The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
For Immediate Release:
For more information:
Sex Abuse Victims Urge Haitian Government To Investigate Ex-Priest
He's Admitted Molesting "Many Boys" in US
Former Cleric Questioned in Recent Massive Jail Break
But Group Says Officials Should Also Look Into Possible Sex Crimes
A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is asking Haitian government officials to broaden their investigation of a former Catholic priest to include the possible sexual abuse of children. The ex-cleric was questioned earlier this week about his alleged involvement in a jailbreak of some 500 prisoners.
The defrocked Indiana priest, Ron Voss, admitted in 1997: "My sins are too numerous to detail, but the most grievous gather around the sexual abuse of many adolescent boys, including some minors."
Voss was interviewed earlier this week by Haitian Minister of Justice Bernard Gousse in connection with an escape last Saturday by inmates at a Port-au-Prince prison.
Voss has been director of Visitation House in Port-au-Prince for almost
"Unsuspecting American tourists and Catholic volunteers have stayed with Voss for years,' said David Clohessy, SNAP's national director. "But we're equally concerned about the safety and welfare of especially vulnerable Haitian children that Voss might have sexually assaulted.'
In a letter to Haitian Minister of Justice Gousse, Clohessy and another activist urged that announcements about Voss' criminal behavior be made public and that any possible victims or witnesses are urged to come forward.
"What are the odds that an admitted serial child molester is magically cured of compulsive sexual urges simply because he moves overseas?" asked Paul Kendrick of Portland Maine. Kendrick, the founder of Maine Voice of the Faithful, has done volunteer work in Haiti. "We'd all love to believe such miracles happen. But that would be playing Russian roulette with the emotional, spiritual and physical safety of kids."
Both Clohessy and Kendrick stressed that they have no idea whether Voss was involved in the jailbreak.
"In fact, we strongly urge government officials to do as we do in America - assume Voss is innocent until proven guilty," said Clohessy. "Our request has nothing to do with Voss' political activities. We just want to make sure children are safe. If they have been hurt, we want them to get help."
A copy of the letter, sent today to Haitian officials via fax, is below:
February 25, 2005
M. Bernard Gousse
Dear Minister Gousse,
We urge you to begin an investigation into whether Haitian children may have been sexually abused by Ron Voss, Director of Visitation House in Port au Prince. Voss, a fomer Catholic priest, has admitted to sexually abusing "many adolescent boys including some minors" while working as a priest in Indiana.
Voss' move to Haiti resembles a pattern recently exposed by the Dallas Morning News. That newspaper documented how accused priests frequently move or are transferred overseas -- often to Third World countries where underfunded law enforcement may be less vigorous and children in poverty may be more vulnerable.
We urge you to publicize Voss' history of child abuse. Please publicly urge anyone who has experienced sexual abuse by Voss to report the crimes to public authorities. Please urge anyone who has witnessed or suspected that Voss has abused children to report this to police and prosecutors immediately.
In many Haitian families, there is only one parent. There is little or no work. Thousands upon thousands of children roam the streets. It is estimated that up to 10% of Haitian children are sold into slavery. Educational, cultural and financial gaps are even more pronounced in Haiti, which make abuse more likely and makes detecting and punishing offenders less likely.
Voss currently serves as the Director of the Parish Twinning Program of the Americas' (PTPA) Visitation House in Port au Prince. He is a former Vice-President of PTPA's Board of Directors. Visitation House is a place where hundreds of Catholic parishioners have stayed when they pass through or work in Port au Prince.
In Haiti, Voss has the same access to children as anyone else. In fact, he is seen by some as a local hero of sorts. However, in a 1997 interview conducted by The Indianapolis Star, Dr. Frederick Berlin of the Johns Hopkins National Institute for the Study, Prevention, and Treatment of Sexual Trauma stated that a man with Voss' history should "not be somewhere else where vulnerable youngsters can be victimized by him. Kids are just as important in Haiti as they are in a hometown of Indiana."
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests