The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Vatican comments on rapidly growing European church sex scandals; SNAP responds
Statement by Peter Isely, Midwest Director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (414-429-7259)
It’s depressing and disingenuous for Vatican officials to claim that European Catholic institutions have dealt with clergy sex crimes and cover ups “with timely and decisive action.” Sadly, the truth is just the reverse. Regarding pedophile priests and corrupt bishops, the church hierarchy responds only when forced to do so by external pressures. Were it not for the courageous Murphy Commission in Ireland, which took place despite Vatican officials ignoring its requests, none of these recent disclosures would be happening.
It’s equally depressing and disingenuous for the Vatican to credit reckless, deceitful and callous church officials with “accelerat(ing) the emergence of the problem by inviting victims to speak.” On the contrary, church officials have, for decades, worked diligently to prevent victims from speaking and continue to do so now. Just this week, the Pope’s own brother criticized victims and attacked their motives. Rather than “inviting” victims to speak, this, of course, intimidates victims into silence.
In response to the horrific Irish abuse and cover up scandal, it’s pathetic to claim the Pope’s timid and belated words constitute proof of “his own concern.” Every corporate executive knows that when a scandal reaches a critical point in public awareness, he can no longer ignore it. To speak at that point does not show “concern;” it shows self-interest.
Remember: the Irish government has documented decades and decades of terrible crimes and cover ups against children. In response, all the Pope has done is only meet with the men who tolerated those crimes and perpetrated those cover ups. And remember: within the church, the Pope has extraordinary, nearly unfettered, powers. He could, and should, do so much more. Instead, he merely talks.
It’s also wrong to characterize long-standing, devastating cover ups of crimes against children as “errors.” An error is when one makes a sincere, well-intentioned effort to take positive action. But hiding child sex crimes is neither sincere, nor well-intentioned. It is cold-hearted and self-serving. Yet it’s what Irish secular authorities documented in recent government reports and what other independent sources (like grand juries in the US) have proven time and time and time again in Catholic child sex cases.
The church hierarchy can’t have its cake and eat it too, claiming on one hand that its internal policies are adequate (“in canon law, the crime of the sexual abuse of minors has always been considered as one of the most serious”) while touting proposed revisions to its internal policies (“planned new operative guidelines”).
A lack of words on paper has never been the issue. A lack of courage by bishops has been, and remains, the issue. Every church official has the power and ability to better protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. Few, sadly, use their vast power in this way. Instead, almost all of them do as Catholic bishops have long done and keep doing: ignoring or concealing horrific child sex crimes, protecting and moving the offenders, overlooking or promoting the “enablers,” stonewalling or shunning the victims, pacifying or misleading the flock, and stiff-arming or deceiving law enforcement.
Across the globe, it’s safe to say that tens of thousands of Catholic clergy – priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians, brothers – have devastated countless lives by raping, sodomizing and molesting girls and boys. Thousands of church supervisors and colleagues ignored or hid the crimes. No doubt, thousands of the offenders are still in church jobs across the world, and are sexually assaulting children today.
Given these realities, and given this ancient, rigid, secretive, all-male church monarchy, the safety of children cries out for bold reform. Instead, once again, we get pusillanimous posturing.
Instead of real reform, we get public relations ‘spin.’ Instead of effective action, we get self-congratulatory platitudes. Instead of action that matters, we get a timid assurance that somewhere, some meaningless church ‘policy’ will again be ‘tweaked.’
(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), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell)
March 9, 2010
VATICAN CITY, 9 MAR 2010 (VIS) - Given below is the text of note issued today by Holy See Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi S.J. concerning cases of the sexual abuse of minors in ecclesiastical institutions:
"For some months now the very serious question of the sexual abuse of minors in institutions run by ecclesiastical bodies and by people with positions of responsibility within the Church, priests in particular, has been investing the Church and society in Ireland. The Holy Father recently demonstrated his own concern, particularly through two meetings: firstly with high-ranking members of the episcopate, then with all the ordinaries. He is also preparing the publication of a letter on the subject for the Irish Church.
"But over recent weeks the debate on the sexual abuse of minors has also involved the Church in certain central European countries (Germany, Austria and Holland). And it is on this development that we wish to make some simple remarks.
"The main ecclesiastical institutions concerned - the German Jesuit Province (the first to be involved, through the case of the Canisius-Kolleg in Berlin), the German Episcopal Conference, the Austrian Episcopal Conference and the Netherlands Episcopal Conference - have faced the emergence of problem with timely and decisive action. They have demonstrated their desire for transparency and, in a certain sense, accelerated the emergence of the problem by inviting victims to speak out, even when the cases involved date from many years ago. By doing so they have approached the matter 'on the right foot', because the correct starting point is recognition of what happened and concern for the victims and the consequences of the acts committed against them. Moreover, they have re-examined the extant 'Directives' and have planned new operative guidelines which also aim to identify a prevention strategy, so that everything possible may be done to ensure that similar cases are not repeated in the future.
"These events mobilise the Church to find appropriate responses and should be placed in a more wide-ranging context that concerns the protection of children and young people from sexual abuse in society as a whole. Certainly, the errors committed in ecclesiastical institutions and by Church figures are particularly reprehensible because of the Church's educational and moral responsibility, but all objective and well-informed people know that the question is much broader, and concentrating accusations against the Church alone gives a false perspective. By way of example, recent data supplied by the competent authorities in Austria shows that, over the same period of time, the number of proven cases in Church institutions was 17, while there were 510 other cases in other areas. It would be as well to concern ourselves also with them.
"In Germany initiatives are now rightly being suggested, promoted by the Ministry for the Family, to call a 'round table' of the various educational and social organisations in order to consider the question from an appropriate and comprehensive viewpoint. The Church is naturally ready to participate and become involved and, perhaps, her own painful experience may also be a useful contribution for others. Chancellor Angela Merkel had justly recognised the seriousness and constructive approach shown by the German Church.
"In order to complete these remarks, it is as well to recall once again that the Church exists as part of civil society and shoulders her own responsibilities in society, but she also has her own specific code, the 'canonical code', which reflects her spiritual and sacramental nature and in which, therefore, judicial and penal procedures are different (for example, they contain no provision for pecuniary sanctions or for the deprivation of freedom, but for impediment in the exercise of the ministry and privation of rights in the ecclesiastical field, etc.). In the ambit of canon law, the crime of the sexual abuse of minors has always been considered as one of the most serious of all, and canonical norms have constantly reaffirmed this, in particular the 2001 Letter 'De delictis gravioribus', sometimes improperly cited as the cause of a 'culture of silence'. Those who know and understand its contents, are aware that it was a decisive signal to remind the episcopate of the seriousness of the problem, as well as a real incentive to draw up operational guidelines to face it.
"In conclusion, although the seriousness of the difficulties the Church is going through cannot be denied, we must not fail to do everything possible in order to ensure that, in the end, they bring positive results, of better protection for infancy and youth in the Church and in society, and the purification of the Church herself".
OP/SEXUAL ABUSE/LOMBARDI VIS 100309 (780)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests