For immediate release: Wednesday July 10, 2013
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790,SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
A new South Carolina study finds that in child abuse cases “churches often stand between victims and help” and that churches “were least likely to report abuse and sometimes covered it up, urging victims to forgive their abusers instead of reporting them,” according to today's New York Times.
This is very distressing. Churches know better. But time and time again, church officials and members timidly put their selfish interests above the safety of kids.
It’s been more than 25 years since the first shocking clergy sex abuse and cover up case garnered national attention. In just one denomination (Catholic), church officials admit there have been more than 6,200 child molesting clerics (and we strongly suspect the real figure is substantially higher).
Yet we still see, time and time again, spiritual figures acting like cold-hearted CEOs instead of like compassionate shepherds.
This isn’t rocket science. Admitted and suspected child molesters – regardless of their positions or titles – must be immediately reported to law enforcement. Victims must be believed and supported, not doubted and shunned. Congregants must be open-minded, and taught to resist the temptation to instinctively rally around the accused and further re-victimizing the accuser.
(For other suggestions, see “What to do when your pastor is accused,” on our website: SNAPnetwork.org)
Ignorance is no excuse. Churches can choose where to put their energies. And more of their energies need to be put on protecting their flocks.
Finally, we hope South Carolina lawmakers will take a simple, proven, effective step to better protect kids from predators, by reforming archaic, predator-friendly statutes of limitations. Letting more child sex abuse victims expose those who commit and conceal child sex crimes will prevent both crimes and cover ups in the future.