- Scrap national church abuse policy, they say
- SNAP: "It's violated often with no consequences"
- Group wants an inclusive, 1 year process with "real input"
- Now, victims say, focus is on pedophile priest & lay Catholics
- But officials who “still ignore & hide crimes” must be punished, SNAP argues
- For starters, group says, prelates in San Diego & Owensboro should be “denounced”
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters will call on America's Catholic bishops (who are meeting now in Atlanta) to
-- totally scrap and revamp their ten year old child sex abuse policy,
-- commit to an inclusive, one year planning process with public hearings and "real input," and
-- adopt tough penalties for church officials who ignore, conceal and enable child sex crimes.
They will also ask the prelates to denounce bishops in California and Kentucky for their “complicity” and “violations” in clergy sex cases that arose just last week.
Tuesday, June 12 at 1:30 pm
Corner of Peachtree Center NE &John Portman streets, across the street from the Hyatt, where the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is meeting
Three-five clergy sex abuse victims who belong to a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), including a Chicago woman who is the organization’s founder and president
In the midst of stunning revelations of child sex crimes by priests and repeated cover ups by bishops, ten years ago this week in Dallas, America’s Catholic hierarchy adopted a “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” It was a belated and begrudging, and hasty effort, SNAP says, that resulted in a weak, vague set of pledges that are often violated, especially since there are virtually no incentives to follow the policies and no punishments for breaking them.
And SNAP says that policy has repeatedly been weakened – instead of strengthened – over the past decade, as has the “National Review Board” that was set up to allegedly oversee implementation. So many bishops have “backpedalled tremendously,” the group says, largely because no prelate who ignores, minimizes, conceals or enables child sex crimes is ever penalized (while many church wrongdoers have subsequently been promoted).
So SNAP wants America’s bishops to scrap the ten year old procedures and spend the next year radically revamping them after public hearings and real grassroots input.
In the short term, SNAP is urging the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to denounce two of their peers for alleged complicity in two clergy sex cases that arose just last week. The group wants the prelates to publicly censure church officials in
--San Diego CA, where Bishop Robert Brom quietly put Fr. Jose Davila back into a parish in May, despite the fact that he pled guilty plea in April to battery and “unlawful touching an intimate part” of a 19 year old girl’s body.
--Owensboro KY, where Bishop William Medley and his predecessor kept silent for 18 years about child sex abuse allegations against Fr. Louis Francis Piskula who was just charged with child sexual abuse but who was secretly suspended in 1994 for similar allegations.
The first case violates the bishops’ policy call for “zero tolerance” of abuse. The second case violates the bishops’ policy requirement that church officials be “open and transparent” in clergy sex abuse cases.
SNAP also notes that throughout the on-going crisis, many bishops have claimed they “didn’t really understand abuse” and have, since 2002, been "learning more" about it. If that’s the case, the policies should have been broadened and improved – not watered down – and should be further broadened and improved now (especially in the wake of such stunning cases of complicity like those recently unearthed in Kansas City and Philadelphia).
Besides no incentives for compliance or penalties for non-compliance, SNAP maintains that the charter has three basic flaws: 1) Ninety five percent of it focuses on lay people, who aren't -- and have never been - the real problem, 2) the policy has huge gaps (parishioners get no training, for instance, on how to respond to allegations in ways that don’t intimidate victims) and, 3) review boards which allegedly oversee compliance are handpicked by bishops and get inaccurate and incomplete information from church officials.
Among other reforms, SNAP recommends amending the policy to require that bishops will be kicked out of the USCCB for violating it. The group also wants review board members to be required to 1) meet directly with each victim, and 2) sign a pledge to resign and “blow the whistle” when church officials endanger kids. SNAP also wants bishops to pick two review board members, then let those two select the board’s other five or six members (to reduce the bishops’ power over appointees).
Barbara Blaine 312 399 4747, firstname.lastname@example.org, David Clohessy 314 566 9790 email@example.com