The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Letter to Chair of the USCCB National Review Board Diane Knight
Chair, USCCB National Review Board,
27 February, 2010
Dear Ms. Knight:
We are writing you today to express our concern about how Jefferson City diocesan officials have handled and are handling child sex allegations against Fr. Thomas Seifner.
We are alarmed for several reasons and want your panel to investigate this situation and take corrective action if you find Bishop John Gaydos' actions worrisome as we do.
First, we believe the secrecy surrounding Seifner's suspension violates the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. He was suspended on 1/218/09 but no public announcement was made (despite the fact that the Charter mandates "openness and transparency.")
Almost a month later, in mid-January, the public learned of the allegations, but not because of the bishop or his staff. As has been the case for decades across the country, the only reason citizens, neighbors, parents and non-Catholics learned of the accusations was because of a diligent journalist. It's clear that if Bishop Gaydos had had his way, none but a few dozen parishioners would ever have been told of these allegations.
Second, we believe the secrecy surrounding whether criminal authorities were notified also violates the Charter. Even now, Gaydos and his staff refuse to say whether they turned over this allegation to law enforcement. In fact, it seems that they have not.
Consider this, from the largest TV news operation in the diocese: "The diocese won't say if it has talked to law enforcement or where the alleged abuse happened." KOMU 8 contacted the prosecuting attorneys in the five Mid-Missouri counties where Seifner served since he was ordained in 1992. "What we discovered; the diocese has yet to contact any of them in Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Marion or Osage County."
In addition to allegedly being "open and transparent" about clergy sex cases, US bishops promised (at the 2002 Dallas conference and often since then) that the safety of kids would be paramount. Gaydos' continuing secrecy and apparent unwillingness to contact law enforcement, we believe, violate both of those pledges.
We know that to some degree, you don't view looking at particular abuse or cover up cases as your role. We know it's much safer and easier for you to work narrowly within the precise parameters set by the bishops. But we also know that your predecessors often did not share this narrow view, and in fact, had the courage to speak out when they saw wrongdoing happening. We hope you will too.
An individual may be appointed to a federal panel to probe the long term causes of the illicit drug trade. But that doesn't absolve that person of the duty to call 911 if he or she observes an illegal drug transaction. Likewise, you can study the reasons hundreds of bishops helped protect thousands of clerics who sexually assaulted tens of thousands of children. But that doesn't absolve you of your duty to call attention to specific wrongdoing, right now, by specific bishops.
As a committee member looking at "the broader picture" of the church's on-going clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis, you still have a responsibility, as a Catholic, to speak up at current wrongdoing, and use your voice to help deter such recklessness, callousness and deceit.
We look forward to you reply.
National Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests