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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Release
For immediate release: Thursday, Sept 2
Hearing is set for today in accused predator priest case
Support group gets reports of his other alleged misdeeds
Two more Catholic bishops urged to help law enforcement
Victims prod colleges to contact alums about accused pedophile
"Help find others who were hurt," groups ask "and urge them to call police"
Today a Catholic priest who worded in Pittsburgh and was arrested in July for alleged child sex crimes faces a court hearing, and a support group is disclosing that it has received reports of other alleged sexual misconduct by him involving adults in New Hampshire.
On Monday, leaders of a support group called SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) held news conferences in Allentown PA and Manchester NH urging Catholic bishops there to reach out (via their diocesan websites and parish bulletins) to anyone hurt by Fr. Felix Owino. (In Manchester, they were joined by several members of a Catholic reform group called Voice of the Faithful.)
In a letter sent today to West Virginia and Pittsburgh church officials, SNAP is making the same requests.
SNAP is also urging
“Church and college officials have a chance to help law enforcement by aggressively seeking out others with information about Owino,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s director. “Instead of passively sitting back and doing little or nothing, they should use their considerable resources to help the justice system get to the bottom of these allegations.”
In July, Owino was arrested in Fairfax VA and charged with ‘aggravated sexual battery’ of a girl under 13. From 2005 to 2007, he worked at Magdalen College in New Hampshire as chaplain for the students, faculty, staff, families, and high school summer youth programs. Owino was also a professor and academic adviser to individual students and provided private spiritual direction to students.
The group is especially prodding the officials at Magdalen College to 'come clean' about any allegation of abuse against Owino while he worked there.
“In repeated phone conversations and e mails, two credible New Hampshire residents have told us about three instances in which Owino engaged in alleged sexual misconduct with adults,” said Judy Jones, SNAP’s associate Midwest director. “We understand that the college staff already knows about these instances but to be safe, we’re writing them later today and sharing with them what we’ve heard.”
In the Pittsburgh diocese, Owino worked at Dusquene University and St. Bede's parish off and on between 1997 and 2005.
Most recently, he worked at Wheeling Jesuit College in Wheeling. He also was pastor at St. Paul's church in Weirton, WV.
SNAP wants Manchester Bishop John McCormack, Wheeling Bishop Michael Bransfield, Allentown Bishop John Barres, Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik, and officials at all three colleges (Wheeling Jesuit, Magdalen, and Dusquene) to disclose any allegations of sexual abuse against Owino in their dioceses or schools and seek out others who may have seen or suspected his misdeeds.
The group is also urging any current and former students and employees at the colleges to ask their colleagues about Owino. They believe that anyone who has seen, suspected or suffered Owino’s misconduct should “come forward, call police, protect others and start healing.”
“Sometimes, when one victim of a predator discloses, others sit back and assume he’ll be convicted,” said Jones. “But it's important for everyone with information about clergy sex crimes to contact law enforcement. Often, child molesting clerics get top notch defense lawyers who successfully exploit legal technicalities and escape conviction or get lenient sentences.”
Owino is a native of Nairobi, Kenya. A photo of him and his 'assignment record' is available at BishopAccountability.org
A hearing in his criminal case is set for today in Virginia.
Recent news articles about Owino, and SNAP’s letter to Pittsburgh’s bishop (sent today by fax and e mail) are below:
Thursday Sept 2, 2010
Dear Bishop Zubik,
As you already know, Fr. Felix Owino has been arrested in Fairfax, VA, for sexually abusing an 11 year old girl.
Recently we have learned that there have been three alleged sexual misconduct complaints against Owino at the Magdalen College in New Hampshire where he worked.
If you have any knowledge of allegations against Owino, we urge you to make this information public, and contact the police. We feel that since he worked in the Pittsburgh diocese, it is your responsibility to turn over any information to Fairfax prosecutor and to urge anyone who saw, suspected, or suffered harm by Owino to contact law enforcement.
We also urge you to beg college students and staff to ask peers and colleagues if they saw, suspected or suffered sexual misdeeds by this priest, and if so, to immediately contact police and prosecutors.
Finally, we urge you to personally visit St. Bede's parish, and ask parents to gently speak to their kids, and ask them if Owino did anything to them that was uncomfortable or inappropriate.
Bishop Zubik, we believe it is your moral and civic duty to reach out to anyone who was in contact with Owino. If anyone has been harmed by him, they need help. If anyone saw, suspected or suffered his misdeeds, they need to contact law enforcement.
Because of archaic, predator-friendly statutes of limitations, and lengthy, effective cover ups by Catholic officials, few priests ever face criminal prosecution. It’s crucial that when one does, everyone involved do everything they can to help police and prosecutors do their jobs so that child molesters can be kept away from kids and future child sex crimes can be prevented.
We hope you will act decisively and quickly to heal those who are in pain and to safeguard those at risk.
Judy Block Jones
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests