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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Release

Victims urge bishop “avoid bankruptcy”

SNAP: “It’s a convenient but hurtful cop out”

8 US dioceses have sought Chapter 11 protection

But group doubts diocesan claims of financial hardship

It prods Braxton:“Open the books to an independent auditor”

And it says Catholic officials should, if need be, seek funds elsewhere

“Before acting, at least hold open meetings with your flock,” group asks

Bankruptcy can deter victims, witnesses & whistleblowers from speaking up, SNAP believes

WHAT
At a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims will publicly prod Belleville’s Catholic bishop to
--avoid the temptation to seek bankruptcy protection,
--let an independent auditor examine diocesan finances,
--if need be, seek funds and loans elsewhere to settle clergy sex cases, and
--hold a series of meetings with parishioners across the diocese before considering Chapter 11.

WHEN
Tuesday, June 7, 1:30 p.m.

WHERE
Outside the Belleville Diocese headquarters (‘chancery’), 222 South 2nd Street in Belleville

WHO
Members of a victims’ self-help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org), including a St. Louis woman who is the organization’s outreach director

WHY
In the wake of a recent court ruling, an embarrassing 2008 trial, and at least two other pending clergy sex abuse and cover up cases, SNAP fears that Belleville Catholic officials may soon seek Chapter 11 protection to prevent more trials and the disclosure of more damaging information.

Late last month, the Illinois Supreme Court essentially upheld a 2008 jury verdict ordering the Belleville diocese to pay $5 million in damages to an abuse victim, largely because of overwhelming evidence that church officials ignored and concealed horrific child sex crimes by Fr. Raymond Kownacki. (The court chose not to hear Bishop Edward Braxton’s appeal to overturn the jury verdict.)

While Braxton has appealed, another $1.35 million in interest has accrued. Interest continues to pile up at a rate of $1,200 a day. At least two more civil cases involving Kownacki are pending.

Still, SNAP seriously doubts Braxton’s assertion that the diocese is hurting financially. (A witness in the 2008 trial testified that the diocese earns more than $1 million annually just on interest. And most dioceses have ample insurance coverage that pays for the overwhelming bulk of clergy sex payouts.) Until the bishop “comes clean” about all church finances – stocks, bonds, property, insurance coverage and other assets – SNAP feels it is naïve for parishioners and the public to believe Braxton’s cries of “poverty.”

The group feels that talk of “tough finances” by church officials is often “posturing” designed to deter victims from coming forward and tricking victims in litigation into settling for small sums.

If the diocese is short on funds, SNAP believes Braxton should exhaust all other means of raising or borrowing money to resolve other clergy sex abuse cases. (In 2002, Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law borrowed millions from a Catholic men’s group, the Knights of Columbus, to settle with hundreds of victims.)

SNAP wants Braxton to (1) let truly independent auditors examine church finances, (2) if need be, borrow and raise additional funds to fairly resolve all sex abuse cases, and, (3) if he’s considering Chapter 11, to hold open public meetings in each region (“deaneries”) across the diocese, giving Catholics an opportunity to voice their concerns about the process.

Other dioceses have sought bankruptcy protection, including Milwaukee, Phoenix, Spokane, Davenport and San Diego.

In May, the New York-based Christian Brothers, a large Catholic religious order, became the latest church institution to declare bankruptcy, in response to clergy sex abuse and cover up cases in Washington state.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/29/us-church-brothers-sexabuse-idUSTRE73S0XV20110429

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014949804_christianbros04m.html

Kownacki’s victims are represented by attorney Mike Weilmuenster (618 257 2222).

CONTACT
Barbara Dorris 314 862 7688, 314 503 0003, SNAPdorris@gmail.com, David Clohessy 314 566 9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com


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