We are members of a Chicago-based international support group called SNAP. Our mission is to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.
We’re here today, outside the Great Falls/Billings Catholic Diocese headquarters, for four reasons:
1--To urge the Great Falls/Billings Catholic bishop to stop using off-duty police officers to delve into child sex abuse allegations and
2—To urge Montana’s federal prosecutor to investigate the practice.
3—To urge the bishop to permanently post on his website the names, photos and whereabouts of all child molesting clerics who live or work (or have lived or worked) in his diocese, and
4—To beg anyone who has seen, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Montana to come forward, get help, expose predators, protect kids, and start healing.
Instead, we want him to promptly report all reports and suspicions of possible child sex crimes immediately to police. If law enforcement officials can’t or won’t pursue charges (often due to the statute of limitations), then we want Warfel to hire retired law enforcement to look into the accusations.
Hiring off duty cops as investigators is apparently legal in Montana (though apparently illegal in some states). We believe that it likely compromises or undermines the integrity or independence of – or reduces public confidence in - law enforcement
Anything, we feel, that undermines the integrity or independence of – or reduces public confidence in - law enforcement - is problematic. This is especially true in child sex abuse cases (in which victims are particularly, due to of the nature of the crime, distrustful of authorities and fearful of speaking up).
Our executive director, David Clohessy, has said “It’s important for law enforcement officials to avoid even the appearance of any conflicts of interest. Any sort of work done off-the-clock that would affect an investigation on-the-clock is a concern.”
Common sense, history and psychology all tell us that it discourages victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from speaking up. And victims, witnesses and whistleblowers should be encouraged – not discouraged – from stepping forward.
It’s important to remember that many child sex abuse victims, especially those molested by authority figures, have tremendous distrust of authority. They are very fearful of contacting authorities.
This is largely about perception. But perception matters. It especially matters to child sex abuse victims. Why would either church or police authorities run the risk of even one victim keeping silent because he or she worries about what might appear to be excessive entanglement between those who commit and hide wrongdoing and those who investigate and pursue wrongdoing?
Second, we are calling on Michael Cotter, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana (406 657 6101), to investigate this practice and determine whether it is legal and/or ethical, and whether or not there was a violation of the law in this specific instance. Regardless, we want Warfel to stop this practice. Again, why take the risk that even one victim will stay silent because of what may seem to him or her like unhealthy collusion?
Third, we want Warfel to permanently post on his website the names, photos and whereabouts of all child molesting clerics who live or work (or have lived or worked) in his diocese. That’s the quickest, simplest and easiest way to protect children. More than two dozen bishops have done this. Warfel should too.
Finally, we want to beg anyone who has seen, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Montana to come forward, get help, expose predators, protect kids, and start healing.
Children can be protected. Criminals can be caught. Healing can happen. But only if those who have knowledge or suspicions of child sex crimes speak up.