The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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Sex Abuse Victims Seek Help From Baton Rouge Bishop
They Want Molestation Case Unsealed
Baton Rouge Church Leader Should Reach Out To Others Who May Have Been Hurt
A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is writing Baton Rouge's Catholic Bishop Muench asking him to reach out to survivors of an abusive former bishop who is now deceased.
Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Religious, and Lay Representatives of the Catholic church, are asking Bishop Robert Muench to unseal a confidential civil molestation settlement.
In a letter today SNAP urges Muench to:
(1) make public Bishop Sullivan's chancery file, which may contain
other allegations against him (pedophiles rarely strike only once);
The group wants the anonymity of the victim protected, but feels that Catholics and the general public deserve to know the truth about Sullivan's crimes.
"The Bible says 'the truth shall set you free,' and we believe that," said Michael P. Kuczynski of New Orleans, spokesman for SNAP-Louisiana. "Unless the Archdiocese of Baton Rouge is more forthcoming, some may falsely assume Sullivan was innocent, or that the abuse was minor, or that it only happened once -- none of which may be true."
"While we are grateful that the name of Bisho Joseph V. Sullivan High School is being changed, more should be done to make sure others Sullivan may have harmed are not simply suffering in shame and self-blame," said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP's National Director. "Jesus taught us to go out aggressively and find and help the lost sheep. That's what Bishop Muench should focus on now."
SNAP is the nation's oldest and largest support group for victims of clergy sexual abuse and has support groups in over 60 cities nationwide.
A copy of the letter, sent this morning by fax and e-mail, is below:
27 January 2005
Bishop Robert Muench
Dear Bishop Muench,
SNAP-Louisiana, the local chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Religious, and Lay Representatives of the Catholic Church, applauds your decision to remove the name of deceased Bishop Joseph V. Sullivan from a Baton Rouge high school, following on a finding by your Archdiocese that a sexual abuse complaint against Sullivan, dating to the 1970s, is credible. This is an unusual, but praiseworthy gesture of solidarity with victims of sex abuse by representatives of the Catholic church.
SNAP-Louisiana writes today, however, to urge you to take three additional steps to promote healing among victims and to protect the children of your Archdiocese. We urge you (1) to make public Bishop Sullivan's chancery file, which may contain other allegations against him (pedophiles rarely strike only once); (2) to unseal the terms of the settlement agreement reached by the Archdiocese with Sullivan's victim from the 1970s; and (3) to use your diocesan newspaper, web site, and parish bulletins to seek out aggressively others who may have been hurt by Sullivan. They, along with anyone who may have witnessed abuse, should be urged by the Archdiocese to contact police, prosecutors, therapists, and self-help groups such as SNAP.
These steps can be taken while respecting the anonymity of victims and will empower additional victims -- of Sullivan or others -- who currently suffer in secret, to come forward. Such vigilance will help to prevent the horrible crime of sexual assault of children from occurring again in your ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
Your Communications Director, Mr. Robert Furlow, remarks in the New Orleans Times-Picayune that Bishop Sullivan was admired during his lifetime as "a very strong defender of the faith." You have the opportunity, now, to defend the faith in a way Bishop Sullivan did not, by showing genuine and full compassion to those victimized by the Catholic church and defenseless children in its care. We urge you to do so.
David Clohessy, SNAP National Director
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests