The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

SNAP Calls for Bishop Accountability

Statement by Mary Grant of Long Beach, CA
SNAP Western Regional Director
626 419 2930

"For years, the 800 lb. elephant in the Catholic room was the sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults by clergy.

In recent years, that elephant has been replaced by a different but related one - the cover up of those crimes by church officials.

No one within the church hierarchy is talking about this.

Many of the 4,400 known and suspected abusive priests have been at least held somewhat accountable for the grievous harm they've caused. But none of the bishops who enabled these crimes have experienced any consequences for their actions. Only one bishop has resigned, and he later recieved what feels like a promotion: the archpriest of a prominent basillica in Rome.

Bishops are deliberately focusing on the "bad apple" priests, not on themselves, the men who oversee the barrel. As a result, their belated and begruding so-called reforms largely miss the boat.

This is not just the perception of clergy abuse victims. A just released survey from last year shows that three out of every four Catholics consider the cover up by bishops to be more disturbing than the actual sexual abuse itself.

In June 2002, Bishop Wilton Gregory named San Diego Bishop Robert Brom to head a committee on "fraternal correction," which is what bishops call the process of essentially disciplining one another.

Six months later, Brom's committee issued a nearly meaningless 400 word document chock full of vague platitudes.

That's it. That's the extent of what Brom's committee has done in nearly 2.5 years.

During that time, there have of course been dozens and dozens of opportunities for bishops to use their pulpits and publications and pronouncements to denounce mistakes or wrong-doing by bishops and prod fellow prelates toward real reform.

To cite just two examples:
--- Six months after the Dallas Charter passed, the Chicago Sun Times disclosed that Cardinal George lived with a convicted child molester, Father Kenneth Martin, and allowed that sex offender to work in the Chicago archdiocese. When confronted about this clear and egregious violation of the "zero tolerance" pollicy, George's PR person split hairs, claiming that the molester had commited his crimes while still a seminarian, and that the Charter applied only to priests.

Has Cardinal George been "fraternally corrected" by his peers? No. In fact, he was elevated yesterday to the bishops conference vice

--- Second, Cardinal Law. Perhaps no other prelate in America has been so thoroughly exposed and documented as a reckless and dangerous supervisor of predatory priests. Yet only a handful of bishops ever publicly criticized him and the conference as a body has never seen fit to publicly call him to task for the severe harm he has caused to so many.

These are but two of dozens and dozens of opportunities for bishops to use their teaching powers and outspoken voices to argue for justice and condemn injustice. But while bishops have whispered about abusive priests, they have been silent about one another.

So today, we urge Bishop Skylstad to make this crucial issue - the accountability of bishops - his first priority.

We urge Bishop Skylstad to immediately disband the "fraternal correction" committee, and appoint a new one.

We urge that committee to meet quickly, think creatively, and devise real ways bishops who put kids at risk will face consequences of their reckless behavior.

Finally, we ask individual bishops to search their hearts and
consciences and begin to publicly address the failings of their colleagues in specific and understandible terms. We want them to, in no uncertain terms, publicly question and even disagree with their fellow bishops who act insensitively toward victims or who make it harder for victims and witnesses to come forward and report suspected abuse.

Sadly, the prospects for bishops disciplining or criticizing any of their peers in the future look bleak. We were disappointed to learn that yesterday, bishops voted to close most or all of their next meeting, in June 2005 in Chicago, to the media. Despite repeated and emphatic pledges to be more open and transparent, once again, America's bishops will instead meet behind closed doors.

Still, we will keep pushing for real reform and "fraternal correction." Settling for less delays healing, prevents justice, and will further demoralize Catholic and victims, and make for a less healthy and more dangerous church."


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests