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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release
Giving Voice to Victims

 

For immediate release:
Wednesday, December 22, 2004

For more information:
Steven Sanchez of Glendale, SNAP Los Angeles Director (818) 262-6540 cell
Manny Vega of Ventura, SNAP Leader (805) 207-9027 cell (bilingual/Spanish)
Mary Grant of Long Beach, SNAP Southwest Regional Director (626) 419-2930 cell

Sex Abuse Victims Urge Cardinal To “Rein In” Parishioners

They Rallied In Criminal Court For Priest Facing Criminal Charges

SNAP Fears Fewer Victims Will Come Forward

SNAP to Mahony, “Stop Intimidation of Victims!”

A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is asking Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony again to “rein in” upset parishioners who have twice appeared in court backing an accused priest. Yesterday, roughly 80 parishioners attended a preliminary hearing publicly supporting Fr. Fernando Lopez, who was arrested in October for sexually molesting multiple victims. http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/state/20041221-1329-ca-calchurchabuse.html

Members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, feel some of the parishioners have been insensitive and might deter and scare away others who’ve been hurt and sexually abused from coming forward.

SNAP wants Mahony to speak to Lopez’s parish, St. Thomas the Apostle Church in East LA, about choosing instead to support the priest privately, in order to reduce the chances of a chilling effect in coming forward for other victims and witnesses. SNAP is asking permission to tell their stories at the church to help educate parishioners about clergy sexual abuse.

Several weeks ago, SNAP sent a similar letter to Mahony after Lopez’s backers rallied for Lopez at another hearing and wore t-shirts in court that said in Spanish, “Young Men, God Is Watching you”, with a picture of Lopez in his vestments on the back of their t-shirts. Mahony did not respond to SNAP’s letter.

SNAP is troubled by Mahony’s silence and non-responsiveness to their request. “It appears that Mahony continues to confirm that he is committed in his refusal to create a safe environment for victims to come forward and encourages a dangerous message to parishioners that it is acceptable to intimidate victims who courageously report crimes to law enforcement”, says Mary Grant, SNAP Regional Director.

“Surely, the Cardinal can do SOMETHING to support these men who despite these intimidating and unchristian actions continue to find the strength to testify in this criminal proceeding. We are convinced that he can find a way to help these men and other victims still trapped in fear and shame so that dangerous men can be put behind bars and those abused can begin to heal”, says Manny Vega, SNAP Leader.

Leaders of SNAP are writing Mahony yet again, urging him to take a responsible role to stop the culture of intimidation in the church that they claim church officials created long ago to keep victims of clergy abuse from coming forward to report the crimes.

“It’s no secret that the Catholic hierarchy has a long history and pattern of using similar shame and blame tactics to keep victims, who dare expose or report their abusers to criminal authorities, trapped in silence. Sadly, it appears that you still have little if any genuine concern to change that for safety of children in your archdiocese and those already hurt by clergy.” said Steven Sanchez, Los Angeles SNAP Director, in the letter to Mahony.

SNAP is convinced that the public pep rally of support for Lopez last October and yesterday are intimidation tactics that also tamper with the criminal judicial process and discourage victims from testifying against their abusers in criminal court.

“Public displays of support for alleged child molesters only intimidate others into keeping silent, says SNAP Leader and police officer, Manny Vega. Even if the priest turns out to be innocent, somewhere in the parish is a young girl being molested by a relative or a boy being abused by his coach or youth leader. If these children see adults they love and respect publicly rallying around an accused perpetrator, they will be less likely to report their own victimization to their parents, the police, or other authorities. They will be scared into remaining silent, and their horrific pain will continue.”

Police arrested 40 year-old Fr. Fernando Lopez this month on suspicion of molesting two boys from his church, St. Thomas the Apostle in Koreatown, and sexually assaulting a 19-year-old parishioner. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-priest29sep29,1,6171924.story

Lopez was ordered yesterday to stand trial, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-briefs22.3dec22,1,6054569.story?coll=la-headlines-california)

The full text of SNAP’s letter, sent today via fax and e mail is below.

December 22, 2004

Cardinal Roger Mahony:

We in SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, again are writing you troubled by the recent rallies of parishioners/supporters in criminal court for Fr. Fernando Lopez, who has been charged with molesting multiple victims. In our November 10 letter, we urged you to go to St. Thomas the Apostle church and urge parishioners to stop such unchristian and threatening behavior. Yesterday, approximately 80 parishioners again showed up to rally in support of Lopez.

Surely, you can do SOMETHING to support these alleged victims who despite these intimidating and unchristian actions continue to find the strength to testify in this criminal proceeding. We are convinced that you can find a way to help these courageous men and other victims still trapped in fear and shame so that dangerous men can be put behind bars and those abused can begin to heal”.

Your silence and non-responsiveness to our simple request continues to confirm our fears that the Los Angeles Archdiocese continues to send a dangerous message that encourages parishioners to intimidate victims who courageously report crimes to law enforcement.

It’s no secret that the Catholic hierarchy has a long history and pattern of using similar shame and blame tactics to keep victims, who dare expose or report their abusers to criminal authorities, trapped in silence. Sadly, it appears that you still have little if any genuine concern to change that for safety of children in the Los Angeles archdiocese and those already hurt by clergy.

In October, in an LA courtroom, several dozen backers of Fr. Fernando Lopez wore t-shirts that said in Spanish, “Young Men, God Is Watching You” with a picture of Lopez in his vestments on the back of their t-shirts. Lopez faces multiple allegations of sexually abusing boys.

Public displays of support for alleged child molesters only intimidate others into keeping silent. Even if the priest turns out to be innocent, somewhere in the parish is a young girl being molested by a relative or a boy being abused by his coach or youth leader. If these children see adults they love and respect publicly rallying around an accused perpetrator, they will be less likely to report their own victimization to their parents, the police, or other authorities. They will be scared into remaining silent, and their horrific pain will continue.

If they believe Lopez is innocent, they can pray for him, visit him, bring him cookies, and in dozens of private ways show they love and believe in him. It is your duty, however, as head of the archdiocese, to make sure these misguided parishioners don’t tamper with the criminal process and discourage victims and others from testifying.

Already, many victims feel intimated, hopeless and discouraged from reporting their abuse to local law enforcement. If they see the rally’s in court for accused priests, the reluctance to file police reports or testify in criminal court will only increase.

Victims and witnesses speaking up keep children safe. So, great care must be taken to ensure that victims are able to find strength, courage and hope, so they can report crimes and testify in court, so that dangerous men can be put behind bars where they will never be able to harm another child or vulnerable adult.

Again, in the interest of those victims already wounded and those still trapped in shame and silence, we urge you to insist that supporters and parishioners of Fr. Lopez stop these harmful displays of support that only threaten victims.

We look forward to your prompt response,

Manny Vega, SNAP Ventura County Leader (805) 207-9027 or mvega2@adelphia.net

Steven Sanchez, SNAP Los Angeles Director (818) 262-6540 or glendalesnap@yahoo.co

Mary Grant, SNAP Regional Director (626 419-2930 cell or mgrantsnap@earthlink.net

 

 


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