The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
SNAP to US Bishops: Stop International Movement of Pedophile Priests
At A Bare Minimum, Warn Public and Parishioners When Predators Flee
For immediate release:
by Frank Dingle of SNAP,
Almost five years ago, under tremendous pressure, America s bishops finally did something that for years they claimed they couldnt do: they wrote a national sex abuse policy.
It was, and still is, an extremely weak and vague set of guidelines with little or no real teeth. Adding insult to injury, at several points since then, the bishops have further eviscerated the document.
Still, its better than nothing. And obviously, it can and should be improved.
Among the many glaring omissions and weaknesses, one in particular is particularly problematic and getting more so: the guidelines say nothing about the international movement of pedophile priests.
Regardless of why predators go elsewhere whether theyre sent by superiors or go on their own the result is the same: innocent kids and vulnerable adults are put in harms way.
Barbara Blaine and David Clohessy of SNAP recently wrote: "As predator priests become more afraid of being caught and complicit bishops become more frightened of being exposed, more abusive clergy will go abroad. It's a disturbing trend that was first exhaustively researched and painstakingly documented in a 2004 Dallas Morning News series. Many had hoped this startling expose would shame Catholic officials into at least slowing the shuffling of dangerous priests from country to country and prod bishops into at least doing more to supervise and monitor admitted, convicted and credibly accused child molesting clerics.
That doesnt seem to have happened.
When pedophile priests move, its less likely theyll get therapy, less likely theyll be investigated and prosecuted, and more likely theyll be among families who are unaware of the crimes they have committed. When they move to Third World nations, these problems are exacerbated.
Americas bishops owe it to Catholics worldwide to remedy this flaw. Bishops must publicly warn unsuspecting citizens and law enforcement when a predator-priest flees one country for another.
(The bishops guidelines are also inadequate regarding pedophile priests who move within the US . When a predator priest moves to another diocese in the US , his bishop is only required to notify the receiving bishop. Despite their repeated pledges to be more open and transparent, and their professed concern for the safety of children, bishops did not promise to disclose to those who most need to know about pedophile priests, the parents, nor to those who most want to know about pedophile priests, the police.)
This has led to great risk and harm, most recently with a Delaware predator priest who was accused and suspended, only to move to Syracuse and molested again.
At a bare minimum, US bishops need to expand and toughen their policy about predators who move. They owe it to the public, the police, and the parishioners to disclose the whereabouts of admitted, proven and credibly accused child molesting clerics. This is especially true when international travel is involved.
by Barbara Blaine of Chicago (312 399 4747)
Last month, a civil lawsuit was filed that accuses two of the world's most prominent Catholic officials, Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles and Cardinal Norberto Rivera of Mexico City , of shuffling a serial predator (Fr. Nicholas Aguilar) from country to country. The priest faces criminal charges of molesting dozens of boys.
Just over two weeks ago, our group the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP sounded the alarm that a notorious pedophile priest from Ireland , Oliver O'Grady, is on the move again. Mr. O'Grady, defrocked, imprisoned and eventually deported to his native land, is reportedly heading abroad again, possibly to France or Canada .
On Oct. 25, a civil lawsuit was filed in Florida accusing a Catholic priest (Fr. Anthony Mercieca) of molesting a boy. The cleric is a Malta native who was sent to Brazil , the United States , Haiti , back to the United States , and now lives in Malta again.
That same day in California , we in SNAP helped warn the public about two abusive priests from Stockton who are believed to be have fled to Mexico with the help of church authorities.
And that afternoon in San Francisco , child molestation victims asked the U.S. attorney to investigate a Santa Rosa priest (Fr. Xavier Ochoa) and his supervisors, including the bishop. This priest admitted molesting kids in May. But he too escaped prosecution by fleeing to Mexico , because the bishop and at least four other top church officials waited several days before reporting the admission to law enforcement.
Last week, in Michigan , news broke that a priest who had molested boys there was sentenced to prison (Fr. John Rabideau). He had been on the run in South America for years. Also last week, in Arizona , a priest pleaded guilty to sex charges involving children. He was one of the few accused abusive priests who was returned to the United States from Mexico to face prosecution.
We could go on and on, but here's the bottom line:
As predator priests become more scared of capture and complicit bishops become more frightened of being exposed, more abusive clergy will be sent abroad. It's a disturbing trend that was first exhaustively researched and painstakingly documented in a 2004 Dallas Morning News series. Many had hoped this startling expose would shame Catholic officials into at least slowing the shuffling of dangerous priests from country to country and prod bishops into at least doing more to supervise and monitor admitted, convicted and credibly accused child molesting clerics.
Sadly, that doesn't seem to have happened. There is some good news, however, on this front.
As victims become more courageous, Catholics more outspoken, investigators more sophisticated and prosecutors more determined, the movement of abusive priests across national borders is slowly being revealed and in a few encouraging instances, reversed and punished.
Long-term remedies include reforming archaic laws that protect molesters, like the dangerously restrictive statutes of limitations that prevent criminal or civil charges even being brought against predators who flee.
But short-term solutions lie with Catholics, both at the top and bottom of the church hierarchy.
At the top, bishops must obey U.S. law and immediately report known and suspected abuse to the police. They must use their considerable resources to publicize the names of runaway priests and warn vulnerable residents of the nations to which these predators are believed to have fled. At the bottom, lay Catholics must demand that their bishops take these commonsense steps.
That may seem like a daunting prospect. But lay Catholics should be encouraged by Pope Benedict's comments last week to Irish bishops. In his most extensive remarks on the clergy sex crisis, the pontiff urged Irish church officials to "to rebuild confidence [and] establish the truth of what happened in the past and, above all, to bring healing to the victims."
Stopping the international shuffling of potentially dangerous predatory priests would be terrific place to start.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nations oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. Weve been around for 17 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. Despite the word priest in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747)
Mark Serrano (703-727-4940)
Mary Grant (626-419-2930)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests