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SNAP
Statement



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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

 

Saturday, April 5, 2008

SNAP statement regarding Iowa predator priests and Iowa predator bishop

Statement by Bob Schwiderski of Minnesota, SNAP Assistant Midwest Director 612 281 8132

We're here today to make two basic points. One relates to many of Davenport's predator priests. The other relates to Davenport's predator bishop

First, as to Davenport's predator priests. . .

'Job one' is to publicly identify predator priests and get them suspended from ministry. That has largely been done in Davenport by the dozens of courageous survivors who have overcome their shame and self blame and isolation. They have not only been brave enough to step forward, but they've also been wise and determined enough to take legal action, so that the child molesting clerics would be identified, parents would be warned and kids be protected. We commend them for their courage.

'Job two,' we hope, will be resolve in the months ahead. That involves bringing justice, healing and closure to these brave victimized. We're grateful that progress is being made towards resolving the Davenport diocese's bankrputcy claim. We know there's still work to be done. But we urge survivors to hang in there and to remind themselves that progress, while slow, continues to happen.

'Job three' needs a lot of work. That involves better monitoriing and supervising Davenport's proven, admitted and credibly accused pedophile priests. Some have died, one is in jail, but most, we suspect, are living alone or with relatives and answer to virtually no one.

We hope that as soon as bankruptcy is resolved, church officials here will work much harder to get these predators under one roof and under better supervision. Just this week, a Philadelphia newspaper detailed the efforts there to protect kids by better monitoring potentially dangerous clerics. It is far from ideal and doesn't involve enough predators. But it's a tiny, belated and begrudging step forward.

Kids are safest when predators are jailed. That's the ideal. But that only happens when three things happen:

-- when victims and witnesses find the courage and strength to come forward,
-- when police and prosecutors are determined to pursue charges, and
-- when predator-friendly laws are reformed so that victims can seek justice in the courts.

This happens too infrequently. So for now, the second best option is to put these men in housing facilities, give them therapy, warn neighbors, and watch them like hawks. That's what we hope Davenport church officials start to do more and more in the months ahead.

Now, as to Davenport's predator bishops. . .

Church officials have 20 affidavits about Bishop Soens' abusive acts. He's faced about ten civil lawsuits. At least one of them has been settled. There's virtually no doubt that he's a sick and dangerous man.

Yet no one in the church hierarchy is taking any steps to warn others about him or protect others from him. He's still a bishop, he's on the church payroll, and he is still welcome at church functions across the state.

Each time he appears in public, it rubs salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of his victims and it puts kids at risk.

At a bare minimum, we ask him to stay home next week, and avoid the papal events in Washington DC and New York City. That's the least he can do. No Iowa Catholic or sex abuse victim needs to see Soens' face on nationwide television chumming with other church officials and acting as though he's never done anything wrong.

We also ask Soens' current and former colleagues, Iowa's bishops, to call him in the days ahead and encourage him to stay home. Again, that's the least they can do. They have largely been silent about his crimes. They've had chances to act like compassionate shepherds. But they've instead acted like timid bureaucrats and cold-hearted CEOs. For the sake of his dozens of victims, we beg Iowa's bishops to call Soens and tell him to stay home.

Our hope, of course, is that Vatican officials will show some leadership, do what's right, and defrock Soens. Until that happens, Iowa's bishops may lack formal disciplinary measures that they can use against him. But they should still use their bully pulpits to speak out against him, warn others about him and protect others from him.

***********

Posted on Thu, Apr. 3, 2008

At 'the Villa': Prayer, penance ... and fallen priests

By WILLIAM BENDER, Philadelphia Daily News (benderw@phillynews.com 215-854-5255)

THE VILLA ST. JOSEPH retirement home in Delaware County provides one of the clearest examples of how the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has dramatically changed its approach toward clergy sexual abuse.

The 55-bed facility, on Lansdowne Avenue in Darby Borough, is home to Archdiocese retirees, including 20 priests found by the church to have abused minors and who have agreed to accept a "life of prayer and penance" under church supervision.

Today, "the Villa," as it is popularly known, employs a former probation officer and a psychologist to oversee those in its sex-offender-treatment program. Security has been upgraded with cameras and a swipe-card access system. The priests, ranging from ages 58 to 88, must submit travel logs and participate in individual and group therapy.

But it hasn't always been that way.

Before the Boston Archdiocese sex-abuse scandal in 2002, the Philadelphia Archdiocese placed virtually no travel restrictions on Villa priests, some of whom have been living in the retirement home since the mid-1990s, church officials say.

Nor did it disclose the allegations that had been leveled against the priests when it hired local high-school students to work there.

"We didn't know that [there] were child-molesters," said a former Villa St. Joseph employee. "We were never told any of that."

The employee, who asked that her name not be published, recalled that one priest tried to grab a boy's buttocks but that "we would laugh it off, saying, 'Oh God, look at the guy, he's senile.' " Children would occasionally take food to priests' bedrooms, she said.

"I really liked some of these priests," she said. "Then after I found out what they did, it's like, ' . . . [W]e put people away for this!' I got sick to my stomach when I read the [2005 Philadelphia District Attorney's] grand-jury report."

The former employee said that she had not witnessed any overt acts of sexual abuse while working at the Villa, and the Archdiocese says it is not aware of any such allegations there.

Monsignor Timothy Senior, who became the Archdiocese's vicar for clergy in 2004, acknowledges that the church's earlier policies at the Villa were flawed - by hiring teenagers to work there and by not disclosing why the accused priests had been removed from ministry.

"They were sort of sheltered away," Senior said of the priests. "It's a very different day now. It's a totally different situation."

Among the priests who lived at the Villa during the 1990s, according to the grand jury report and Archdiocese records, were:

* Thomas F. Shea, who admitted to having had "genital contact" with a fifth-grade altar boy and another boy in the 1970s, according to the Philadelphia grand-jury report;

* William T. Joseph, accused of sexually abusing a fifth-grade rectory worker in the 1970s;

* Pasquale R. Catullo, accused of sexually abusing a female student at Archbishop Kennedy High School in the 1960s;

* Michael W. Swierzy, who pleaded guilty in 1998 to corruption of minors and was sentenced to five years' probation. Swierzy died in 2005.

Senior said that the Villa's practice of hiring high-school students has been discontinued and that the travel restrictions on priests began in earnest when the prayer-and-penance program took effect in February 2005.

"We understand this situation in a completely different light," Senior said.

The Archdiocese hired outside consultants to conduct risk assessments of the 20 priests at the Villa who it believes to have abused minors and to develop a customized treatment program for each.

"If you're going to be in this program, you need to recognize that you're going to be monitored," Senior said.

Priests at the Villa, situated between the St. Francis Country House nursing facility and Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital, receive a small pension, and their living expenses are covered by the Archdiocese.

The 20 who have been credibly accused of abusing minors are not permitted to wear clerical clothes and can celebrate Mass within the facility only.

Though the priests are free to leave the Villa on their own, travel requests must be approved in advance. Overnight stays, such as a visit to a relative's home, are "by exception," Senior said.

"They are probably watched as much, if not more, than general probation in Philadelphia," said Mary Achilles, the Archdiocese's victims' advocate.

"It's not a jail," she said, "but it's the closest thing we can do."


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
www.snapnetwork.org
 


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