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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release
Giving Voice to Victims

 

November 9, 2005

Sex Abuse Victims Want Indianapolis Catholic Official Ousted

Church Uses Lawyer to Respond to Those Reporting Sex Crimes

“Hire Therapist, Not Attorney, To Deal With Victims,” Group Tells Archbishop

Another New Child Sex Abuse Lawsuit, the Fifth, Is Filed Against Priest

WHAT:

After a sidewalk news conference, clergy molestation victims and Catholics will try to hand-deliver a letter to Indianapolis’ bishop urge him to stop using a lawyer to respond to sex abuse victims and instead hire a therapist to do that. They will also announce a
new child sex abuse lawsuit against a veteran Indiana priest.

WHEN:

TODAY, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 10:00 a.m.

WHERE:

Outside the Indianapolis Catholic archdiocese headquarters (aka chancery office), 1400 N. Meridian (corner of 14th Street) in Indianapolis

WHO:

Two or three Indiana clergy molestation victims, including a St. Louis woman who is on the national staff of a support group called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and concerned Catholics who are members of an independent reform
group called Voice of the Faithful (VOTF)

WHY:

SNAP just learned that individuals who report sexual abuse to Indianapolis church officials are directed to “Victims Assistance Coordinator” Susan Yakimchick, a
lawyer. SNAP feel that a therapist should perform this function, and that Yakimchick should disclose her status as a lawyer on the church web site. The group is asking Archbishop Daniel Buechlein to replace her. (Dioceses in Sacramento, Seattle, New York, Boise, and other cities have come under fire, including lawsuits, for using lawyers in this role.)

In September, a man filed an abuse suit against Fr. Harry Monroe, reporting that the priest had sexually violated him in 1976. A week or so later, another man
sued, reporting that, Monroe repeatedly sexually assaulted him in. Last month, two more Indiana men also filed similar lawsuits. The crimes took place in the 1970s at either St. Andrew Catholic Church or St. Catherine’s parish, both in Indianapolis.

Today’s lawsuit makes a total of five accusers against Monroe. It charges that “between 1979 and 1981, six boys reported” to church officials that they’d been molested by Monroe. This latest victim was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Monroe from 1982 to 1984 at St. Paul’s parish in Tell City, in southern Indiana.

Church officials claim they do not know Monroe’s whereabouts. They admit, however, that the cleric was suspended in 1984 because of “sexual misconduct” accusations.

Concerned about the safety of kids around Monroe now, SNAP wrote Buechlein in September, urging him to use church bulletins, diocesan web sites and diocesan
newspapers to prod anyone who experienced, suspected or witnessed crimes by Monroe to contact police so that he might be prosecuted, children might be protected, and victims might be healed. Buechlein never responded.

All of the lawsuits are against Monroe and the Indianapolis Catholic archdiocese, are filed in Marion Superior Court, seek unspecified damages and jury trials, and involve “John Doe” victims. All of Monroe’s victims are represented by St. Paul MN attorney Pat Noaker (651 227 9990, 612 961 1307 cell).

According to the Indy Star, “Monroe worked at St. Monica Parish in 1975; the former St. Catherine Parish from 1977 through 1979; and at St. Patrick’s in Terre Haute from 1979 through 1981. He was placed on leave for a while in 1981 before being assigned to St. Paul in Tell City from 1982 through 1984.”

CONTACT:

Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Director
314 503 0003 cell, 314 862 7688

David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director
314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915
-------------

Letter Sent to Archbishop Buechlein:

Nov. 9, 2004

Dear Archbishop Buechlein:

We are members of a support group called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Our purpose is to help heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable. We are writing in the hopes that you will take three prompt, simple, but important steps that
will foster both of these goals.

Through a recent article in the Terre Haute Tribune Star, we have learned that your “Victims Assistance Coordinator,” Susan Yakimchick, is a lawyer. When individuals report sexual abuse to the Indianapolis archdiocese, they are directed to Yakimchick. At best, this is a needless risk that may well cause already hurting victims to feel hurt again. At worst, it is a deceptive legal defense move, enabling your legal team and public relations staff to gather information from unsuspecting victims that will help keep your
molestation cases out of court and keep your secrets well-hidden.

We strongly feel that three actions should be taken at this point:

* You should insist that Yakimchick immediately
disclose her status as a lawyer on the church web site
and in correspondence and conversations with victims.
(Now, there no such written disclosure, at least not
on your web site.)
* You should write and apologize to victims and
their families who have contacted Yakimchick, inform
them of her dual roles, and apologize to them.
* You should replace her as quickly as possible
with a more appropriately and pastorally trained .

Dioceses in Sacramento, Seattle, New York, Boise, and
other cities have come under fire, including lawsuits,
for using lawyers in this role. In fact, the
Sacramento settled several lawsuits by victims who
suffered more anxiety, depression, and hurt when they
poured their hearts out to a church staffer who turned
out to be a lawyer. And the Diocese of Rockville
Centre NY took considerable heat from a grand jury for
engaging in the same questionable practices.

This is not about Yakimchick's qualifications. It's
about her training. Lawyers are trained to be
combative and adversarial advocates. Therapists are
trained to be supportive and compassionate listeners.
Deeply wounded and still hurting victims, who are
bravely struggling to report painful, embarrassing sex
crimes, deserve and expect the latter, not the former.

Nor is this about Yakimchick’s intentions. Even if one
assumes that she means well, that doesn’t erase the
other difficulties that face a lawyer who is out of
his or her expertise when traumatized, perhaps
sometimes suicidal clergy molestation victims contact
the archdiocese.

We are sure you’ll cite Yakimchick’s experience with
state government as a “plus.” But being a state
bureaucrat overseeing an agency, any agency, while
perhaps admirable, doesn’t necessarily make one a
sensitive listener or a trained therapist.

The bottom line, we believe, is that it’s inherently
problematic and deceptive to employ a lawyer in this
capacity, especially given the fragile condition of
many who approach the church to get help or report a
child molester.

When victims, their families, Catholics, and the
public hear the phrase "victims assistance
coordinator," they assume and expect that this person
will be someone in "the helping professions" like
social work or psychology or therapy. And when an
institution responds to a crisis using a lawyer,
victims, their families, Catholics, and the public
assume and expect that pastoral concern isn’t that
institution’s top priority.

Fundamentally, it comes down to two simple questions:
Why take the risk of revictimizing someone who’s
already been severely victimized? Or why risk that
someone who might report a dangerous predator instead
stays silent because he or she is reluctant to call a
church lawyer?

Our group has been around for 16 years. We know a lot
about clergy sex abuse victims. We’ve spoken with and
helped thousands of victims. And we can assure you
that many will be intimidated from sharing information
about molesters because they fear church attorneys.

Hundreds of victims took leaps of faith, discussing
their abuse with church officials. All too often, they
end up feeling betrayed again. This is especially true
when that official ends up being an attorney who
wasn’t up front about his or her status right off the
bat.

Please don’t let this happen in your archdiocese.
Please put the safety and well-being of victims first.
Please replace Ms. Yakimchick with someone more
qualified and more apt to be compassionate, instead of
combative.

Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Director
314 503 0003 cell, 314 862 7688
SNAPdorris@gmail.com

David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director
314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915
SNAPclohessy@aol.com

Sandy Teagarden Thomas, Indianapolis SNAP Director 317
888 1424 cell, 317 833 9996 sandrak765@yahoo.com

Barbara Blaine of Chicago, SNAP president 312 399 4747
SNAPblaine@gmail.com


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


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