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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Monday, September 14, 2009

Clergy sex abuse blast FL ruling & Catholic archdiocese

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)

(A Florida appeals court has ruled against a man who reports having been sexually victimized by a prominent priest)

We applaud this brave, caring man - Robert Rodriguez - for having the strength and courage to report Msgr. Walsh's crimes and the archdiocesan cover ups. We ache for him because he is being denied a simple but crucial part of American justice: his day in court. He asks for nothing more than a chance to use the time-tested US court to shine a light on the criminal actions of this Catholic priest and the corrupt actions of his church supervisors. But because of the mean-spirited, hard-ball tactics of powerful, well-to-do Catholic officials, Robert won't get even this.

It's immoral when church officials act like cold-hearted CEOs instead of caring shepherds, and exploit legal technicalities to help predator priests and hurt their victims. And it's worse when such callous, self-serving courtroom maneuvers endanger other kids and hurt victims of other predators.

That's precisely what's happening in Florida, thanks to the expensive lawyering by Miami's archbishop, who apparently would rather protect his reputation, secrets, colleagues and predecessors than protect Florida's children.

If not for the actions of Miami's top Catholic officials, this boy wouldn't have even been here, Walsh would not have been a priest, and he wouldn't have had access to and power over this child. To arbitrarily absolve church supervisors of any blame whatsoever for these crimes, before hearing all the evidence, is a grave injustice and an invitation to similar irresponsible actions now and in the future by other employers.

Being able to seek justice against one's predator - and not those who recruited, educated, ordained, hired, transferred and shielded him - does little to deter future child sex crimes. After all, history, psychology and common sense tell us that child molesters are almost always sexually compulsive, driven and disturbed adults who have little, if any, control over their overwhelming impulses. They will not be deterred by the possibility of being assessed financial penalties which they are usually incapable of honoring.

Recklessness, callousness and deceit by a predator's employer, can, however, be deterred. But only if such wrongdoing results in consequences. That's not happening. And wrongdoing that goes unpunished is essentially wrongdoing that is tolerated and encouraged.

Employers are careful about product safety and worker safety and fire codes and all kinds of issues, in part because they know they could be exposed in court and held accountable for carelessness if someone gets hurt. But thanks to Miami's archbishop, Florida employers now know they're almost immune to such exposure and accountability if children get raped because his staff fails to check an applicant's criminal record or ignores signs of child sexual abuse, or even deliberately hides evidence of child sex crimes.

This ruling essentially gives the 'green light' to any timid or irresponsible employer or co-worker who opts to stay silent when an employee admits having molested children. It essentially encourages those who know about or are responsible for horrific crimes to do nothing, and hope that an archaic, arbitrary legal deadline will pass, so they can escape detection and criticism and consequences for their misdeeds.

(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 (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell)


http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breaking-news/story/1233216.html

Posted on Monday, 09.14.09

Pedro Pan refugee who accused deceased priest of sex abuse to protest lawsuit dismissal

BY JAY WEAVER, jweaver@MiamiHerald.com

A former Pedro Pan refugee from Cuba who has accused the leader of the Catholic relocation program, the late Monsignor Bryan O. Walsh, of sexually abusing him plans to take his legal case to the doorstep of the Archdiocese of Miami Monday afternoon.

Robert Rodriguez, 58, claims in a lawsuit he was repeatedly abused by Walsh at a provisional camp in Opa-locka in 1964 when he was 14 and under the care of the Catholic Welfare Bureau. Walsh, who helped rescue 14,000 Cuban children under Operation Pedro Pan and started the archdiocese's vast human-services network, Catholic Charities, died in late 2001.

``He's defaming a widely respected priest who saved the lives of 14,000 children,'' Miami archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said.

Rodriguez, who lives in Puerto Rico, and his Miami lawyer plan to hold a news conference at the archdiocese's South Florida headquarters off Biscayne Boulevard to protest the dismissal of his lawsuit.

Rodriguez's negligence suit, originally filed against Archbishop John C. Favalora in 2005, was dismissed two years later by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Maria Espinosa Dennis, who found the statute of limitations had expired decades ago. That decision was upheld by a state appeals court this year, but a dissenting opinion by one judge supported allowing Rodriguez's case to go forward -- citing a Florida Supreme Court ruling in 2000.

Still, Rodriguez and his lawyer cannot appeal the case any further because the Third District Court of Appeal in West Miami-Dade did not state a reason in its majority opinion that upheld the trial judge's dismissal of the case. That leaves Rodriguez with nothing to challenge, such as a potential conflict in the law.

Rodriguez's lawyer, Ronald Weil, said the appellate court's ruling was wrong. He said his client's suit is based on Rodriguez's recollection as an adult of the alleged childhood abuse by Walsh.

Weil said Rodriguez recalled the childhood abuse and linked it to his psychological problems as an adult -- an exemption to the statute of limitations under a legal principle known as the ``delayed discovery'' doctrine.

Under Florida law, the statute of limitations doesn't begin to run until the plaintiff becomes aware that he or she has been injured, said Weil, who has brought other successful sex-abuse suits against Miami archdiocese under the doctrine.

Weil cited the 2000 Florida Supreme Court ruling that he and other plaintiff attorneys have used to bolster their sex-abuse claims against the archdiocese over the years.

Here's the Supreme Court case history: In 1991, an Alachua County woman sued her stepfather for sexually abusing her as a girl from 1968 to 1975. A state judge threw out her complaint, saying the statute of limitations had expired.

On appeal, the woman's lawyer argued that she did not link the abuse to her psychological problems until adulthood. Florida's high court agreed and reinstated her claim, noting that ``application of the `delayed discovery doctrine' to childhood sexual abuse claims is fair.''

On Rodriguez's appeal, Third District Court of Appeal Judge David M. Gersten, in his dissent, cited the high court's opinion in support of Rodriguez's negligence suit against the archdiocese.

``Here, the interests of justice and principles of fair play call for allowing Rodriguez' claim to proceed beyond a motion to dismiss,'' Gersten wrote in April.

``Rodriguez attributes his inability to timely file his claim to the general trauma associated with childhood sexual abuse and [the Catholic Welfare Bureau's] misconduct in giving him unknown drugs which affected his memory.

``Finally, the public policy weighs heavily in favor of allowing Rodriguez's claim to proceed.''


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


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