of healing themselves, exposing predators, protecting kids and achieving justice, to offer hope to others who have been victimized and hurt, but are still struggling in shame, silence, self-blame and hopelessness. (A copy of their 'open letter' will be posted late Friday afternoon, Rome time, on the SNAP website.)
SNAP believes that the pontiff “must have known” about the multiple sexual abuse allegations against Legionaries of Christ founder Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado. Instead of disciplining or defrocking Fr. Maciel, Pope John Paul II held a highly publicized special ceremony celebrating the anniversary of Maciel's ordination.
“It sends a disturbing message when Catholic officials, who ignored or concealed abuse, are honored,” said Miguel Hurtado of London SNAP. “The message is ‘keep putting the reputations of officials above victims, keep putting children in danger. There will be no negative consequences for you in this church.’”
“Catholic officials must punish, not praise, those who hurt kids, whether directly or indirectly. Not doing so leads to continued cover ups,” said Nicky Davis, Australian SNAP Leader. “It also rubs salt into already deep wounds of victims and betrayed Catholics.”
“We hope our brief and small presence in Rome and our open letter will remind victims that they aren't alone, there is hope, and that someone understands their pain,” said SNAP's Barbara Blaine of Chicago.
SNAP leaders say they feel a deep kinship and admiration for the dozens of boys and young men who were manipulated and sexually violated by Fr. Maciel. About ten of them persistently sought justice through church channels for years. Their ultimate success at exposing this “cunning pedophile,” has “inspired victims across the world to keep pushing for truth and prevention and healing,” said Blaine.
Maciel's victims include Juan Vaca of Holbrook, NY (college guidance counselor, president of the Legionaries in the United States from 1971 to 1976), Arturo Jurado Guzman of Monterey CA (instructor, U.S. Defense Department School of Linguistics), Fernando Perez Olvera of Monterey, Mexico (engineer), Jose Antonio Perez Olvera, 59, lawyer, Mexico City (attorney), Fr. Felix Alarcon of Venice, FL (who opened the Legion's first U.S. base in the Connecticut in 1965), Professor Jose de J. Barba Martin of Mexico City (a Harvard-educated literary scholar who teaches at the Instituto Tecnological Autonomo de Mexico), Saul Barrales Arellano of Mexico City, (a Catholic school teacher),Alejandro Espinosa Alcala of Mexico (a rancher), and Juan Manuel Fernandez Amenabar (a now deceased former Legionary priest and president of the Northern Anahuac University in Mexico City).
For more on SNAP leaders' views on the sainthood of Pope John Paul II :
Some SNAP leaders will be available for interviews Saturday in Rome as well.
(in Rome) Barbara Blaine, European cell +39 366 1160224, U.S. cell +1 312 399 4747, Rome hotel- +39 06 598591;SNAPblaine@gmail.com, Miguel Hurtado +44 7787 638245, Nicky Davis, European cell +39 388 9068750,firstname.lastname@example.org
(in the US) David Clohessy (in Missouri) +1 314 645 5915 home, +1 314 566 9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com or Barbara Dorris (in Missouri) +1 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com or the SNAP office in Chicago at +1 312 455 1499, email@example.com or SNAPadmin@snapnetwork.org