SNAP protests priest’s placement
JOLIET — A group representing people sexually abused by priests staged a small protest Wednesday outside the Catholic Diocese of Joliet offices.
Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and SNAP member Barbara Meyer held up childhood photos of abuse victims as they criticized the recent appointment of the Rev. Jeffery Salwach to the LaVerna Friary in St. Louis.
Spokesman Doug Delaney said the diocese was aware of SNAP’s concerns, but noted Salwach’s previous and current assignments, living arrangements and discipline fall under a different provincial.
“As a Franciscan priest he worked in the diocese, but would be under the direction of the Franciscans, not the bishop’s,” Delaney said.
The Franciscan office at St. Anthony’s in St. Louis said the regional head, the Rev. William Spencer, was out of town and unavailable for comment Wednesday.
In 2004, a man filed a lawsuit alleging Salwach repeatedly molested him while he attended elementary school between 1974 and 1978.
During those years, Salwach was a religious brother at St. Jude Parish in New Lenox. He was later ordained as a priest.
After spending time in parishes downstate, Salwach served at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Joliet beginning in 1992 and was pastor when the parish’s school closed in 1997. He later served in San Antonio, Texas, until June 2003.
When Salwach was accused of abuse, he was placed on administrative leave by the Order of Franciscans as the Will County state’s attorney’s office was notified.
The lawsuit was settled by the diocese and no criminal charges were filed, but SNAP reported “the accusations were determined to be credible.”
Salwach had since gone to the San Damiano Friary in Cedar Lake, Ind.
“Late last week, we were anonymously sent a copy of an internal church memo listing new assignments for Franciscan clerics (noting) Salwach is now working in a residential neighborhood in St. Louis,” Blaine said. “Within a mile of the friary are five daycare centers, four elementary schools and a park with a playground, but SNAP members there found out no neighbors were warned.”
“We don’t quibble he has to live somewhere, but our overall concern is seeing the church quietly move predators without any notice,” Blaine said.
Criticism over Flores case
Blaine and Meyer said a similar demonstration was occurring Wednesday morning in St. Louis. No one at the Joliet Diocese office came out to respond to their protest.
Blaine said she had not spoken with Bishop Daniel Conlon, who took over the diocese in July, but criticized the actions of his predecessor, Bishop Peter Sartain. Sartain was named archbishop of Seattle earlier this year.
“He ordained Alejandro Flores while knowing there were allegations he had child pornography on his computer and ended up getting promoted,” Blaine said.
Flores was a seminarian when he began sexually abusing a boy in West Chicago. The abuse continued for five years as Flores was ordained and subsequently assigned to Holy Family Church in Shorewood.
The victim’s family contacted police in January 2010. Flores later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison.
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.