The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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Abuse Victims Ask Bishops To Censure Law & Strip Him Of Positions
The nation's leading clergy abuse survivors group is urging three of America's top bishops to speak out against Cardinal Bernard Law, and strip him of any positions he holds within the nation's bishops conference, in light of the most recent horrific disclosures of abuse cover up by Boston archdiocesan leaders.
The three are Wilton Gregory of Bellville, head of USCCB, Harry Flynn of St. Paul, head of the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, and Robert Brom of San Diego, head of the USCCB's committee on bishops accountability.
The text of the letter is below.
Meanwhile, in Washington DC, SNAP's founder and president is receiving a Woman of the Year Award from Ms. Magazine. Barbara Blaine, a social worker and attorney, started SNAP in 1989. The Toledo native made headlines in her hometown recently when she spoke at the University of Toledo Law School. When asked for a comment on her visit, a priest who serves as the Toledo diocesan spokesman replied "Where do we plant the bomb? And you can quote me on that." SNAP has asked that the priest be removed from his position. He has apologized.
9 December 2002
The Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory
Request by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
(SNAP) for the
In the preamble to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, America's Catholic bishops pledge to respond to sexual abuse in a way that manifests their accountability to God, to God's people, and to one another. Without diminishing the importance of broader accountability, this letter focuses on the accountability that flows from the Church's episcopal collegiality and fraternal solidarity - a moral responsibility that each member of the hierarchy maintains for one another.
While bishops are ordained primarily for their diocese, they also
are called to protect the unity of the Body of Christ and to promote
the common discipline of the whole Church (Canon 392). Participating
together in the college of bishops, you have pledged responsibility
to act in a manner that reflects both effective and affective collegiality,
The time has come for you and your fellow USCCB officers to exercise the spirit of collegial and fraternal correction regarding Bernard Cardinal Law of Boston.
Many Catholics are disgusted and dismayed by the extent of sex
crimes committed by dozens of Boston-area clergy, and covered up
by several bishops, during Cardinal Law's tenure. Therefore, the
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests believes that USCCB
leaders must publicly censure Cardinal Law, in order to heal the
trauma of the Church there as well as send a message to the faithful
nationwide that the hierarchy
As stated in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young
People: "Let there be no doubt or confusion on anyone's part:
For us, your bishops, our obligation to protect children and young
people and to prevent sexual abuse flows from the mission and example
given to us by Jesus Christ himself, in whose name we serve."
Clearly, the ongoing disclosures of sex offenses committed by some Boston priests and the concealment of this criminal activity from the proper authorities are the foundation for redress. Recently released church records show that Cardinal Law has protected a member of the priesthood - Father James D. Foley - who has admitted fault in the death of the young woman who fathered his children. Father Foley remained in parish ministry until last week.
While we wait for prosecutors to investigate the tragic death of this young woman, SNAP believes that the USSCB should speak out clearly and forcefully against Cardinal Law. USCCB officers should also consider taking similar action toward those who served as members of Cardinal Law's senior management team.
Article 5 of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People: states unequivocally: "We repeat the words of Our Holy Father in Address to College of Cardinals of the United States and Conference Officers: There is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm children." (www.nccbuscc.org/bishops/charter.htm)
The precedent for the removal of bishops well established. Some bishops who have been removed from office and censured in recent years include:
-Archbishop Juliusz Paetz, Poznan, Poland, March 28, 2002: alleged
sexual abuse of seminarians.
One bishop, Anthony J. O'Connell of the Diocese of West Palm Beach, was removed in March, following disclosures of his allegedly criminal activity perpetrated against students at St. Thomas Aquinas High School Seminary in Hannibal, Missouri, from the late 1960s through the 1980s.
Bishop O'Connell is close friend and protege of Cardinal Law. The two men worked together in Missouri when O'Connell was rector of the seminary in the Diocese of Jefferson City, and, then Bishop Law led the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau. Bishop Law sent high school students to St. Thomas and visited the seminary often to celebrate Mass with the young candidates for the priesthood there.
The USCCB acknowledges in Article 6 of the Charter that the Church
has "clear and
Because sexual abuse of minors is a crime in all jurisdictions
of the United States, for the sake of the common good and observing
the provisions of canon law, Cardinal Law must be removed from positions
of authority. Our Lord Jesus uttered the grave warning in the Gospel
of Luke (18:6) that anyone who would lead children astray, saying
that "it would be better for such a person to have a great
millstone hung around his next and to be drowned in the depths of
We realize, however, that only the Pope can force Cardinal Law to step down. We also realize, however, that you and your fellow bishops can publicly condemn Cardinal Law's behavior. We further believe that this must be done, if there is to be even the possibility of true healing and progress in the Boston Archdiocese and the American Catholic Church as a whole.
Ministerial misconduct, whether the molestation of children or serving as an accomplice to the crime, leaves no room for doubt. The bishops must have the wherewithal to resume responsible leadership and purge these malefactors from their midst. For the sake of our children, please take action now.
Thus saith the Lord: A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children, refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not. Jeremiah 31:15
Dr. Ann Hagan Webb,
cc: The Most Reverend Harry J. Flynn
The Most Reverend Robert Brom
FYI - other members of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee of Sexual Abuse
Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests