The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to Santa Rosa, CA District Attorney
July 6, 2006
Mr. Stephan R. Passalacqua
Dear Mr. Passalacqua,
We are clergy abuse victims who belong to a support group called SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. For the safety of vulnerable kids and the healing of wounded victims, we beg you to make more aggressive efforts made to prosecute an admitted abusive Catholic priest and the church officials who apparently broke state law by not promptly reporting allegations against him.
As you well know, Fr. Xavier Ochoa has apparently fled the US and his escape from justice may have been helped by five or more church employees, four of whom failed to report accusations against him, and a fifth who did so only after several days delay.
These are readily-available, publicly acknowledged facts, Mr. Passalacqua. Fr. Ochoa admitted at least some of his crimes to at least one church official. And the diocesan spokesman has admitted that at least five church staff (four ordained clergyman and one lawyer), for at least several days, refused to take the simple step of calling law enforcement or the state abuse hotline about Ochoa.
In light of this, we strongly urge you to
--seriously consider filing charges against any and all Catholic officials who failed to promptly report allegations against and admissions by Ochoa, and
-- make a forceful public appeal to other victims and witnesses to come forward with information about either crime: the priests sexual abuse and his colleagues silence and delay
If, in such a short time period with no real investigation yet, we already know this much about these crimes, imagine what more we might learn if you made a strong public appeal to other victims and witnesses to come forward?
We are also upset by Assistant District Attorney Larry Scoufos public statement that charges against diocesan staff for failing to report are "highly unlikely." At this early juncture, such conjecture is, at best, not helpful. More likely, it is hurtful. Others with information about church cover-ups or negligence may well be discouraged from coming forward by such premature speculation, we feel.
If one is a current or former Santa Rosa church employee or volunteer, and has information about either of these crimes, Mr. Scoufos comments might well lead to increased complacency or hopelessness. Why do the right thing, stick your neck out, and report possibly illegal behavior, if the DAs office is already suggesting that nothing will be done about it?
We also feel Mr. Scoufos remarks ignore the horrific, widespread, and on-going mismanagement and corruption that has and still characterizes most church clergy sex abuse cases. It has been conclusively shown, in diocese after diocese across America, that bishops have for decades used every conceivable excuse and rationale to keep clergy sex crimes quiet.
In light of this, we are convinced that Mr. Scoufos has it entirely backwards. To NOT aggressively prosecute one or more of the Santa Rosa church officials, who so obviously and blatantly ignored California child sex abuse reporting laws, would be wrong. To NOT move quickly and vigorously in this case tells citizens that child sexual abuse is not all that important and reporting it promptly to the proper authorities is not all that crucial. Is that the message you want to send?
And if your office is worried about deterring future sex abuse reports by others, then wed ask that you consider NOT prosecuting the diocesan lawyer. He at least made the call, and he was likely not the very first person to hear allegations against Ochoa. But it is much harder to excuse the inaction of the other four church officials, any one of whom could have, and should have, made the report but never did.
Again, we want you to use your bully pulpit, and publicly and emphatically appeal to other victims and witnesses to come forward, and to seriously consider filing charges against church officials for failing to promptly report Ochoas abuse to the proper authorities. Thats what Mr. Scoufos should have done initially. Thats what you should do now.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Mary Grant of Long Beach, SNAP Western Regional Director
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests