The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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Support group blasts Archbishop for legal tactics
"Hardball" church approach discourages other victims from reporting
SNAP expresses concern for victim and his family
Hanus uses "technicalities" to evade responsibility, group says
Dubuque Catholic officials filed legal documents on Wednesday trying to have a child molestation case against a priest, who once served as Vicar General for the Archdiocese of Dubuque, tossed out of federal court. A group that supports clergy sexual abuse victims calls the move "callous and intimidating."
The archdiocese is seeking to dismiss James Cummins' federal sex abuse case involving Msgr. William A. Roach on three grounds.
Church leaders claim that since Cummins was 17 at the time he was molested, he was actually an adult. They also claim Roach wasn't a church employee, but rather an "independent contractor." And archdiocesan officials allege that Cummins came forward too late, after his statute of limitations had expired.
"Archbishop Jerome Hanus' arguments are appalling," said Steve Theisen of Hudson, IA. Theisen, the Iowa Director of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests - a self-help group) said, "Hanus is basically telling youngsters who are being abused right now that it's their fault and that the archdiocese will fight tooth and nail if he or she comes forward."
"Hanus may have the legal right to defend the Archdiocese like this, and to blame the victim. But what he's doing is shameful," Theisen said. "Catholics should be embarrassed and outraged by this."
Heather Smith of Waterloo, IA and the Co-founder of Northeast Iowa SNAP said, "To their credit and because of their courage, Mr. Cummins and his parents reported the abuse in 1962. Yet church leaders continued to let Roach work in Cedar Rapids, Oxford Junction, Key West, and Waukon, recklessly putting kids at risk in each of those towns and parishes."
Smith added, "Does Hanus believe that teenagers are fair game to be sexually abused? Roach was in a powerful position of authority and used that authority to abuse Mr. Cummins."
Theisen questioned Msgr. James J. Barta' contention that 'there are no other allegations of abuse in Roach's personnel file." Barta is the current Vicar General of the Archdiocese,
"Barta might be true in the most narrow, technical sense. But does he really think the people in the pews fell off the turnip truck yesterday? If you don't take notes, or don't put the notes in the personnel file, or worse, destroy the notes, how do you expect notes to end up in a personnel file?" he asked.
Theisen also sharply criticized the "independent contractor" notion.
"To say that Roach was never an employee of the archdiocese is just like Pontius Pilot washing his hands of the blood of Jesus but in this case, the church leaders, who we were taught to respect, are washing their hands of Mr. Cummins' suffering and any other victim of priest or nun sexual abuse. Roach was a Vicar General for heavens-sake and they claim he wasn't really on their payroll! What kind of Christ-like leadership is this?"
Besides the delays and suffering these legal maneuvers cause Cummins, Theisen says others will be hurt too.
"Hardball tactics like this intimidate some victims into staying silent. And when victims stay silent, they don't heal and kids aren't protected," he said. "More than 900 priests have been suspended in the last four years because of credible abuse charges. That makes kids safer. But when victims are hit with aggressive legal moves and blamed for their own abuse, victims may not report the crimes. This in turn means that molesters keep molesting."
The case was filed in Federal District Court in Cedar Rapids in June, 2004.
history per Catholic Directory
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests