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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release
Giving Voice to Victims

 

For Immediate Release:
Thursday, April 10, 2008

For More Information:
David Clohessy of St. Louis, MO- SNAP National Director 314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, MO - SNAP Outreach Director 314 862 7688

Clergy sex abuse victims blast Oregon Catholic bishop

He’s keeping silent about predator priest who molested Baker girl

Crimes were in 2003, a year after church hierarchy promised “openness”

Yet Vasa and his colleagues said & did nothing to warn or help others

Support group discloses four pages of court records about the crimes

A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is blasting Baker's Catholic bishop for “apparently doing little or nothing” to “warn, protect or help others” who may have been molested by a priest who sexually assaulting an Oregon teen in 2003. The group is also upset that church officials are keeping the crimes secret.

Leaders of a Chicago-based support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, have obtained and are making public four pages of court records from Morrow County, Oregon, about Fr. Jose Joaquin Estrada Arango.

The documents show that in October 2003, Estrada pled guilty to attempted felonious sexual assault of a then 14-year-old girl, and agreed to be deported. At the time, Estrada was pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Boardman (541 481 2024).

In a letter sent today to Bishop Robert Vasa, SNAP blasts the prelate for hiding Estrada's criminal charges and conviction from citizens and Catholics.

"Most bishops disclose child sex allegations against their priests, and virtually every bishop discloses child sex convictions," said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP's outreach director. "This may be the only case in the last few years in which a bishop hid the arrest and guilty plea of a child- molesting cleric. It's extraordinarily hard to imagine how Vasa justifies this, especially since it happened AFTER every US bishop pledged to be open about child sex crimes in 2002."

"You've essentially deceived your flock about an admitted child predator," SNAP's letter said. "How can you possibly justify this on-going callousness and secrecy?"

SNAP leaders say that a distraught Washington state Catholic sent them the Estrada court records two days ago. Estrada worked in Yakima before being sent to the Baker diocese.

"We predict Vasa will ‘pass the buck’ and blame Yakima’s bishop for the secrecy," Dorris said. “But that’s disingenuous. Who cares where Estrada was ‘incardinated’ or other internal church distinctions? Vasa let him work in Oregon, he molested an Oregon girl, he was convicted in Oregon and Oregon Catholics and citizens should have been told.”

SNAP's letter urges Vasa to:

-- explain (his) secrecy and callousness,

-- disclose why Estrada was in the Baker diocese,

-- personally visit the parishes where Estrada worked and beg victims and witnesses to come forward, get help, and call the police.

Citizens and Catholics “need and deserve straight answers, not hollow, belated apologies,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s national director. “We hope Vasa doesn’t insult the public by claiming he just ‘didn’t know’ or ‘didn’t understand.’ He deliberately chose to keep these crimes a secret, clearly putting his own selfish needs to avoid controversy above the safety of kids and well-being of victims ”

According to the Official Catholic Directory, Estrada was ordained in 1997 and worked at two Yakima Diocese churches: St. Peter Claver Church in Wapato in 2001 and 2002 and Holy Redeemer Church in Yakima in 2003.

It's not clear why Estrada was transferred to Oregon.

SNAP says that apparently Estrada has not been suspended, defrocked or exposed by church officials.

Originally, Estrada faced five felony counts. Four were dropped when he pled guilty and agreed to be deported. He is believed to be from Colombia. SNAP worries about the safety of kids around Estrada now.

****

A copy of SNAP's letter, sent today by fax and e mail, is below. (A similar letter is being sent to the Yakima bishop.)

April 10, 2008

Dear Bishop Vasa:

A year after America's bishops pledged to be open about child sex cases, Fr. Jose Estrada, a Yakima priest, pled guilty in Oregon to molesting a 14-year-old girl in your diocese. Apparently, you said nothing when he was charged. You said nothing when he pled guilty. You said nothing when he was deported. And you’ve said nothing since.

You've essentially deceived your flock and the public about an admitted child predator. How can you possibly justify this on-going callousness and secrecy?"

We know little about the circumstances of Estrada's crimes or his 14-year-old victim's pain. But we do know that he admitted criminally molesting a girl, and that you've kept secret about it. How can you be silent, knowing that there may well be other kids - in Washington or Oregon - who've been sexually assaulted by Estrada and are suffering in shame, confusion and self-blame?

Likewise, we know little about why Estrada was in your diocese. But that doesn’t matter. As a shepherd of the flock, your first duty is to protect them. You failed. At least one of them has been severely hurt, perhaps others. Yet you respond with utter silence.

Though these steps should have been taken years ago, we ask you to now

-- explain your secrecy and callousness,

-- disclose why Estrada was in the Baker diocese

-- personally visit the parishes where Estrada worked and beg victims and witnesses to come forward, get help, and call the police.

Catholics and citizens need and deserve straight answers, not hollow apologies forced by public pressure.

We look forward to hearing from you.

David Clohessy
National Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
St. Louis MO 63143
314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915

Barbara Blaine
President, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
PO Box 6416
Chicago IL 60680
312 399 4747

Barbara Dorris
Outreach Coordinator, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
6245 Westminster
St. Louis MO 63130
314 862 7688


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


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