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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Thursday, April 23, 2009

Clergy sex victims call for Paraguay president resignation

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home)

Given the new allegations that Paraguay's president Lugo has fathered two more children, we respectfully but firmly urge him to step down. The mother of the child Lugo admits fathering says she was 16 at the time he sexually exploited her. That alone should disqualify him from public office.

We are also highly skeptical of the claim by Paraguay's bishops conference that the country's Catholic hierarchy knew nothing of Lugo's sexual misdeeds. It's noteworthy that the denial issued by the bishops says they received no "written" reports of Lugo's misconduct. We strongly suspect that in this case, as in so many others involving predatory priests and bishops, Lugo's colleagues either suspected or knew he was exploiting women but ignored or concealed the misdeeds.

(See earlier SNAP statement below.)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 20 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)

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259)


http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/apr/23/paraguay-fernando-lugo-paternity

Paraguay's president caught in triple paternity row

Former Roman Catholic bishop Fernando Lugo has admitted fathering one child and hasn't denied the other claims

Thursday 23 April 2009 17.54 BST

He swept to power as an agent of renewal but Paraguay's bishop turned president, Fernando Lugo, now faces a political crisis and ribald jokes over his power of reproduction.

Three women have come forward in the past two weeks claiming to have had children fathered by Lugo while he was a Roman Catholic bishop, raising questions over his credibility and morals.

Lugo cancelled an important trip to Washington planned for tomorrow to deal with the allegations which have stunned one of South America's most conservative and Catholic countries.

The president, 57 and single, has admitted fathering one of the children and has not denied the other two paternity claims. There are rumours of yet more revelations in the pipeline.

The scandal has undermined Lugo's image as a moral force for change who would clean up Paraguay's corrupt and stagnant politics. The charismatic former cleric, known as the "bishop of the poor", was elected last year and joined the region's "pink tide" of leftist rulers.

His ratings have fallen, the government is rattled and the opposition has seized the initiative. "He competed in the elections as an honest person but it turns out he's a fake because while he was a bishop he had a romantic relationship and a child," said Lilian Samaniego, a senator and leader of the opposition Colorado party.

So far there has been no talk of impeachment or resignation.

Commentators said voters were still digesting the news and that the president may profit from a macho, patriarchal culture. "Lugo has given proof of his virility and that is an inherent attribute that a part of the population expects from its leader," political analyst Alfredo Boccia told the Associated Press.

The story broke two weeks ago when lawyers for Viviana Carrillo, 26, filed a paternity suit claiming he had fathered her child, Guillermo, two years ago. The former parishioner said the relationship started when she was 16 and seduced by the bishop's "pretty words, his beautiful expressions".

The president denied having sex with her before she was an adult but admitted the affair. "I recognise that I fathered the child," he told a news conference in the capital, Asuncion. Local media reported that Carrillo and the boy moved into the president's residence this week.

On Monday lawyers for a second woman, Benigna Leguizamon, a 26-year-old soap seller, said Lugo was the father of her six-year-old boy and demanded DNA tests. "The monsignor gave me his support but took advantage of my great need and induced me to have relations," she told local media.

Yesterday, Damiana Moran, a 39-year-old divorcee, said Lugo was the father of her 16-month-old son, Juan Pablo, named after the late pope. The owner of a child day care centre said she campaigned for Lugo in the election and considered him "phenomenal". She had no plans to file suit against him. "He was my ideal of a man and social-political leader," she said.

Lugo resigned in 2004 as bishop but Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation - thus relieving chastity vows - just weeks before his inauguration as president last August. Bishop Rogelio Livieres said church leaders knew of Lugo's affairs but had covered up complaints.


Ex-bishop admits fathering child; Sex abuse victims respond

For immediate release: Monday, April 13, 2009

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell)

We're sad that a powerful bishop apparently took advantage of his position and a parishioner's trust for his sexual desires. We're also sad that a powerful public figure is evidently incapable of reaching an agreement with the mother of his child regarding the care of the youngster.

It may be true, as a few of Mr. Lugo's supporters claim, that some are exposing Lugo's sexual misconduct for political reasons. But what matters most is Lugo's misdeeds, not someone else's motives.

We're grateful that Lugo has admitted paternity, but worry about other vulnerable women he may have exploited while a cleric. We hope that others who may have seen, suspected or suffered misdeeds by Lugo will come forward and get help.

If, as the AP reports, this mother was 16 when Lugo had sex with her, that is child sexual abuse and he should be prosecuted or removed from office. Even if she was legally old enough to 'consent,' it's wrong.

An educated, allegedly holy man who holds the revered title of minister or priest cannot ever have truly consensual and/or healthy sexual contact (whether once or repeatedly) with a congregant. It is always morally wrong and psychologically harmful.

This is especially true regarding Catholicism. Catholics have been raised since birth to believe priests are God's representatives on earth, can forgive our sins, can turn wafers and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Priests always hold an exalted position, and when they have any sexual involvement with parishioners, it is always wrong and hurtful.

But in any religious setting, there is an inherent power imbalance between clergy and church members. It is like a doctor-patient or therapist-client relationship, where any sexual contact is expressly forbidden. And for good reason: because it almost always results in devastation, with individuals and with congregations.

It's the duty of church officials to help congregants understand this. And it’s the duty of lawmakers and law enforcement to both help prevent this egregious and hurtful misconduct and to help those who suffer from it expose predators, get healing and achieve justice.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 20 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)

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688)


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