Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests
Fall 2005 Bishops's Conference
November 14, 2005
Statement by Mary Grant
Western Regional Director of SNAP,
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
626 419 2930
Welcome to what veteran journalist Richard Ostling calls "the most
secretive November (Bishops Conference) since 1972." We are of course
disappointed that much of what bishops will do and discuss this week will
take place behind closed doors.
If bishops can't talk about sex abuse openly, it's hard to believe that
bishops will be able to deal with it constructively.
In fact, we don't believe they're really even trying.
Behind closed doors this week, we strongly suspect that bishops will spend
considerable time this week strategizing about how to defeat statute of
limitations reform in state after state. We base this view on several
factors, including an unusually frank talk we recently had with a Catholic
Two weeks ago, my colleague David Clohessy met a diocesan priest who recounted
a recent conversation with his bishop and two fellow priests. The bishop
was asked "What's on the agenda for the Bishops' conference in Washington?"
"It's pretty much routine, nothing out of the ordinary," the
elderly bishop replied.
Then he paused, and apparently opted to be a bit more honest. "Well,
actually, we're planning to spend a lot of time talking about the statute
of limitations," he continued. "The victims and the judiciary
are out to destroy the church."
We're saddened by this, but not surprised.
All across the country, in public, bishops say all the right things. They
apologize, they claim they've "reformed," and they talk about
But in private, bishops behave very differently. They work vigorously
to kill proposals to strength archaic and weak child sex abuse laws, in
state house after state house.
In particular, they fight hard against one year civil "windows,"
like California adopted in 2002, which give deeply wounded child molestation
victims the chance to be heard in court, to expose our predators, to warn
parents and to protect kids.
The California window has been an unqualified success. As a result of
the legislature's wisdom there, hundreds of dangerous men have quit or
left or been fired from positions of access to and authority over children,
as teachers, coaches and ministers. As a result of the legislature's courage,
and the courage of hundreds of survivors, we believe California is the
safest state in America for children.
Other states are poised to follow suit. One chamber in the New York has
adopted a similar "window." One chamber in Ohio has done likewise.
Lawmakers in several other states are
If our suspicions are correct, the sad truth is that America's Catholic
bishops have a lot to be secretive about. Obviously, they backtrack
It's one thing for bishops to make irresponsible decisions that keep Catholic
kids at risk. It's much worse of course, for bishops to make irresponsible
decisions that keep all kids at risk. That's what church officials do
when they use parishioners' donations to stifle long-overdue legislative
reforms designed to prevent future child molestation.
Two Associated Press stories on line today show an interesting contrast.
One is the article we quoted earlier, discussing how secretive bishops
are being at this meeting. The other if a story out of Massachusetts,
about how the state senate just passed a bill mandating that churches
be more open with their finances. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9991631/
These stories show two trends, one is discouraging the other is encouraging.
The discouraging trend, of course, is the continued backpedaling of US
bishops, away from their repeated promises of greater "openness and
transparency" and toward the deeply rooted but self-destructive secrecy
we all know far too well.
The encouraging trend, of course, is that our elected officials are slowly
starting to do what church officials are failing to do - force some measure
of openness. That's what the public deserves, that's what Catholics were
promised, that's what families need, in order to be safe in their parishes.
Finally, we want to offer our deepest sympathy to the O'Connell and Ellison
families of Wisconsin.
Dan's sister Kathy has been quoted as saying essentially "we want
to finish what Dan started."
turned their grief into a campaign to protect kids.
For more information:
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director 314 566 9790
Mary Grant of Long Beach CA, SNAP Western Regional Director 626 419 2930
of those Abused by Priests