The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to Bishop Gregory
Bishop Wilton Gregory
We are worried about pressures, both direct and indirect, from your fellow bishops on the National Review Board and on your selection of a chair to replace Governor Frank Keating.
First, regarding who heads this panel, we believe it is critical that this individual come from a strong law enforcement background. As you well know, the sexual abuse of children is a crime. The cover up of this horror is also a crime. Therefore, a seasoned prosecutor or police official would bring valuable experience to this endeavor.
This is especially critical in that other board members despite their impressive backgrounds, lack this perspective.
Repeatedly over the past year, we have heard pledges of "full cooperation with law enforcement" from America's Catholic prelates. Appointing a veteran professional in law enforcement to this critical post would help convince parishioners, the public, and abuse victims that this pledge is indeed sincere.
Furthermore, it would eliminate any rumors, doubts or charges that Gov. Keating's removal was influenced somehow by political ambitions of his potential replacement. This body needs to remain above reproach and above even the misimpressions of impropriety.
Second, we are very concerned about indications that your brother bishops are attempting to redesign portions of the John Jay study.
Several media outlets (including the St. Louis Post Dispatch, June 18, 2003) have reported that researchers from John Jay College are meeting tomorrow with bishops. It has also been reported that a number of bishops have objected to the design of the research.
We implore you to impress upon your colleagues that this research, even if imperfect, be allowed to proceed without further delay or revision by bishops. Further involvement by bishops may jeopardize the validity of the research. It may also reduce any confidence that victims and lay Catholics have in the final product of that research.
For years, we have read many your brother bishops excuse their mishandling of abuse by claiming ignorance: "We just didn't know much about pedophilia. . ." For years, bishops have meddled with criminal matters instead of turning abuse allegations over to the independent professionals in law enforcement. As a result of these decisions, many innocent children have been hurt.
These facts should serve as a reminder that, while bishops may be experts in church affairs, they are not knowledgeable in all fields. You and your colleagues should leave research studies to reputable, trained social scientists.
Part of our mission in SNAP is to provide what hope we can for very wounded and skeptical survivors and their families. One way we do that is by encouraging our members to remain open-minded about the Review Board and its work. But when we read about bishops complaining about the Board, and apparently trying to influence its efforts and its professionally-designed research, we can't help but watch as they become more disillusioned.
We hear the same sentiments from Catholic lay people as well. They want to see the Board succeed, just like we do. But they are troubled by perceptions of interference from some bishops, bishops who repeatedly pledged last summer that this body would be truly independent.
As you well know, Bishop Gregory, the Review Board members are very caring and very competent individuals, with impressive professional qualifications and credentials. They are working very hard. We know they mean well and they have already made some progress. But if they are to succeed, it is critical that you help them by admonishing your colleagues about further interference in their work.
So we urge you, at this meeting in St. Louis, to insist that your colleagues not meddle in the board's activities, either through direct or indirect means. Please allow these dedicated lay people to do the job they were given to do.
Wishing you well in these difficult days,
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests