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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Monday, March 22, 2010
Italy prelate sees campaign against church over abuse; sex abuse victims respond
Statement by David Clohessy, National Director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-566-9790)
Catholic officials are the culprits here, not the victims. To suggest that hundreds of deeply wounded European men and women are somehow conspiring with unethical journalists hurts the very individuals the Pope says he cares about and who are acting responsibly.
The brave victims who are coming forward are helping, not hurting, the Catholic church. They are doing what the Pope, Bagnasco and their colleagues should have done decades ago: exposing predators, warning parents, protecting kids and disclosing truth. They are to be commended and well supported, not vilified and further demeaned.
Bagnasco’s remarks contradict the Pope’s professed sympathy for abuse victims and contribute to the centuries-old and still-prevalent culture of secrecy in the church surrounding child sex crimes and cover ups. Sometimes Catholics wonder why victims can’t speak up sooner. This is one reason- because of the hostility of so-called spiritual figures who profess to be compassionate shepherds but act like cold-hearted CEOs.
Among the many steps the Pope could and should take to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded, here’s another one: forbid his staff to shift blame, point fingers, divert attention, “shoot the messenger” and intimidate other victims into staying silent. He can’t have it both ways – claiming to care but ignoring these attacks.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’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)
Italy Prelate Sees Campaign Against Church Over Abuse
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The Catholic Church is being unfairly singled out for criticism of sexual abuse of children by priests and will not tolerate campaigns to discredit it, the powerful head of Italy's bishops said on Monday.
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco spoke as the Vatican tried to stem a scandal gripping the Church that has swept across Europe, with more revelations of sexual abuse of children by priests over several decades surfacing almost daily.
"For a long time, the phenomenon of paedophilia has been tragically widespread in different sectors and various categories of people and various places, even non-Catholic," he said in a speech to Italian bishops.
Bagnasco, repeating a defence by many churchmen recently, said he did not want to "minimise or relativise" the seriousness of paedophilia cases in the Church but that it was important to recognise what he called the general scope of the problem.
As the Catholic Church has been swept up by paedophilia scandals in recent years, churchmen have said the problem exists throughout society and in much higher percentages in families.
But critics have dismissed this view, saying priests and nuns entrusted with the care of children should be held to much higher moral standards. They have also accused the Church of concealing abuses for decades under a blanket of secrecy.
Speaking two days after Pope Benedict apologised to victims of sexual abuse in Ireland, Bagnasco said the Church was "not afraid of the truth, however painful and detestable" but would not accept any "generalised campaigns to discredit it."
As the scandal has spread in a number of European countries, including Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the pope's native Germany, some bishops have lambasted the media, accusing it of being hostile and unfair.
"The cover-up has gone on for centuries, not just in the Church ... it's going on today in families, in communities, in societies. Why are you singling out the Church?" Bishop Christopher Jones of Elphin, Ireland, said last week.
Bishop Gerhard Ludwing Mueller of Regensburg, Germany, decried "a campaign against the Church" in the media and accused journalists of biased reporting.
"They (the media) are manipulating the people who sit in front of a television or open up a newspaper with their twisted and shortened reports," he said.
The pope's letter to the people of Ireland was in response to a damning government report of cover-ups of sexual abuse of children by priests for decades in Dublin diocese.
Benedict and Italy's bishops found support on Monday from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said in a statement the pope and the Church were victims of "prejudiciously hostile feelings."
There have been relatively few reports of child abuse by Italian clergy but a senior Vatican official said in a newspaper interview this month he fears there may be more.
"So far the dimensions of the problem (in Italy) don't seem dramatic, although what worries me is a certain culture of silence that I see as still too widespread here," said Monsignor Charles Scicluna, the Vatican's prosecutor for sex abuse cases.
(Writing by Philip Pullella; additional reporting by Tom Heneghan in Paris and Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin, editing by Paul Taylor)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests