Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement


April 8, 2008

No response to request; need action not words

Statement by Barbara Blaine, President of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests  (312 399 4747)

In January, we wrote to the Pope asking for a chance to meet. We kept our request quiet, hoping to increase the comfort level of Vatican bureaucrats, who we know are often highly reticent about media coverage.

We sent a letter by fax and e mail to the Papal Nuncio here in Washington DC. A copy of that letter is on our website

But we have gotten no response. We are disappointed but not surprised.

Frankly, we’re not confident a meeting would accomplish much. In our 20 years of protecting the vulnerable and healing the wounded, we’ve found that it’s far more productive to work with criminal, civil and legal authorities to safeguard kids, instead of wasting energies on church authorities.

Even now, when it comes to child sex crimes and cover ups, church authorities here and elsewhere often deny, minimize, shift blame, point fingers, and shoot the messengers. Many remain fixated on trying to regain ‘trust’ and power, rather than trying to prevent future harm and heal current wounds.

Still, because the church is an enormous world-wide monarchy and the pope is the king, we felt duty-bound to try and sit down with him. And if his staff responds, at this late stage, we would likely agree to meet with him.

But we’re not hopeful about either a papal meeting or seeing real church reform. The founders of the United States believed that unchecked power was destined to be abused. The last few centuries, the wisdom of their belief has been proven time and time again. And there is no institution on the planet that is riddled with unchecked power more than the Catholic hierarchy. Until that changes, kids will continue to be molested and the crimes will continue to be concealed and the wrong-doers will experience little if any consequences.

All the apologies and meetings and promises and prayers will matter little.

We do suspect, however, that next week, the pope will do what some bishops have done, belatedly and begrudgingly: meet behind closed doors with a small, carefully-chosen group of survivors. We predict he’ll include people like Michael Bland of Chicago, who is paid by the archdiocese there. And we predict that the papal handlers and public relations team will work overtime to portray the meeting as ‘historic,’ ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘moving.’ (It will be part and parcel of the obvious strategy to ‘soften’ and ‘humanize’ this pope, and show that he allegedly ‘gets it’ when it comes to child molestation.)

Perhaps such a meeting will be meaningful to those who are chosen to attend. But in the big picture, we suspect and fear it will be meaningless, if not hurtful.

It could be hurtful because so many Catholics desperately want to believe that the hierarchy is changing. They’ll be tempted to latch on to such a meeting, or any papal comments about the on-going crisis, as ‘proof’ that all this suffering hasn’t been in vain and that Vatican officials are finally starting to understand.

And what little momentum toward genuine reform that exists will be further dissipated.

Again, action, not words, protects kids.

Instead of meaningless posturing and empty words, here are two simple steps that would make a difference:

-- In the US alone, some 5,000 priests have been accused of molesting kids. History, common sense, police investigations, journalistic exposes, and court records all show that hundreds of church officials either suspected abuse and did nothing or knew of abuse and concealed it. Yet not a single church employee has been disciplined for their complicity and recklessness.

Those who commit child sex crimes are largely driven by compulsive, overwhelming desires they can’t control. So they cannot be deterred.

Those who cover up child sex crimes, however, can be deterred. All it takes are consequences. But when no one is ever punished for shunning victims, deceiving parishioners, stonewalling police, rebuffing prosecutors, destroying evidence, keeping silent or putting kids at risk, then those behaviors will continue.

No one is in a better position to discipline wrong-doers than the Pope. Yet he hasn’t done it.

He ignores US bishops who’ve violated their own sex abuse policy. Nebraska bishop Fabian Bruskewitz has, for five years, refused to honor the policy. Yet he’s suffered no penalty. Last month, two of America’s largest dioceses (Boston and Rockville Centre) were declared ‘not in compliance’ with the most crucial part of the policy – the requirement that kids be taught abuse prevention. Again, no consequences were issued.

It’s weak, vague and virtually unenforced. But the US bishops’ sex abuse policy is a tiny start. In 94% of the Catholic world, bishops haven’t adopted and aren’t considering anything comparable. Benedict has had three years to prod the world’s bishops to take similar, hopefully better steps. But he hasn’t.

Many other nations lack the institutions in the US that have helped expose the on-going crisis: aggressive journalism, independent judiciary, sophisticated law enforcement, and a strong civil justice system. Kids in other countries are far more vulnerable to clergy sex abuse than American kids are. Yet the Pope has done virtually nothing to protect them.

It is time for change. The Pope’s visit to the United States offers a unique opportunity for change to begin. We hope this moment will not pass by without true reforms. We remain ever hopeful. The stakes are so high that we are compelled to remain hopeful because we don’t want even one more child to hurt. We will continue to do all we can to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.

David Clohessy, SNAP National Director, 314 566 9790
Barbara Dorris, SNAP Outreach Director, 314 503 0003
Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director, 414 429 7259
Mark Serrano, SNAP Mid-Atlantic Director, 703 727 4940
Barbara Blaine, SNAP President, 312 399 4747

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests