The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For more information:
Statement by Mary Grant of Long Beach,
December 10, 2003
We are members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the nation's largest support group.
We're here today because want Cardinal Roger Mahony to take two immediate steps,. steps that will show he's serious about reaching a resolution.
First, he should bring in the Boston archdiocese lawyer who helped reach a speedy agreement there.
Second, he should stop using the statute of limitations as a defense in molestation lawsuits, for at least the next year.
For years, clergy sex abuse victims have waited.
We've waited for vindication.
And, of course, we've waited for help, vital and tangible help with our medical bills, our therapy bills, our anti-depressant prescriptions, and all the rest. We've waited for some measure of financial relief, so that we can begin to undo just a small portion of the unemployment, the underemployment, the lack of higher education, the reduced earning power that have afflicted so many of us.
For many of us, we're still waiting.
After nearly a year of talks between our attorneys and Mahony's lawyers, we're still waiting. Despite Last week, the Daily Journal (12/5/03) reported that little progress has been made in those talks.
Last Thursday, in Los Angeles Superior Court, the archdiocese's leading defense lawyer denied that the church was stalling. We're not so sure.
We're NOT saying that the archdiocesan lawyer should be replaced. But we're saying that victims deserve and need healing, justice and closure. A settlement can be one step toward those goals.
And we're saying that Archbishop O'Malley's lawyer in Boston clearly knows how to make a settlement happen. He did it in the early 1990s in Fall River, Massachusetts. In a matter of weeks, he did it again in Boston recently. Cardinal Mahony needs to show his doubting flock and the frustrated, skeptical survivors that he's sincere. Hiring the Boston lawyer might well make a difference.
By the way, O'Malley set an important example that his brother bishops might consider emulating. On his first day in office, O'Malley fired long time archdiocesan lawyer,Wilson D. Rogers Jr., who had antagonized alleged victims with his hardball tactics. (Boston Globe, 9/10/03). It's hard to believe that a church leader has "reformed" or "learned" or "is doing better" when he continues to surround himself with the same cast of characters who helped cause this crisis in the first place.
Now, the second reason why we're here.
We are urging Mahony to stop using the statute of limitations as a defense, at least for the next year. That's the least he can do to protect children and help victims heal.
Years ago, we asked Cardinal Mahony, along with other Catholic bishops across the country, to help us work to extend the statute of limitations. We got no takers.
In 2002, we asked him again, but got no response.
Luckily, the legislature did the right thing anyway, and reformed the statute last year.
Then, last December, we asked Mahony and his brother bishops in California to spread the word about the new law, so that victims would come forward, child molesters would be exposed and removed, and childen would be safe. Again, we got no takers.
In fact, that new law is now being challenged in court by one of Mahony's colleagues - the bishop of Stockton.
So, at no point, has the Cardinal made it easier for victims to come forward. It's time for him to stop making it harder.
First, before victims can come forward, they must know that they CAN, that they have options, like this new law provides. Many, we believe, still don't know about the new law. But Cardinal Mahony hasn't helped spread the word about this opportunity.
Second, before victims can come forward, they must feel lsome hope. Many victims, we believe, feel depressed about the prospects for real changes and justice. One reason is the stalled settlement talks. Here again, Cardinal Mahony hasn't helped.
So in the interest of justice, healing and prevention - the Cardinal must do something to encourage and enable vicgtims to keep coming forward. Voluntarily refusing to shield himself with the statute of limitations would be a just, fair and reasonable step.
Thanks to this new California law that extended the statute of limitations, many churches, schools, athletic leagues are taking abuse allegations more seriously, screening their volunteers and employees more carefully and responding more promptly and sensitively to victims of abuse. Sadly, this new tool to keep kids safe will soon end. December 31st is the last chance for abuse victims to use this law to expose and remove their molesters and to warn others about dangerous men.
But even though the law expires, the need for justice and healing continues. The need to protect children continues.
So we're asking the Cardinal to make it easier for victims to come forward, and agree to no longer use the old statute of limitations. We want to hear him say "We'll defend the archdiocese if necessary, but we'll fight fair and we'll no longer hide behind at least this one discredited technicality. We'll face victims squarely and fairly, and not dodge accountability using the statute of limitations."
We in SNAP share the view that many in law enforcement have - that the statute of limitations is a dangerous and archaic technicality that keeps kids vulnerable to abuse. If Cardinal Mahony really wants to keep children safe, he will agree to no longer use this technicality to avoid accountability and justice.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests