The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to Franciscan Friar
September 23, 2004
Brother John Summers, OFM, Secretary of the Province of St. Barbara
We in SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are very hurt and upset by your recent public statement regarding the controversy surrounding Brother Gerald Chumik, a member of your religious community who molested a youngster in Canada. We are asking that you set the record straight and publicly apologize to our support group for your slanderous remarks. What is important here is to protect innocent kids, vulnerable people and help heal those already hurt by Brother Chumik and other abusive clergy by church officials telling the truth.
You recently claimed that there was some threat to public safety at the Old Mission in Santa Barbara and that this "threat" compelled you to send Brother Chumik, a fugitive molester, to a Catholic housing center for pedophile clergy in Missouri.
In a 9/10/04 statement to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, you wrote "Picketing, disruption of public worship and other troubling incidents occurred at Old Mission Santa Barbara following news media reports (about) Brother Chumik. . .These angry actions posed such a potential threat to public safety and welfare that the (we) felt compelled to try to defuse them by moving Brother Gerald).
To the best of our knowledge, SNAP is the only group that raised concerns about kids at risk around Chumik. Once, a handful of our members leafleted outside your Mission, where hundreds of families visit weekly. The obvious implication from your public statement is that somehow SNAP caused or was part of such a threat to the public's safety.
Surely you know this was not the case. As you must know, several reporters were present watching our small group peacefully hand out leaflets. It was brief, quiet and totally without incident.
For more than 13 years, members of our group, always in small number and always peacefully, have quietly handed out leaflets at various parishes and places across the country with two goals: to warn parents about known molesters and to teach them about the warning signs of abuse. We've never caused any problems, much less any safety concerns.
We will continue to urge victims to disclose their suffering, for their own healing and so that predators can be exposed and prosecuted. And we will continue to peacefully warn parishioners about dangerous men because church officials often haven't and still often won't warn vulnerable people about known and suspected abusers.
Virtually never has there been any allegation that this constitutionally protected free speech has been disruptive, much less threatened public safety. In fact, your public statement may be the first instance in which a church official has implied that our group has done anything even slightly disruptive.
We in SNAP urge you to publicly apologize to members of our support group and acknowledge that no one in SNAP ever posed any "threat" to anyone.
If indeed, someone else might have posed any such threat, we urge you to report them to criminal authorities promptly. If you don't, we will have to conclude that you were either misinformed or that you deliberately misinformed others about activities at the Mission.
If you are truly concerned about public safety, we urge you again to stop enabling Brother Chumik to evade Canadian authorities and prosecutors by offering him safe harbor and protection within your "order."
We look forward to hearing from you.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests