The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
For immediate release:
Sex Abuse Victims Want Ohio Catholic Bishops To Testify
Group Hand Delivers Letters To Five Top Ohio Clerics
Crucial Legislative Hearing is Set For This Thursday in Columbus
Catholic Officials Privately Lobby To Kill Child Sex Abuse Reforms
But SNAP Wants Them To Stop Being Cowards And Publicly Defend Themselves
Victims of sexually abusive Catholic priests are prodding Ohio"s bishops to either stop fighting proposed legislative sex abuse reforms or "stop being secretive and cowardly" and testify at a hearing on the reforms this week in Columbus.
After sidewalk news conferences today in five Ohio cities, leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests are hand delivering letters today to Catholic headquarters. The letters urge the prelates to "stop using parishioners" donations to block child sex abuse reforms," or "defend (your) mishandling of priest sex abuse" at a House Judiciary committee hearing on Thursday. It centers on SB 17, a controversial measure that would open a one year "window" allowing civil molestation lawsuits stemming from abuse that took place years ago.
SNAP also wants the bishops to discipline a Catholic lobbyist in Columbus for making false statements to the news media.
For months, all six Ohio Catholic bishops have quietly but vigorously fought victims, who strongly support the one year "window." But at Thursday"s hearing, only one bishop - Frederick Campbell of Columbus - plans to testify. He is the newest bishop in the state, having been in Ohio only a year.
"Bishops will twist arms and make threats behind closed doors in Columbus," said Barbara Blaine of Chicago, SNAP"s founder and president. "But when its time to publicly defend their cover-ups, they sit home and hide, and send the "new kid on the block" to do their bidding."
"It's sad that parishioners' donations are going to block reforms that protect kids," said Christy Miller, SNAP"s Cincinnati Co-Leader. "And it's even sadder that bishops are too cowardly to admit and discuss this openly."
In particular, the group wants Cleveland Bishop Anthony Pilla and Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk to come and speak. Those two have headed their respective dioceses for nearly 25 years. But SNAP asserts they are afraid to face lawmakers and take questions about their cover ups of clergy sex crimes.
SNAP also objects to statements made by Ohio Catholic Conference head said Tim Luckhaupt, executive head of Catholic Conference of Ohio who told the Columbus Dispatch last week that "dioceses already list on Web sites and in newspapers the names of (abusive) priests" and "Nobody in the ministry today has a credible allegation against them." SNAP maintains that both statements are wrong and deceptive and wants bishops to discipline Luckhaupt.
The Ohio Senate unanimously passed SB 17in March. House Judiciary Committee Chair John Willamowski of Lima has said he expects his panel will vote on the bill next month.
Catholic officials oppose the one year "window" during which victims could file civil lawsuits stemming from childhood sex crimes that occurred years earlier. Advocates maintain that such a "window" would make children safer by exposing dangerous predators who have "run out the clock" on possible criminal charges and are still molesting kids today.
"The window is the only part of the bill that really protects kids today," said Blaine. "Hundreds of predators are walking free, having outlasted the short, arbitrary statute of limitations. Civil action lets parents, neighbors and employers know who these dangerous men are."
In an unusual move, Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor William Mason and Warren County Prosecutor Rachel A. Hutzel are backing the bill. So too are several Catholic and child protection groups including the Ohio Coalition Against Sexual Assault (OCASA) and Voice of the Faithful (VOTF).
Today"s news conferences are being held in Steubenville (9:30 a.m.), Youngstown (11:30 a.m.), Cleveland (1:30 p.m.), Cincinnati (1:45 p.m.), and Toledo (3:45 p.m.).
At each stop except Cincinnati, Blaine and Claudia Vercellotti of Toledo will try to drop off the letters.
Claudia Vercellotti of Toledo, SNAP Toledo Director (419) 350-9234
Barbara Blaine of Chicago, SNAP President (312) 399-4747 cell
Christy Miller of Cincinnati, SNAP Co-Leader (513) 383-2198 cell
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests