The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Letter to Archbishop Gomez
February 25, 2009
Dear Archbishop Gomez:
We are men and women who were molested by clergy. We belong to a nationwide support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org). Our mission is simple: to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
We are writing about two credibly accused clerics - one who has spent years in your archdiocese (Fr. Charles Miller) and one who was recently transferred there and lives in a parish today (Brother Richard Suttle). We worry about the safety of unsuspecting families who have been and are near these dangerous men even today. We are appalled by your silence about them and their crimes. We have warned San Antonio citizens and Catholics about the suspended sex offenders. We are sad and frustrated that you refuse to do so.
Please understand that the phrase "credibly accused" is not ours. It's the phrase used by church officials who looked into child sex abuse allegations against these clerics. And it's a phrase backed up by documents. We have, and have made public, two church statements admitting that the allegations against both clerics are 'credible.'
(We know these aren't admissions by the accused, nor are they guilty verdicts by juries. But we also know that rarely are suspended child-molesting clerics are 'cleared' and restored to ministry. We also know that at least three individuals have accused one of them of abuse. And we know that it's always best to err on the side of safeguarding many innocent and vulnerable kids over shielding the reputation of one powerful adult.)
In the last two weeks, we have publicly disclosed at news conferences that credible child sex abuse allegations have been made against two the clerics. That burden shouldn't fall to us. That's what you should have done already. That's what you should do even now. Instead, you seem comfortable following the passive, irresponsible, failed patterns of the past, choosing to sit behind your desk and essentially do nothing to find and help members of your flock who might have been wounded by these men or to protect those who might be at risk of being wounded by them even now.
Today, we urge you to
This isn't rocket science, Archbishop. It's not costly, it's not controversial, it's not unprecedented. It IS, however, what a responsible shepherd would do. It IS what you promised repeatedly - being open and transparent. It IS the bare minimum you should do to help protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
We feel that parishioners have a duty to ask their friends, family members and others if they were victimized, by these two or other clergy. (Often, men and women who have been sexually assaulted are fearful of disclosing their pain and do so only when approached directly but gently by someone they know and love.) You should prod parishioners to do this. And you should use your considerable resources - archdiocesan newspaper, parish bulletins, employees and websites - to do this. It's what Jesus would do.
We also feel that parishioners and the public have the right to know why you recklessly and quietly allowed Suttle to move into a San Antonio parish, and why you let him remain there now. They also deserve an apology.
Finally, please do not insult your flock by hiding behind an artificial, self-serving distinction between archdiocesan and religious order staff. Child sex abuse is just as hurtful regardless of who signs the predator's checks. Church employees function in your archdiocese with your approval. Religious orders do too. So you are not powerless and shouldn't pretend to be.
If a Jesuit moved to San Antonio and opened an abortion clinic, you would not be silent. If a Dominican were transferred to San Antonio and lobbied for the death penalty, you would not feign impotence. If a Christian Brother moved to San Antonio and started performing gay marriages, you would not ignore it.
When Claretians secretly move an accused predator into San Antonio and when Marianists secretly move an accused predator out of San Antonio, your silence endangers your parishioners and others.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Barbara Garcia-Boehland of San Antonio, San Antonio SNAP Director (210) 725 8329, David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director (314) 566 9790 cell, Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Director (314) 862 7688
SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, 6245 Westminster, St. Louis MO 63130
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests