The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Thursday, May 21, 2009
US clergy sex abuse victims: What's next in Ireland?
Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago IL (USA), national president member of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (312-399-4747)
It's important to distinguish between what has and hasn't changed since the 1990s. While outside the church, some progress has been made, within the church, there's been virtually none.
All 'schools' are gone, most of the public is enlightened, and some of the excessive and unhealthy deference toward church officials has been shaken.
But the church hierarchy remains an ancient, rigid, secretive, all-male global monarchy, a wealthy and powerful one. Reform - however belated, begrudging and piecemeal - has come despite, not because of, Catholic officials.
Adults abuse their power because they can. That's what happened here: Priests, nuns, brothers and other church employees could deliberately hurt kids and get by with it, so they did. And even now, the conditions within the church that enabled such horrific crimes is largely intact: the hierarchy, the secrecy, the lack of external oversight, the absence of any real 'checks and balances,' the continued near-limitless power of bishops, the church's self-protective impulses and practices (as evidenced by the Christian Brothers' litigation that successfully keeps the names of criminals secret).
Catholic officials DID know abuse was wrong, illegal and devastating. They chose, time and time again, to ignore it or conceal it. They are choosing, even now, to protect the predators by hiding their names. They are choosing to rub more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of tens of thousands of Irish families. They are responding to unspeakable horror with carefully-crafted apologies, but virtually no preventive action or real reform.
Irish victims shouldn't accept at face value claims that 'there's nothing that can be done legally.' We in SNAP firmly believe 'where there's a will, there's a way.' We know that when victims and witnesses stay silent, nothing changes, but when they find the courage and strength to speak up, get help, call police, warn others, band together, and fight hard, there's a chance for real reform, justice, healing, prevention and truth-telling. We've seen, time and time again, that police and prosecutors become more creative and aggressive in pursuing decades-old child sex crimes and church cover ups. But secular leaders are often timid, and don't act, sadly, unless they feel pressure.
Even now, decades later, governments pursue Nazi war criminals. Even now, decades later, the US Justice Department set up a special unit to go after violent racists who assaulted civil rights workers in the 1950s and 1960s. The passage of time makes it harder, but not impossible, to investigate and convict serial criminals who've knowingly done horrific harm. But by itself, the passage of time cures little and prevents nothing. Naming and punishing those who commit and enable crimes against kids - that's what prevents future recklessness, cruelty, deception and cover up. That's what's lacking here.
The juxtaposition of these sentences in today's New York Times speaks volumes.
In a litany that sounds as if it comes from the records of a P.O.W. camp, the report chronicles some of the forms of physical abuse suffered in the boys’ schools:
“Punching, flogging, assault and bodily attacks, hitting with the hand, kicking, ear pulling, hair pulling, head shaving, beating on the soles of the feet, burning, scalding, stabbing, severe beatings with or without clothes, being made to kneel and stand in fixed positions for lengthy periods, made to sleep outside overnight, being forced into cold or excessively hot baths and showers, hosed down with cold water before being beaten, beaten while hanging from hooks on the wall, being set upon by dogs, being restrained in order to be beaten, physical assaults by more than one person, and having objects thrown at them.”
Some of the schools operated essentially as workhouses. In one school, Goldenbridge, girls as young as 7 spent hours a day making rosaries by stringing beads onto lengths of wire. They were given quotas: 600 beads on weekdays and 900 on Sundays.
Girls were routinely sexually abused, often by more than one person at a time, the report said, in “dormitories, schools, motor vehicles, bathrooms, staff bedrooms, churches, sacristies, fields, parlors, the residences of clergy, holiday locations and while with godparents and employers.”
The Vatican had no response.
For immediate release: Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis Missouri (USA), director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home)
Harsh consequences, not mere publicity, deter crimes against children. Greater public awareness and carefully-crafted church apologies aren't enough. Regardless of what does or doesn't happen in the legal arena, no one should donate a nickel to the Christian Brothers, who used their legal clout to keep the names of serial criminals hidden from the public even now.
It's important to remember that many of these crimes continued into the 1990s. While many perpetrators are deceased, there must be dozens, if not hundreds, who are not.
We are deeply grateful for the courage of the hundreds of deeply wounded victims who found the strength to report their suffering to this inquiry. They should be applauded by every Irish citizen and every Catholic worldwide for helping to shed light on such a horrific scandal. We desperately hope that this report will give them some comfort and solace and ease their devastating pain.
Horrific child abuse and cover ups in religious institutions are, sadly, widely documented. What makes this new report significant is that an impartial governmental panel conclusively finds that church officials' claims are bogus. The finger-pointing, blame-shifting, and excuse-making - 'we didn't understand,' 'we didn't know' - has been clearly debunked.
(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 9,000 members across the US & the globe. 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)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests