The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2010
Groups prod newly elected bishops’ leader
Victims and activists write NY archbishop Dolan
They urge him to “come clean” about “deceptive” August move
He “knowingly deceived” parishioners about serial predatory pastor
They want Dolan to list predator priests & urge other USCCB bishops do the same
On his first day as the new head of America’s bishops, two groups are urging New York’s archbishop to disclose the names of predator priests in his own archdiocese and “come clean” about his dealings in August with Harlem parishioners whose pastor faces at least 10 child sex abuse allegations.
The organizations, a Boston-based research group called BishopAccountability.org and a Chicago-based self-help group called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), believe the first few days of Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s tenure as president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops are key.
They’re especially concerned about Dolan’s dealings in August with Harlem parishioners whose pastor, Msgr. Wallace Harris, faces at least 10 child sex abuse allegations.
Dolan is referring the case to the Vatican, a sure sign that it is serious. Harris was a prominent African-American pastor, the chairman of the Priests’ Council, Dolan’s regional vicar in Central Harlem, and a major player in archdiocesan social services. Yet Dolan and Harris were deceptive when they wrote to the parish about Harris’s removal, implying that poor health was the cause. Sexual abuse was not even mentioned.
Because of Dolan’s silence, the groups say, “the brave victim of Harris who has come forward is being vilified publicly” by the monsignor’s misguided supporters, who haven’t been given the facts. Dolan “must begin dealing compassionately and transparently with this terrible case. It is past time to come clean about Harris. The people of New York, the victims of Harris, and the other people in the parishes and schools where Harris worked, deserve nothing less,” the groups say.
The groups say that transparency in the Harris case is crucial for Dolan’s effectiveness and credibility in his new USCCB position.
“If you deal callously and secretively with an important current abuse case in your own archdiocese and knowingly deceive the Catholics in your care, you are sending an irresponsible message to your brother bishops. How effective will you be in protecting children in your new role at the USCCB?”
The groups also want Dolan to disclose and post on his archdiocesan website a list of accused NY priests, as 24 bishops have already done in their dioceses – including Dolan himself in Milwaukee. Under Cardinal Edward Egan and now Dolan, New York has been one of the least transparent dioceses in the United States, the organizations claim.
[24 Diocesan Lists: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/lists.htm ]
“You are keeping many names of potentially dangerous clerics secret,” the groups tell Dolan, “and offending priests whose names are not public can more easily offend again.”
They are urging Dolan to “use the bully pulpit of the USCCB, for the sake of public safety, to prod every bishop in America to post a list of their own and keep it up to date.”
FULL TEXT OF THE LETTER TO DOLAN:
November 19, 2010
Archbishop Timothy Dolan
Dear Archbishop Dolan,
Congratulations on your election to the presidency of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. We are writing to you today, your first official full day in office, to convey our hopes for your success in this new position, and to share our concerns with you. As you know, our two organizations – BishopAccountability.org and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests – focus on the sexual abuse crisis, and we see your work and your opportunity from that important point of view. We also have the advantage of approaching your election, and everything we do, non-ideologically. Many commentators have analyzed your election against the background of the culture wars between conservatives and liberals in the Church today. But we hope that healing the victims of clergy sexual abuse and protecting the vulnerable is a project that everyone can support, whether they read First Things or Commonweal.
In that spirit, let us say bluntly that if children are to be better protected and victims of clergy abuse better served during your term of office, you must act quickly to show that it is not “business as usual” with children’s safety in the Catholic Church. This project must begin at home. Unless you show that you are vigilant and honest about clergy sexual abuse in your archdiocese, you will not have the credibility to do the work that needs to be done at the USCCB. We ask you to take two initial steps:
1) Harris Case – You have referred or will soon refer the case of Msgr. Wallace A. Harris to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, indicating that in your view the allegations against him of sexual abuse are serious and credible. But you have not revealed the grounds for that assessment to his most recent parish, St. Charles Borromeo in Harlem. Even worse, your letter to them and Harris’s letter were both deceptive, implying that poor health, not sexual misconduct, was the reason for Harris’s resignation. As you know, their great parish has suffered in recent years, and they deserve a full and honest accounting from you of the Harris case and prompt action to help the survivors. What’s more, because of your silence, the brave victim of Harris who has come forward is being vilified publicly by the Harris’s misguided supporters, who haven’t been given the facts.
To our knowledge, you have not communicated at all with the parish of St. Joseph of the Holy Family, where Harris began his career and allegedly abused Eric Crumbley and others. Nor have you communicated with Cathedral Prep alumni, although the Prep was the junior seminary of the Archdiocese for many years under your predecessors. And you haven’t described the case at all on your website or adequately in a press release, although Harris was a high archdiocesan official – one of your regional vicars and a major figure in archdiocesan social services.
You must begin dealing compassionately and transparently with this terrible case. It is past time to come clean about Harris. The people of New York, the alleged victims of Harris, and the other people in the parishes and schools where Harris worked, deserve nothing less from you. It does not matter that the politics are difficult in this case. One assumes that as the Archbishop of New York you are equal to the challenges of the place. You also owe this to the USCCB and the Catholics of the United States. It is imperative that you lead by example. If you deal callously and secretively with an important current abuse case in your own archdiocese and knowingly deceive the Catholics in your care, you are sending an irresponsible message to your brother bishops. How effective will you be in protecting children in your new role at the USCCB?
2) List of Accused Priests – While you were the Archbishop of Milwaukee, you issued a list of priests restricted because of substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse. That list was not perfect (it did not include religious order priests, for example), but it was a good start. In New York, you have done nothing along these lines, although Cardinals Keeler, Mahony, George, and Rigali, have issued lists for the Archdioceses of Baltimore, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia respectively.
We ask that you do the same for New York, and that you make your list a model. It should include religious priests and brothers, as Keeler’s did. It should provide photographs and career histories, including treatment center visits, and should be updated frequently to reflect the cleric’s current status, as Rigali’s is. And it should break new ground by including nuns and lay people, information about seminaries and houses of formation, and details about allegations. It should be updated frequently. As you know, a small fraction of the credibly accused New York priests are publicly known. You are keeping many names of potentially dangerous clerics secret, and as your colleague the late Bishop Michael Saltarelli discovered to his cost in the DeLuca case, offending priests whose names are not public can more easily offend again.
Then we would ask you to use the bully pulpit of the USCCB, for the sake of public safety, to prod every bishop in America to post a list of their own and keep it up to date. On too many diocesan websites, the sexual abuse of children no longer is an evident concern of the ordinary. Please do everything you can to put this important issue back on the bishops’ homepages.
Thank you very much for your attention to these important matters. We wish you good luck in your new position.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests