The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to O.C. CA Bishop Brown
January 10, 2005
Dear Bishop Brown,
We are grateful for last week's settlement with the 87 victims of clergy sexual abuse in the Diocese of Orange. The abuse crisis is a long and continuing tragedy, and your acknowledgment of the pain and suffering we have endured is a step forward in the long healing process. We now have a unique opportunity to embark on this journey of healing together, by continuing to reach out to those still trapped in guilt, shame and isolation and those still at risk of abuse.
SNAP in Orange County is encouraged by one of your recent decisions to allow our members to come into the church and simply share our experiences, strength and hope in the form of a leaflet left in parish pews at a recent service for victims and their families. We hope this is a sign that the diocese is more open and willing now to work with survivors in our efforts towards prevention, education and healing. The settlement is not the end but only the beginning of our efforts to keep children safe and help Catholics understand more about the terror of sexual abuse and the damage it leaves in its wake.
As you know, money alone doesnt help victims heal and keep kids safe or make abuse go away. Settlements have been paid to clergy abuse victims across the country for years and yet some church officials continued to hide and protect priests as they did before.
In light of this truth, we are asking you to take some specific actions that were not included in the dioceses recent settlement; actions that we believe could have prevented much of the ongoing abuse that has needlessly continued over the decades. These actions include:
---Posting the names and assignment histories of all known and suspected abusive clergy/personnel on the diocesan web site. While you have listed some of the clergy who have been accused, we believe that a complete list, including those who were subject to settlements, older allegations or those that did not result in a lawsuit being filed, is vital to the safety of everyone in the diocese. It will encourage parishioners to talk to their children and ask if they were ever abused. It may prevent a day care operator or school principal from hiring one of these potentially dangerous men in the future.
---Posting SNAP self-help support group meeting information, hot lines and law enforcement numbers on the diocesan web site, in the diocesan newspaper and in parish church bulletins, to reach out to sex abuse victims and remind parishioners that they have a Christian and civic duty to call law enforcement if they know of or suspect abuse. Not only does this information protect children, but you must remember that parishioners who are victims of or suspect abuse outside of the church look to you and others church leaders for help and guidance. Publishing this information can help every person who has been affected by sexual abuse, not just victims of clergy.
---Openly discussing with us and with parishioners the civil child molestation lawsuits and settlements against Daniel Murray and Richard Delahunty. Our understanding is that they are still in active ministry and/or living on parish grounds. We are very troubled by this.
- Join with victims in pushing for reforms of state laws to make it less difficult in the future for molestation victims to come forward, expose their predators and seek justice in the courts. You have shown through your recent actions that you are willing to "buck the trend." So please continue in this vein and work with us for state laws to protect all victims of sexual crimes.
- Finally, and most importantly, we ask you to visit every parish in the diocese, beginning with those that have had a perpetrator work there. We realize that devoting a Sunday to each of the parishes will take a year's time, but there are still victims looking to you to reach out and Catholics who need the solace of knowing that while abuse happened at the parish, you are working diligently to create an environment that will make it safe for all victims to come forward and that you are vigilant in preventing it from ever happening again. There are many survivors in SNAP who are willing to travel to each parish with you to tell their stories of pain and healing. The opportunity is tremendous to reach out with compassion, prevention and education and an important acknowledgment that paying settlements to victims isnt the real proof that the church has changed the way it handles reports of abuse or how it treats victims abused in its diocese.
We thank you for your time in reading this letter, and we look forward to your responsible response.
Mary Grant of Long Beach,
Sherida Ruiz of Anaheim,
Minerva Guerrero of Long Beach,
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests