Letters List


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Letter

Letter to the USCCB National Review Board

February 13, 2011

National Review Board
3211 Fourth Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20017

Dear National Review Board members:

After a detailed two year investigation, here's what impartial grand jurors in Philadelphia found.

The archdiocese
--"continues to engage in practices that mislead victims, that violate their trust, that hinder prosecution of their abusers and that leave large numbers of credibly accused priests in ministry"
--after more than four months, has still not fully complied with the grand jury's subpoena
--"not much has changed" since a scathing 2005 report by another grand jury
--"has betrayed once again" the victims who report to its staffers

The archdiocesan abuse system
--procedures "implemented to help victims are in fact designed to help the abusers and the Archdiocese itself."
--"is devoid of common sense"
--"reaches the wrong result in the vast majority of (child sex abuse) cases."

The so-called "victims assistance coordinators"
--"mislead victims"
--"hound" victims to "give statements to "use as ammunition to impeach victims"
--"do not keep victims' statements confidential"
--"turn over" victims' statements "to archdiocesan attorneys"
--"handed previously confidential" victim's records "over to the victim's abuser"

In light of this information, and in light of many complaints from across the country about hurtful actions taken by diocesan employees against victims, we strongly urge you to launch an independent investigation into how diocesan staffers handle child sex abuse reports and victims.

There has been little or no real monitoring of whether bishops and their employees honor the pledges made eight years ago to treat victims with compassion and provide them with help. There have been only the slightest moves to see whether policies are in place. But written policies and actual behavior are two very different things.

We strongly suspect that the same horrific violations found by Philadelphia jurors are happening elsewhere.

Why do we believe this?
--Because historically, we've experienced and seen remarkably callous responses from church officials towards victims.
--Because if a professional law enforcement officials and impartial grand juries look at one diocese and find horrific wrong-doing like this, the odds are that it's also taking place in other dioceses.
--Because bishops and their staffs continue to operate with virtually no real scrutiny or "checks and balances" on their power.
--Because the vast majority of diocesan staffers operate in secrecy.
--Because for years, we've seen other diocesan abuse policies and procedures flagrantly violated by church staff.

No Catholic hierarchy in America has had more incentive more recently to reform its handling of clergy sex cases than the Philadelphia archdiocese. But it clearly still hasn't.

So common sense suggests that other dioceses that have experienced even less controversy and scrutiny and criticism are treating victims as or more callously.

We urge you to bring in respected independent outsiders - with backgrounds in law enforcement and mental health - to look into whether and where other church staff members are severely mistreating already deeply wounded and still-struggling victims.

David Clohessy
Executive Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
St. Louis MO 63143
314 566 9790

Barbara Blaine
President, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
PO Box 6416
Chicago IL 60680
312 399 4747

Barbara Dorris
Outreach Coordinator, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
6245 Westminster
St. Louis MO 63130
314 862 7688, 314 503 0003

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests