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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New archbishop named for Miami; SNAP responds

Statement by David Clohessy, Executive Director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-566-9790)

The same distressing pattern keeps being repeated – the Pope promotes a US bishop with a very troubling record with children’s safety. We are distressed by Wenski’s deception, delay and recklessness in several recent cases (three in particular), especially a recent one involving an alleged rape by a priest and a seminarian.

The Pope can’t have his cake and eat it too. He can’t claim to care about abuse while promoting church officials who ignore or hide abuse, as he continues to do in the US.

1) Wenski deceived his flock about Fr. Carlos Bedoya, who was quietly removed from active ministry in Deltona in November of 2006. A Volusia County sheriff’s complaint charges that Bedoya “participated in sexual battery against a man” along with a seminarian, David Estrada.

For weeks, church officials kept the criminal investigation and allegations secret. (They were discovered by and reported in months later in the Orlando Sentinel.)

When Bedoya was removed, Wenski wrote Deltona parishioners that “personal issues” had arisen for Bedoya. Wenski’s chancellor told a reporter that “(Bedoya’s removal) is not due to inappropriate behavior with minors, or children, or anything like that."

The next day, media accounts disclosed that Bedoya and a seminarian were under criminal investigation for the recent rape of a man.

Any way you look at this, it’s pure, self-serving deception designed to protect accused predators and his supervisors, not parishioners.

Wenski’s secrecy gave the priest and seminarian more time to destroy evidence, fabricate alibis, intimidate witnesses, threaten victims, and still have access to other, unsuspecting potential victims.

We wrote to Wenski urging him to actively help police solve the alleged rape case by using his diocesan newspaper, website, and church bulletins to bring forth witnesses and victims. We prodded him to apologize and explain his deceit. We asked him to discipline any of his staff who “helped hide the truth” in this case. We encouraged him to personally visit each church where the alleged offenders worked, and launch "vigorous outreach efforts" to locate others in the diocese who witnessed or experienced clergy sex crimes, by any church employees (past or present, lay or ordained).

Wenski did none of this. (He sent us a vague reply without apologizing or responding to specific suggestions we made about urging victims and witnesses to come forward to law enforcement.)

2) Just three months ago, we released 109 pages of long-secret church documents about a predator priest, Fr. Jose Mena, who may now be overseas. We asked Wenski to work harder to find him and warn others about him. Wenski ignored us.

3) In April, 2008, Wenski’s spokesman said Wenski’s policy was to first meet with those bringing abuse charges and, if the charges seem credible, then Wenski would send a letter detailing the allegations to pastors at parishes where the accused priest worked. The priests would be instructed to read that letter from the pulpit during Sunday services, the spokesman said.

On August 1st, one of Mena's victims and that victim's attorney met with Wenski’s top staff and gave credible testimony about Mena’s crimes. Still, there was no announcement by Wenski about the allegation.

Later in August, we publicly urged Wenski to honor his pledge to do outreach to others who had been hurt by Mena. Wenski didn’t.

"Many times, in hundreds of child sex abuse and cover up cases, bishops have violated laws, common sense and common decency. But it's as disturbing or even more disturbing when they violate their own promises and policies,” we wrote at the time.

"It's terrible when church officials refuse to alert the police or warn the public about dangerous and potentially dangerous predator priests," we said. "In this case, however, they're not even being honest with their own parishioners."

"A simple letter to parishioners, telling them that a credible alleged victim of Mena's has come forward, would show parishioners that the decades of deceit and secrecy in the church may be changing," we wrote. "But when church officials refuse to do this, or delay for weeks and weeks, it shows that keeping all this quiet is still the diocese's top priority."

(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 22 years and have more than 9,000 members across 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)

Contacts: David Clohessy (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Mark Serrano (703-727-4940), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314 503 0003)


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