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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Letters


Letter to Bishop Wilton Gregory


June 24, 2004

Dear Bishop Gregory:

It's been two years since we first began hearing that American Catholic bishops would use "fraternal correction" on brother bishops who weren't properly handling clergy sexual abuse cases.

Not a single US bishop has done it.

It's been several weeks since perhaps the most notorious symbol of complicit church leaders, Cardinal Bernard Law, essentially received a promotion - a well-paid position of honor in Rome.

Not a single US bishop has said one word.

It's been several days since a just-completed investigation by the Dallas Morning News revealed that 200 known and suspected child molesting Catholic clerics have moved or been transferred across national boundaries.

Not a single US bishop has said one word.

That year-long investigation also showed that roughly 100 such abusive priests were literally fleeing from law enforcement.

Not a single US bishop has said one word.

It's been several days since an admitted abuser, a fugitive from the law, Father Frank Kelp of the Salesians, was exposed in that same newspaper as working right now in Samoa as a priest, surrounded by devout, unsuspecting Catholic families who were told nothing about his criminal background.

Not a single US bishop has said one word.

Just two weeks ago, virtually every US bishop met in secrecy in Denver to consider backpedaling on their sex abuse policy.

Not a single US bishop objected.

We could go on and on. This silence by you and your colleagues speaks volumes. It feels like part of a carefully-orchestrated public relations plan designed to convince us all that this crisis is, to use your words, "history." But recent events, including the Dallas Morning News investigation, prove otherwise. They cry out, we feel, for a response from America's prelates.

On one hand, it's the same old, dangerous pattern - quietly moving known or suspected child molesters from one group of unsuspecting Catholic families to another.

On the other hand, it's markedly different and worse. To move a known or suspected abusive priest within a diocese or country is despicable but relatively easy. To move a potentially dangerous man across national borders usually involves more deception and preparation, and is therefore more despicable.

This is especially true when the cleric is sent to a Third World country, where even more vulnerable children are at risk because of weaker law enforcement, weaker legal systems, and weaker news media. The educational and cultural and financial gaps between priests and parishioners are even more pronounced in impoverished countries, which make abuse more likely and makes detecting and punishing offenders less likely.

It's also worse because of the timing. Father Frank Klep is in ministry right now (to cite just one example). If, after two and a half years of horrific scandal, church leaders have not learned even the basics - that you don't let admitted molesters keep functioning as priests around children - they will never learn.

The Dallas Morning News investigation proves that you and your colleagues were wrong when you said, time and time again, "We just didn't understand. But now we've learned and are doing better." Now, in 2004, an admitted abuser, with help from his superiors, has fled from law enforcement and ministers to youngsters. And he's not alone. This is not ignorance, this is deliberate. And it's shameful.

We strongly believe that American bishops must, as bodies - for your sake, for the sake of the worldwide church, and for the sake of the most vulnerable - address this horrific, on-going scandal right away.

Here's our goal: First, we fear that perhaps dozens of men and women in this country may have been assaulted by some of these priests. We want to help them find the courage and strength to come forward and begin to heal.

Second, we believe there may also be witnesses who could help prosecute these dangerous men and protect innocent children. We want to help them find the courage and strength to come forward and talk with police.

Third, despite obstacles inherent in international prosecution, we want law enforcement to vigorously pursue these molesters. We urge anyone with information about their crimes to contact police and we urge law enforcement agencies to redouble their efforts to apprehend these fugitive priests.

Here, specifically, is what we want the USCCB to do to safeguard innocent children, especially in the Third World.

- Publicly call on Catholics who experienced, witnessed, or suspected abuse by these fugitives to contact police.

- Publicly censure any American bishops who helped enable molesters to avoid prosecution by fleeing.

- Deny those bishops attendance at the Conference's fall meeting in Washington.

- Forbid those bishops from holding offices or chair committees in the Conference, and

- Make sure this critical subject - the continued movement and transfer of abusive clerics across national borders - is openly and publicly discussed at the bishops' national meeting this November in Washington.

We hope to hear from you soon.

David Clohessy
National Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
St. Louis MO 63143
314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915

Barbara Blaine
President, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
PO Box 6416
Chicago IL 60680
312 399 4747 cell

Peter Isely
SNAP National Board Member
2408 E Webster Place
Milwaukee, WI 53211
414 429 7259 cell


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests