The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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For more information:
Sex Abuse Victims Seek Moratorium on "Importing Predators"
On Burke's Installation Anniversary, SNAP Makes New Request
Dozens of Known, Suspected and Admitted Pedophile Priests Here
At Least Three From Elsewhere Have Gone On To Molest Local Kids
On the one year anniversary of his taking the reins of the St. Louis Catholic Archdiocese, sex abuse victims are asking Archbishop Raymond Burke to impose a one year moratorium on bringing alleged pedophile priests into this area.
At least two church affiliated centers -- one is in Jefferson County ( St. John Vianney Renewal Center in Jefferson County near Dittmer, which is run by Fr. Peter Lechner (636-274-5526). Lechner is with the Servants of The Paraclete.); One is in Franklin County (Recon, houses dozens of admitted, suspected and accused Catholic clerics facing child molestation charges, it is one of at least two church-run housing centers to which child molesting clergy from across the country are sent. It is run by a Franciscan priest, Fr. Bertin Miller (636-285-7304, 636-274-1733).
(Stories about the facilities can be found in a St. Louis Post Dispatch story in March 2002 by Tim O'Neil, and a Kansas City Star story several months ago by Kevin Murphy.)
Leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, want Burke to temporarily stop these facilities from bringing more potentially dangerous men into the archdiocese
"In the past year, we've made perhaps dozens of suggestions to you and your staff to prevent future abuse or help already wounded victims heal. Sadly. virtually every one of them has been ignored," said SNAP's letter to Burke. "But we desperately hope and pray that you will see the value in this idea."
Three out-of-state priests who have been allowed to come and live in the St. Louis area have generated controversy in the last year.
-- Brother Gerald Chumik is wanted on felony child molestation charges in Canada. He was accepted by a center here after parishioners in California demanded he be removed for the safety of their children.
-- Father William Wiebler, an admitted child molester from Davenport Iowa, who walked away from at the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer last spring/summer and is living unsupervised less than 750 feet from Delmar Harvard Grade School and Julia Epstein Preschool. (Just last week, church officials announced that they have received 12 more abuse allegations against Wiebler in the last year.)
-- Father Mark Roberts was charged with assaulted 11 boys in Las Vegas, convicted and sent here over the objections of the Missouri Probation Department. One of his victims lives less than 20 miles from the center.
Two other priests - Father Romano Ferraro and Father Ken Roberts - molested children in Saint Louis after being removed from their home dioceses for molesting children and sent here, SNAP claims. Lawsuits have been filed against both clergymen.
In addition, SNAP says a convicted Illinois cleric (Brother Robert Bouillette) wrote and called one of his victims while living at the center (in violation of his parole), and a convicted Wisconsin priest (Father David Malsch) received child porn in the mail and was arrested by the FBI while living at one of the centers.
"The centers lack even basic security," said Mark Klump, family member of a survivor and SNAP member. "There are no fences, no gates, no barbed wire, no ankle bracelets, no real monitoring of the molesters."
Burke's staff has sometimes claimed that the facilities are not owned or operated by the archdiocese, which limits his control over them. But SNAP says that church law and practice hold that an archbishop is responsible "for everything Catholic in his archdiocese, especially the protection of Catholic children from rapists and molesters."
"Just last month, a Minnesota prelate who heads the US Bishops' Sex Abuse Committee banned a religious order whose founder has been accused of abuse from working in his diocese," said Jim Hone, former chairman of VOTFSTL. (Voice of the Faithful, Saint Louis "It's disingenuous and deceitful to claim Burke is powerless over these centers."
The Vianney Center is run by the Servants of the Paraclete. RECON is run by a Franciscan priest.
A copy of SNAP's letter to Burke, sent today via fax and e mail, is below:
January 26, 2005
Dear Archbishop Burke:
In the year that you've been here in St. Louis, no one can accuse you of being a "do nothing" archbishop. You have aggressively made changes and taken action and spoken out in a number of areas and on a number of topics.
In one respect , however, we feel that you have totally given up control and responsibility in your diocese by allowing known and suspected abusive clerics to be housed here.
Dozens of such men, as you know, are now in Jefferson County, Franklin County, and perhaps other sites in the St. Louis archdiocese.
We beg you to stop this dangerous practice of importing predators into our archdiocese.
In the past year, we've made perhaps dozens of suggestions to you and your staff to prevent future abuse and to help already wounded victims heal. Sadly. virtually every one of them has been ignored. But because the safety of children is at stake, we desperately hope and pray that you will see the value in this idea.
Regardless of who technically, under canon law, has authority over Fr. Mark Roberts or Fr. William Wiebler, you of course can (and often do) publicly speak out against what you perceive as wrongdoing. Nothing prevents you from denouncing Fr. Mark Roberts' move to St. Louis or Wiebler's leaving the treatment center or the Davenport bishop's supposed delay in notifying you of Wiebler's whereabouts, etc.
But you have done none of this.
Still, we hope you will consider our moratorium proposal, that would prohibit the treatment centers from accepting any new molesters for the next year.
When the independence, qualifications and security of these facilities are questioned, bishops sometimes respond by claiming "well, we have to find some place for these men/ molesters." This logic is flawed.
The real solution to this "dilemma" is twofold.
First, you and your fellow church leaders should help get dangerous men put behind bars, which is the only way we can be sure kids are safe. You can do this by:
- directly, emphatically, repeatedly urging your flocks & staffs (current & former) to come forward with any information or suspicions to law enforcement. You can lead by example and voluntarily turn over to prosecutors all information about known or suspected clerics. Yu can gently but firmly remind them that to be a good Christian/Catholic they must follow Jesus' example and protect the innocent by going to law enforcement with any knowledge of abuse.
-- help us change the archaic and restrictive statutes of limitations that prevent prosecution of these men.
Until you and your fellow church leaders take these steps, your excuse that "we've got to put these guys somewhere" will ring hollow.
Finally, we want to point out that despite nearly three years of repeated pledges by bishops to be more "open" and "transparent" about abuse, every single fact we and the public have learned about these centers has come from the media, prosecutors, and victims. It's very hard to have confidence that these facilities are well run and safe when you and the church officials who directly operate them shun public attention and scrutiny and seem so firmly committed to the secrecy which has enabled child molesting priests to get by with their crimes for decades.
We look forward to your response.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests