The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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Sex Abuse Victims "Outraged" That Bishop Didn't Call Cops
SNAP Says Case Is "Terrible Violation of Law & Common Sense"
Group Urges Walsh To Visit Alleged Molester"s Parish This Sunday
Anyone Who "Experienced, Witnessed, or Suspected" Crimes Should Speak Up, They Say
A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is "outraged" at Santa Rosa"s Catholic bishop and is asking him to "come clean" about why he failed to call the police about an allegedly abusive priest. They also want him to visit the accused cleric's parish this Sunday and "beg victims and witnesses to contact the police" with any information about the crimes."
Leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) are writing Bishop Daniel Walsh about his "egregious and apparently illegal mishandling" of sex abuse allegations against a diocesan priest who has apparently now fled to Mexico.
On a Thursday in late April, Father Xavier Ochoa apparently admitted to a fellow Santa Rosa priest that he"d molested a boy. Four days later, the following Monday, Bishop Walsh"s lawyer sent a fax about Ochoa to a state agency. In the mean time, Ochoa fled the area, and perhaps the country.
"Walsh has been absolutely irresponsible here," said Mary Grant of Long Beach, SNAP Western Regional Director. "None of the five church officials who discussed this should have spoken with Ochoa. All of them should have called the police. But none of them did. And perhaps all of them have violated state law. It"s utterly inexcusable. And more kids may be harmed as a result."
"When any citizen suspects a crime, he or she should call the police. That's common sense, and in this case, that's the law," said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP"s national director. If Ochoa admitted abuse in April, it's likely that church officials knew of or suspected his crimes even before then."
"Walsh, however, did what Catholic bishops have done for ages: put himself and his priest and their reputations ahead of children's safety. He unilaterally, secretly, and recklessly decided to take the law into his own hands," said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Director.
The result, SNAP's letter says, is "tragic."
"Now, an admitted child molester has fled the country. Now, a dangerous man walks somewhere among unsuspecting families. Now, a sex offender is free to hurt more kids," said the SNAP letter.
"This isn't rocket science. It"s simple. You call 911, not the bishop or his lawyers, when you suspect a serious crime," said Grant. "This contradicts everything bishops promised to do in Dallas in 2002."
"Without a doubt, this is the most harmful and obvious violation of the US bishops' sex abuse policy since the Fr. Daniel McCormack case," said Barbara Blaine of Chicago, SNAP president. Chicago Cardinal Francis George has come under harsh criticism for keeping McCormack in active parish ministry after several abuse allegations, including several reports, both verbal and written, by a nun six years before McCormack was arrested. Prosecutors have said that the priest molested at least one boy "on an almost daily basis" since McCormack was allegedly being "monitored" by another priest in secrecy.
A copy of SNAP"s letter, sent today via fax and e mail, is below:
June 22, 2006
Bishop Daniel Walsh
Dear Bishop Walsh:
Fr. Frank Epperson knows that child sexual abuse is a crime. Yet he didn't call the police.
Fr. Daniel Whelton knows that child sexual abuse is a crime. Yet he didn't call the police.
Msgr. James Pulskamp knows that child sexual abuse is a crime. Yet he didn't call the police.
Your lawyers know child sexual abuse is a crime. Yet none of them called the cops.
Finally, you know that child sexual abuse is a crime. Yet you didn't call the police.
And all of you knew about either allegations against Fr. Ochoa or about admissions by Fr. Ochoa about abuse. Yet none of you met your civic or moral duty. None of you acted promptly and appropriately. None of you called the police.
A minimum of four days later, one of you, the lawyer, finally sent a fax to a state agency. All of you know that the police work 24/7. Yet Yet none of you met your civic or moral duty. None of you acted promptly and appropriately. None of you called the police.
What did you do instead? You did what Catholic officials have done for decades.
You met behind closed doors. You kept in "in house" for days, perhaps months. You "circled the wagons." You kept quiet. You delayed.
And now an admitted child molester has fled the country. Now, a dangerous man walks is somewhere among unsuspecting families. Now, a sex offender is free to hurt more kids.
Instead, you and your staff deceived your flock about the allegations. Here"s what the Santa Rosa Press Democrat wrote just the other day:
When officials from the Diocese of Santa Rosa announced the removal of the Rev. Xavier Ochoa last month, they told parishioners of St. Francis Solano Church that the misconduct was limited to one incident in April when he asked a 12-year-old altar boy to strip naked for him.
But according to Sonoma County court records, Ochoa admitted to Santa Rosa Bishop Daniel Walsh a month before the announcement that he had a history of inappropriate contact with boys. While officials limited their disclosures to the public, they told authorities about the priest's admissions, the records show.
Despite your reckless and apparently illegal actions, we hope you'll do what's right now.
We hope that you will display compassion for the wounded and concern for the vulnerable. And we hope you will show courage, the kind of courage that so few of your colleagues have shown.
Specifically, we ask that you personally visit Fr. Ochoa's parish this weekend. We urge you to speak at every mass and emphatically, specifically beg anyone who witnessed, suspected or experienced Ochoa's crimes to contact the police (not church officials). We hope you'll tell them about our confidential, independent support group.
The following weekend, we encourage you to hold an open question and answer session with the parishioners, and likewise be open and responsive to media inquiries, about this matter. The Bible tells us that "the truth shall set you free," and we believe this. Continued secrecy is very harmful.
Openness, on the other hand, helps all parties involved. First, you will be helping to restore in your parishioners some of the faith and trust that has been so severely shattered by the clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis in general, and your irresponsible actions. Survey after survey show that Catholics want more transparency from their leaders about molestation cases. Second, you will also be helping victims heal. Time and time again, victims tell us they feel better when they see authorities openly addressing abuse cases. Third, and perhaps most important, openness may help information surface that could lead to the apprehension of Ochoa by criminal authorities. Openness might then prevent other kids from being raped, sodomized or fondled by this dangerous man.
Child sex abuse thrives in secrecy. The solution is openness. We hope you"ll join us in being part of the solution.
We hope to hear from you soon.
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director 314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 email: SNAPclohessy@aol.com
Mary Grant of Long Beach, SNAP Western Regional Director 626 419 2930, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Director 314 503 0003 cell, 314 862 7688 email: SNAPdorris@gmail.com
Barbara Blaine of Chicago, SNAP president 312 399 4747; email: SNAPblaine@gmail.com
SNAP the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests