The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Thursday, September 10, 2009
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 503 0003 cell)
We're here today with three messages - one for victims who haven't yet come forward, a second for victims who have already come forward, and third for Vermont's Catholic hierarchy.
First for victims who have not come forward: please speak up. When victims break their silence, at least there's a chance for healing, justice, and prevention. But when victims stay silent, predators walk free, and kids get hurt. We know it's hard. But please: search within yourself, find your courage, and step forward. It's best for you. And it's best for children.
We suspect there are still dozens and dozens of Vermont men and women who have been sexually assaulted by priests, brothers, nuns, and other church employees. We hope each one of them will end their isolation and shame and confusion and fear. We hope each of them will take action to help themselves get better and help kids get safer.
Second, for victims who have come forward, and who've been strong and brave enough to take legal action to expose their predators: Be cautious about the grass that's always greener over there. Be cautious about the simple and easy and tempting 'solution.' Be cautious about the so-called panacea that's allegedly a ‘win-win' for everyone.
Last month, we read that a Vermont judge wants to see more out-of-court settlements in pending clergy sex abuse and cover up cases. Settlements are often tempting. But there are down sides. And we urge victims to think long and hard about those down sides before choosing settlements over trials.
Trials aren't for every one. But neither are settlements. We understand how they appeal to judges, who can face crushing work loads. We understand how they appeal to church officials, who want, more than anything else, to avoid facing tough questions, in open court, under oath, about their complicity and duplicity in horrific child sex crimes. We understand how they appeal to often fearful and shame-filled victims who want and need closure and healing.
But there's no 'one size fits all' magic solution here. Settlements aren't cure-alls.
Many victims are in deep pain. They need counseling, medical help, sometimes even in-patient hospitalization. Settlements almost always help with these real and pressing needs.
But man does not live by bread alone. And victims do not heal by settlements alone. Many victims also need validation, verification, and truth-telling. Those things often come only through trials, through the public airing, in a time-tested setting, of deeply buried and still-denied secrets.
Time and time again, we've heard from clergy sex abuse victims who have settled their cases. Months or years later, they wish they had pushed harder for the truth to be revealed - through depositions, discovery, and testimony. They find themselves down the road feeling somewhat helpless and short-changed, especially when they see other cases in which bishops were forced to turn over records on pedophile priest cases, or where juries got to hear considerable evidence of diocesan corruption, or where other victims pushed for and won impressive non-economic reforms designed to help others heal and help stop future abuse.
So we're here today to beg Vermont victims who've taken legal action to think about their long terms needs and feelings when contemplating whether to settle their cases or try their cases.
Again, every victim and every case is different. But we are confident that each victim knows best what is most healing for himself or herself. And we hope that each victim has the opportunity to make that choice. We in SNAP stand ready to help every single person who's been hurt by clergy - whether they're in litigation or not.
We applaud and support every single person who was victimized, no matter how they choose to protect others and heal themselves. Each victim who takes action - to safeguard the vulnerable or recover themselves - is a hero. Reporting to police, filing a lawsuit, interviewing with a reporter, contacting a prosecutor, getting into therapy, disclosing to loved ones - each of these steps is very hard yet very healing and very worthwhile.
Frankly, for many of us, just getting up each morning and tending to our daily duties as parents, spouses and employees is very hard.
Finally, to Vermont's Catholic hierarchy: suspending predator priests isn't enough. You recruited, educated, ordained, hired, assigned, transferred and shielded these men, often for decades, and often after they had already been credibly accused of felonies against kids. When you finally suspended them from active ministry, you took the bare minimum first step. You have a duty to do more. You have an obligation to try and protect children from them right now. You have the ability, and the responsibility, to make sure they live at independent, professionally-run, widely-publicized treatment centers - so they'll get the help they need and so kids will get the protect they deserve. Most of these predator priests are still on the church payroll. So you are not powerless. You can insist they live somewhere secure, or else they won't get their paychecks and benefits. This is a common sense safety measure we shouldn't even have to ask for - it should have been done years ago.
And it's crucial that it be done now, because we're seeing more and more cases in which already suspended pedophile priests are getting into trouble again. Psychology and common sense have suggested that this would happen. And it is happening. It can also be prevented. If these dangerous and potentially dangerous clerics are being monitored closely and treated properly, it's less likely they'll commit more crimes.
Bishop Matano, you have deplored the fact that jurors don't believe church officials have reformed. Here's a way to help convince them that you have - take responsibility for the predators on your payroll. Put them somewhere safe, instead of releasing them to quietly live among unsuspecting neighbors.
(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 21 years and have more than 9,000 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 (314-503-0003)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests