The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
Truth and Justice Awards
Statement by Carolyn Disco, Survivor Support Chairman
CONCORD, NH, March 6, 2008 – The prophet Amos tells us, “Let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream.” And on March 3, 2003, that is exactly what happened. A group of us went to the Attorney General’s office to pay $450 for cartons of 9,000 documents in an investigation of the Diocese of Manchester. In relative terms, that was a bargain for the privilege of learning the truth of the sexual abuse of minors over a half-century or more. The real cost is incalculable, though the Diocese has paid over $21 million dollars in settlements to date.
We are here to express our appreciation for all that led up to that day. The decision to investigate the Roman Catholic Bishop of Manchester, a corporation under state law, could not have been taken lightly. What those staff discussions must have been, weighing the risks against the imperatives of seeking justice for criminal conduct. Undeterred, you convened a grand jury, and subpoenaed secret archives. After receiving documents blacked out to the point of uselessness, you filed a motion to compel production of unredacted versions. For certain, researching and writing those briefs, arguing them, and not backing down, meant anxious days and nights.
When the successful court decision came through, you organized a Task Force of law enforcement professionals across the state to go through more than 4,000 church documents. Where to begin? Then came the task of locating and contacting survivors about very painful periods in their lives. Just reading the material is a sickening, infuriating experience. The emotional toll for everyone was no doubt sharp.
You added over 4,000 pages yourselves to the record in interviews with survivors, perpetrators, administrators, therapists and clergy. You tried to interview bishops and diocesan leaders, but they refused without grant of immunity, which you wisely refused. Facing a one-year deadline to conclude your investigation, you narrowed the focus to eight priests, eventually selecting three as the basis of an indictment.
Your solid commitment led to finding the evidence for a criminal indictment of the Diocese. That takes courage, my friend, and the negotiations that followed must have been strenuous. Because you painstakingly gathered the facts, researched applicable case law, and were willing to follow through, you wrested a virtual admission of guilt from the Diocese. Your strong case also gained agreement to release documents; bishops know when to respond at the point of a legal gun.
Specifying State oversight of the Diocese’s implementation of its sexual abuse policy for five years was another remarkable milestone geared to protecting children in the future. The troubling record of the last five years of state audits shows the wisdom of that focus.
Other attorneys general, district attorneys and grand juries in various states have done similar investigations and released reports, but you were the first. New Hampshire led the nation, and you are often sought out for advice and expertise. We salute and thank you deeply.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests