Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests
Letter to New Orleans Archbishop Hughes
Survivors Network of those Abused By Priests
P.O. Box 6416,
Chicago, Illinois 60680-6416
November 19, 2004
Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes
Archdiocese of New Orleans
7887 Walmsley Avenue
New Orleans, LA 60125-3496
Dear Archbishop Hughes:
We are certain that the sexual abuse allegation against Fr. Pat
Sanders is unfortunate and troubling to everyone involved.
No clear determination has been made about his innocence or guilt.
Still, we believe you made the right decision to suspend him, pending
the outcome. Now, you must go further. You must take affirmative
steps to reach out to any other possible victims and move expeditiously
to resolve what doubt remains.
The first step in that process, we feel, is to stop parishioners
from publicly rallying around Sanders and proclaiming his supposed
innocence. Their love for Fr. Sanders is understandable, and their
devotion to him is admirable. However, those sentiments should be
expressed quietly and privately.
In that parish, others were or are being sexually assaulted. When
Catholics visibly and vigorously profess Fr. Sanders' innocence,
they are unintentionally making it harder for current and past victims
to come forward, report the crimes, protect others, and get the
help they so desperately need and deserve.
Allow us to be more specific:
Our fear, Archbishop Hughes, is that somewhere in Sanders' parish
is a twelve-year-old boy who is being molested right now by his
coach. That coach has told the frightened young victim, "If
you tell, no one will believe you."
Or there is a nine-year-old girl who is being raped by her stepfather.
The perpetrator tells her the same thing: "If you speak up,
everyone will back me and think you're lying."
These kids come to Mass on Sunday and watch good Catholics talk
about Sanders' alleged innocence. They see their parents' friends
and their neighbors obviously, almost reflexively, siding with an
accused child molester.
And then, tragically, they decide their molester is right: no one
will believe them. They remain silent, keep suffering, and unintentionally
put other innocent kids at risk too.
Archbishop, please don't let this happen.
So for the sake of justice, healing and prevention, we ask that
you take the following steps:
First, immediately contact staff and lay leaders at Sanders' parish.
Insist that they support Sanders privately, not publicly. Encourage
them to keep offering him their love. But make sure they do so in
a truly Christian manner, in a way that makes the parish a safer
place for all.
Second, please give us an opportunity to speak directly with parishioners,
so we might help them understand how to best support their pastor
AND foster a welcoming climate for any molestation victims to come
Third, please use your resources to educate your flock about the
remote chances of a false allegation.
Tell them about the findings of veteran church defense lawyer Patrick
Schlitz of Minnesota, who told the New York Times (Aug 2002) that
he's represented more than 500 accused priests. Less than ten of
those, he says, were "falsely accused." You have a duty
to remind New Orleans Catholics that the overwhelming majority of
sexual abuse allegations against clergymen are indeed true.
Finally, in the interest of resolving this sad and difficult situation
more quickly, we urge you to go to any other place where Sanders
may have worked (parishes. schools, even secular organizations or
businesses) and publicly urge anyone who experienced, witnessed
or suspected abuse to come forward. Specifically, we ask that you
use verbal announcements, the archdiocesan web site, church bulletins,
your weekly newspaper and meetings of archdiocesan employees and
volunteers to stress that each New Orleans catholic has two duties:
- A Christian duty to seek out former parishioners, church staff,
and parochial school students, and gently but specifically ask them
if they were hurt by an abusive cleric. (This is especially true
for Catholics who belong to a parish at which a known or suspected
- A civic duty to report any suspected crimes, no matter how old,
to the appropriate criminal authorities.
It's especially incumbent on you to take such steps. Because of
your involvement in the horrific Boston archdiocese sex scandal,
you have a particular responsibility to lead the way toward more
effective prevention. Because of your experience dealing with sexual
abuse by clergy and cover up by church officials, you more than
any bishop should understand that the failed, passive, bare minimum
policies of the past, merely sitting in your office waiting for
wounded victims to call, are at best insufficient and at worst,
We hope to hear from you soon.
SNAP Co-Leader Louisiana
312 399 4747
SNAP National Director
314 566 9790
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
PO Box 6416
Chicago, IL 60680-6416
of those Abused by Priests