Letters List


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Letter

Letter to bishops regarding predator priests from the Bridgeport Diocese

Archbishop John Clement Favalora, Archdiocese of Miami
Bishop Matthew H. Clark, Diocese of Rochester
Bishop Jaime Soto, Diocese of Sacramento
Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan, Archdiocese of Santa Fe
Archbishop Edwin Frederick O'Brien, Archdiocese of Baltimore
Bishop John M. Smith, Diocese of Trenton
Bishop John Brendan McCormack, Diocese of Manchester

Feb. 3, 2010

Dear Bishop:

Over the past eight years, you and your fellow bishops have repeatedly promised "openness and transparency" regarding child sex abuse cases.

You promised that the safety of the innocent and the vulnerable would be your first priority.

Yet in December, we learned a lot about proven, admitted and credibly accused Connecticut predator priests, thanks not to you or your colleagues, but to brave victims and determined journalists. One of these priests lived or worked in your diocese. (See attached list.)

We worry that one or more members of your flock may have been hurt by one of these clerics. And we suspect that one or more members of your flock may have information about one of these clerics that could be helpful to law enforcement.

We ask that you promptly take at least these three steps:
-- personally visit parishes where predator worked/lived near, alerting unsuspecting parishioners about his presence (past or current), and begging any victims or witnesses to contact law enforcement and get help from other independent sources,
-- make similar announcements, on the diocesan website, in the diocesan newspaper and in parish bulletins, emphatically urging anyone with information about clergy sex crimes to call the police or a therapist or a support group, and
-- strongly prod your fellow church officials, in Connecticut and anywhere else that might be helpful or appropriate, to take similar steps.

Children are safe when predators are in jail. But even if predator priests can't be locked up, living unsupervised (or nominally 'monitored' by fellow priests), often while still collecting a church paycheck, is very problematic. And even if predator priests are deceased, it's often tremendously healing for their victims to see that the truth is finally disclosed. Such simple disclosure - "Fr. X worked/lived here. He's credibly accused of molesting children. Come forward if you were hurt" - is often enough to finally persuade a suffering, isolated adult into sharing his or her childhood trauma and beginning to recover from that trauma.

We realize that, in some instances, a short statement about one of these pedophile priest's presence may have read at one or two parishes.

That, however, is woefully inadequate.

Such statements are usually vague, weak and belated. Not once did you specifically mention criminal prosecution, encourage victims to call the police or remind parishioners that they have a moral and civic duty to give information about possible crimes to law enforcement.

If Jesus were here, Bishop, do you think he would "reach out" to deeply wounded clergy sex abuse victims via a brief, vague news release? Or do you think he would go directly to them and their families and offer comfort and solace in person?

You have a diocesan newspaper and website, you have church bulletins and pulpits, you have one or more public relations professionals on your payroll. People look to you for guidance and leadership. Please take this opportunity to personally visit every parish where this predator worked/lived near and remind your flock that they have both a civil and a moral obligation to contact law enforcement if they have suffered, suspected, or seen abuse.

Finally, we know that you likely don't sign or never did sign this predator's paychecks. We know that you don't supervise your brother bishops, in Connecticut or elsewhere. But we also know that you have a 'bully pulpit.' We know that you can emphatically lean on your colleagues to do more to find and help anyone who may be suffering because of this predator's crimes.

We know from experience that action, not words, protects kids and brings victims forward. We are begging you to take action.

Please get out from behind your desk, ignore your public relations advisors and defense lawyers, and follow Jesus' parable of the lost sheep. Please start using your considerable resources and influences to put a dangerous predator behind bars and/or help find and console those he has so severely hurt.

We look forward to your response.

David Clohessy
National Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Terence McKiernan

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests