Today, the Vatican has announced that the bishop of the Diocese of Fargo, ND will be promoted to fill the role of archbishop in the Diocese of Denver which has been vacant since Archbishop Charles Chaput moved to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
For now-Archbishop Samuel Aquila, this is a homecoming in many ways. We hope that, as he returns to Denver and takes over the archdiocese, he works diligently and tirelessly to help end the clergy sex abuse and cover-up crisis. However, in the past Aquila has failed to act responsibly to protect kids.
In 2009, it was revealed that three monsignors, after receiving a credible accusation of abuse, refused to share the information with anyone outside the diocesan hierarchy. The diocese first heard the accusation against Fr. Gregory Patejko in 1994, and paid a settlement to the Patejko’s victim that same year. Yet it wasn’t until 15 years later that the allegation was made public, and even then only because the victim grew tired of the diocese’s silence and went to the media himself.
Aquila’s silence in this matter only served to help the Diocese of Fargo avoid public embarrassment, and actually worked against victims by allowing others who may have been abused by Patejko to continue suffering in silence. We don’t know how many other allegations may have been kept under wraps in the same way, but we suspect that this was not the only case.
SNAP also asked Aquila to help us take children out of harm's way in Chicago -- he did nothing. SNAP asked him to follow his established "policy" and help us reach out to survivors in his diocese -- he did nothing.
Archbishop Chaput was no friend to victims, and it appears that Aquila is much the same. While the church hierarchy claims to be doing everything they can to protect kids, they continue to promote people who work to protect predators instead.
Becoming Archbishop is a big promotion and there is a wide range of candidates. Why not Bishop John Quinn of Winona, who actively warned his flock about a notorious predator? Why not Bishop Peter Christensen of Superior, who has disallowed predators in his diocese in order to protect kids?
Vatican officials could have promoted someone who has worked to protect kids and would surely do so again. Instead, they decide that the status quo is worth keeping, and public relations are more important than the innocence of children.
Annette Nestler-SNAP Southern New Jersey