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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Releases
Giving Voice to Victims

 

For immediate release:
Wednesday December 1, 2004

For More Information Contact:
Molly Harding (Spokane SNAP Leader 509-991-8834
Michael Ross (Spokane SNAP) 509-701 - 4730
Val & Larry Pember ( Voice of the Faithful) 509-684-6997

Sex Abuse Victims and Lay Catholics Urge Bishop to Meet

Group Wants Face-to-Face Sessions Regardless of Bankruptcy Decision

A group of Catholics and clergy molestation victims are prodding Spokane Bishop William Skylstad to hold meetings throughout his diocese in the next few weeks about the sex abuse and cover up crisis, regardless of whether he declares bankruptcy.

The letter, sent today via fax and email, is signed by leaders of two local chapters of national organizations - SNAP, the Survivors network of those Abused by Priests, and VOTF, Voice of the Faithful.

It urges Skylstad to hold open meetings in the diocese's parishes before making a decision about a possible bankruptcy.

"Frankly, we're tired of hearing only carefully-scripted tidbits from your PR person and your lawyer," said Molly Harding, SNAP's Spokane Director. "Skylstad is the spiritual leader of Spokane's Catholics. Yet he continues to hide behind impersonal, formal "statements" faxed to reporters, instead of having the courage to face his parishioners directly and openly."

The two groups are very skeptical of bankruptcy, and concerned that it would mire all parties - victim's, parishioners, clergy and diocesan employees - in a long-standing festering wound, instead of bringing a prompt and just resolution.

In December 20033, Bishop Skylstad wrote a letter to every parishioner in the Spokane Diocese and stated, "While these past tragedies can and will have an impact on the finance of this diocese, all parishioners should understand that our first responsibility as witnesses to the Gospel is to be concerned about the needs of the victims. We must fulfill our obligations to assist victims who have been injured by this personal tragedy in their lives." He further stated, "I want you all to know that my goal is to resove through mediation and settlement the various claims that have been made and will be made against the diocese." "It sends a wrong signal to victims and to parishioners that finances take precedence over meeting human needs and the Bishop is committed to doing justice for the victims." We ask that you stand by these words and fulfill your obligations and responsibilities to the victims and parishioners. Bankruptcy will further injure the victims and parishioners and make the words meaningless.

"For you to utilize the court at this point, without any consultation with Catholics in the pews, would be unwise, unjust and unhealthy, we feel," the group wrote.

A copy of the group's letter to Skylstad is below.

December 1, 2004

Molly Harding
11519 N Kathy Drive
Spokane, WA 99218

Larry & Val Pember
995 Garden Homes Drive
Colville, WA 99114

Dear Bishop Skylstad:

We have come together to express our deep concerns about your possible plans to seek bankruptcy protection for church assets. At a bare minimum, we respectfully urge you to delay any such decision and spend the next few weeks in genuine dialogue with Spokane Catholics about the needs of all parties involved: victims, lay people, clergy, and parish employees.

For you to utilize the court at this point, without any consultation with your parishioners would be unwise, unjust and unhealthy, we feel.

For weeks you have spoken of your intention to choose bankruptcy, nevertheless, we continue to hope that you will reconsider. It seems inevitable that should you opt to seek bankruptcy protection the entire diocese will become captive to an uncertain, lengthy, expensive and embarrasing legal process that will surely delay healing, justice and closure for everyone.

In December, 2003, you wrote a letter to every parishioner in the Spokane Diocese and stated, "While these past tragedies can and will have an impact on the finance of this diocese, all parishioners should understand that our first responsibility as witnesses to the Gospel is to be concerned about the needs of the victims. We must fulfill our obligations to assist vactims who have been injured by this personal tragedy in their lives." You further stated, "I want you all to know that my goal is to resolve through mediation and settlement the various claims that have been made and will be made against the diocese." "It sends a wrong signal to victims and to parishioners that finances take precedence over meeting human needs and the Bishop is committed to doing justice for the victims." We ask that you stand by these words and fulfill your obligations and responsibilities to the victims and the parishioners. Bankruptcy will further injure the victims and parishioners and make your words meaningless.

A few weeks ago, Pope John Paul spoke publicly of a "crisis of confidence" in the institutional leadership of the American church., He talked of the need for a "shared responsibility" between the lay faithful and the hierarchy. We hope you will listen to and embrace his call for greater collaboration within the body of the church.

You have no doubt, talked with chancery office staff, your lawyers, your public relations professionals and others about possible bankruptcy, for which we commend you. In the interest of openness and transparency, which you and your brother bishops have long promised, we request you go further, and enable your parishioners and your staff from across the entire diocese a chance to talk with and listen to you directly on this bankruptcy matter and the abuse crisis which has been a source of pain and shame for so many in the Spokane area.

We suggest that in the weeks ahead, you schedule and personally attend one open meeting in each of the diocesan deaneries, at which parishioners and church employees could learn from you about the diocese's situation and ask questions pertaining to a course of action that seems likely to embroil everyone- victims, lay people, clergy, and parish employees - in years of perhaps preventable conflict.

Sincerely,

Molly Harding SNAP (Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests)
Phone: 509-991-8834

Larry & Val Pember VOTF (Voice Of The Faithful)

 



Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org
 


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