The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to Detroit Cardinal Maida
January 14, 2005
Adam Cardinal Maida
Dear Cardinal Maida:
As you know, yesterday a Wayne County jury deemed that Fr. Luis Javier de Alba Campos was not guilty of molesting a boy in 2004.
It is of course conceivable that de Alba is innocent. It is also conceivable that he is not, and that others who may have been hurt by him were intimidated into remaining silent, in part because so many parishioners vigorously and publicly rallied around the cleric.
We are writing to urge you to more aggressively seek out these individuals - others who may have been hurt or had suspicions about de Alba. This, we believe, is what Christ would do - assertively seek the "lost sheep" and minister to them.
(In the course of this outreach, you may in fact find testimony or evidence that might prove de Alba's innocence. In either case, you will have helped the cause of truth and healing.)
Specifically, we hope you will visit his parish this weekend and personally and publicly encourage anyone who may have witnessed, suspected or experienced abuse (by de Alba or by anyone) to come forward now to law enforcement.
In addition, as Detroit's top Catholic official, we urge you to:
-- more thoroughly investigate de Alba's past in his home country, and
-- teach parishioners how to support their priest without intimidating victims and witnesses.
We applaud your decision to keep de Alba out of active ministry for the time being. But more must be done. Historically, your archdiocese has passively sat back, waiting for victims to call.
But we feel you have an affirmative moral duty to go beyond this "bare minimum" approach. When it comes to the potential safety of children, a higher standard of care must be met.
Last week, we wrote to you, urging you to "reign in" de Alba's backers, after they held a prayer service inside the courthouse.
The event, we firmly believe, was fundamentally unchristian and threatening, regardless of the intentions of the parishioners. We are sorry that you have ignored our request.
Here, in part, is what we wrote to you on Jan. 6th:
"Public displays of support for alleged child molesters only intimidate others into keeping silent.
Even if the priest turns out to be innocent, somewhere in the parish is a young girl being molested by a relative or a boy being abused by his coach or youth leader. If these children see adults they love and respect publicly rallying around an accused perpetrator, they will be less likely to report their own victimization to their parents, the police, or other authorities. They will be scared into remaining silent, and their horrific pain will continue.
If they believe Campos is innocent, they can pray for him, visit him, bring him cookies, and in dozens of private ways show they love and believe in him. It is your duty, however, as head of the archdiocese, to make sure these misguided parishioners don't tamper with the criminal process and discourage victims and others from testifying.
Already, many victims feel intimated, hopeless and discouraged from reporting their abuse to local law enforcement. If they see the rallies in court for accused priests, the reluctance to file police reports or testify in criminal court will only increase.
Victims and witnesses speaking up keep children safe. So, great care must be taken to ensure that victims are able to find strength, courage and hope, so they can report crimes and testify in court, so that dangerous men can be put behind bars where they will never be able to harm another child or vulnerable adult."
It is certainly not too late, however, for you to use your teaching skills and your leadership position to educate all Detroit area Catholics in this critical matter: how to best comfort their priest without unintentionally intimidating abuse victims and witnesses.
There is no better time to start this effort than this weekend. We stand ready to cooperate with you should you take up this challenge.
Again, in the interest of those victims already wounded and those still trapped in shame and silence, (whether hurt by de Alba or others), we urge you to promptly initiate the simple steps we've outlined here.
We look forward to your response.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests