The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to Most Reverend Pietro Sambi
SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused By Priests)
Most Reverend Pietro Sambi
May 22, 2008
Dear Archbishop Sambi:
Last month, Pope Benedict urged Catholics to "do everything possible" to heal the wounds caused by the church's horrific child sex abuse and cover up scandal.
When complicit bishops are promoted, however, these wounds are exacerbated, not ameliorated. Clergy sex abuse victims and Catholics deserve leaders who are unsullied, or at least less sullied than many bishops, on this critical issue.
For this reason, we are writing to offer our views on possible replacements for retiring Cardinal Edward Egan of New York. We feel it's crucial that the Pope choose a prelate who has not, in the Pope's own words, "badly mishandled" the on-going child molestation and concealment crisis.
In fact, we believe that many Americans will view this key appointment as a test of whether the pontiff's recent words and promises about the scandal are merely words and promises, or are a sign of change and reform.
Here are six prominent prelates who have been publicly identified as possible replacements for Cardinal Egan, along with troubling examples of recent recklessness, secrecy, deceit or insensitivity that, we believe, makes them unfit to become the head of the New York Archdiocese.
- Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio
In 2004, after a seven year struggle by two victims (and a nearly year-long struggle involving DiMarzio), the Brooklyn bishop finally suspended an accused predator priest.
While in Camden, DiMarzio let an admitted and charged molester, the Rev. John P. Connor, work as a hospital chaplain and live in two parish rectories, where he allegedly abused more children. http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/12912027.htm
He was also criticized for taking "hard-line legal action" against survivors, including "secrecy" and "mean-spirited and venomous attacks" of victims by church lawyers. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A00E0D8153CF937A35753C1A9659C8B63
In 2003, DiMarzio refused to let Voice of the Faithful meet on church property.
- Archbishop Timothy Dolan
In February, Dolan let his archdiocesan newspaper print a letter to the editor that compared child sex abuse victims to prostitutes.
Even now, Dolan continues to honor Archbishop Rembert Weakland, who resigned in 2002 for paying nearly $500,000 in hush money to a man with whom Weakland admits having had a lengthy sexual relationship. Among other honors, Dolan keeps Weakland on the board of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference and has named a parish hall after Weakland.
Dolan refuses to discipline or reprimand long time Milwaukee auxiliary bishop Richard Sklba, who court records show directly covered up child sex crimes and helped transfer dozens of pedophile priests.
Dolan has paid thousands of dollars of 'hush money' to a serial predator priest, Fr. Franklyn Becker, in exchange for Becker's cooperation with the laicization process. Dolan let Becker move quietly into an unsuspecting small community where he's been getting no treatment.
In 2003, Dolan wrote a judge urging that a priest who was convicted of repeatedly sodomizing a five year old be given no prison time.
While in St. Louis, abuse victims gave Dolan 'low marks' for his handling of such cases, especially for being non-responsive to abuse reports. In 2002, he lived in a rectory with two priests who were suspended because of credible abuse allegations.
- Archbishop Henry Mansell
In 2005, Mansell settled two child sex abuse cases against an accused priest, Fr. William Przybylo, but kept the priest in active ministry.
He also refused to run announcements of SNAP support group meetings in his archdiocesan newspaper or on his archdiocesan website.
As recently as 2004, Mansell's Buffalo diocese had not fully implemented its safe environment program, as required by the 2002 US Bishops Conference sex abuse policy.
In 2003, according to the Buffalo News, "Nearly a year after the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo revealed that 12 to 15 area priests had been accused of sexual impropriety over the past 20 years, diocesan officials have yet to make public what happened with as many as eight of the accused priests. . . declining to give an exact number or to explain whether the accused priests are still in ministry."
- Bishop Timothy McDonnell
McDonnell is essentially taking no steps to defrock or disclose information about his predecessor, Bishop Thomas Dupre (who is accused of molesting at least two boys) or to protect kids from him. McDonnell is also refusing to do any meaningful community warnings about two serial predator priests, one of whom (Fr. A. J. Cote) is being sued for molesting two Massachusetts boys in 2005, and another (Fr. Edward Paquette) who is accused of molesting 19 kids, both of whom now live in McDonnell's diocese.
In 2005, he was accused by a Catholic lay group of spreading 'misinformation' about the proposed state measure for greater transparency by charitable organizations
In 2004, he publicly attacked widely known and respected 'whistleblower' pastor Fr. James Scahill, comparing him to a serial predator priest who is also a murder suspect.
- Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark
In 2003, the Newark Star Ledger reported that "Victims and lay groups criticize Myers more than other New Jersey bishop," citing his ban of Voice of the Faithful, his criticism of the woman hired by the US Bishops Conference to oversee the church's sex abuse policy and his refusal to meet with our group. When victims asked for the bishop for information that was available in the archdiocese directory, Myers' public relations staffer publicly and coldly replied that they could purchase a directory.
While in Peoria, Myers was "accused by some of showing indifference or even antagonism to those who have claimed to be victims of abuse," according to the New York Times.
He was also accused of leaving "a very messy situation in Peoria" according to one nationally-known priest. Within months, his successor in Peoria removed seven priests for alleged child sex abuse.
Myers also refused to let sex abuse victim and advocate Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit meet with a progressive group in the diocese, marginalizing survivors who also wanted to speak about their abuse.
- Bishop Arthur Serratelli
Last year, he kicked out a victims' support group that had been meeting in a local Catholic church.
In 2006, a local newspaper editorialized against Serratelli, accusing him of "systematically trying to discredit and ostracize" a priest who's been very supportive of victims and who was named a national "Priest of Integrity" by a lay Catholic group called Voice of the Faithful.
A group of Paterson victims "had sought for priests' confidential personnel files to be opened" but were (refused) by the diocese." He also kept three priests in parishes despite settling civil child sex abuse lawsuits against them.
Serratelli has also refused to communicate with members of Voice of the Faithful. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2006/01_02/2006_02_23_Manochio_BishopCancels.htm
On the other hand, two potential candidates have proven themselves more responsive on child sex abuse than most of their peers. They are Bishop Paul Bootkoski and Bishop Wilton Gregory.
In 2003, our group publicly praised Bootkoski for putting victims on his abuse review panel, meeting with SNAP leaders, cooperating with prosecutors in a criminal abuse case and settling some molestation lawsuits that his diocese could have tossed out because of the archaic, arbitrary, and predator-friendly statute of limitations.
Gregory has enjoyed very good public relations, sometimes undeserved. But on this critical issue, he's better than many of his peers.
In the 1990s Gregory publicly removed several accused predators from parishes and sometimes held question-and-answer sessions with parishioners. In that sense, he was 'ahead of the curve' relative to his even more secretive colleagues across the country.
We would obviously prefer if the Pope would select either Bishop Bootkoski or Bishop Gregory for this crucial, high-visibility position.
If the Holy Father appoints a new prelate to head our nation's most visible diocese who has "very badly mishandled" or is badly mishandling clergy sex abuse cases, it could seriously set back the progress he has tried to set in motion here during his recent US visit.
We respectfully offer these comments in the hopes of preventing future harm to those who have been and still are hurting and in the hopes that the New York Archdiocese's next leader will be better poised to respond to future abuse and cover up scandals.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests