The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Pope promises "action" on sexual abuse crisis; SNAP responds
Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago, national president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (312-399-4747)
When the Pope promises "action," what he means are ''policy tweaks." He will almost certainly announce soon a watered down version of the so-called "reforms" enacted in 2002 by American bishops. The problem is that this approach fundamentally doesn't work. Internal church abuse policies are enforced sporadically at best. There are no enforcement mechanisms, so bishops continue to act unilaterally, and no church official ever gets punished for violating the policy.
So the bottom line is that he's now making verbal promises, and will soon make written promises, neither of which will have much impact.
It's never been a lack of policies or procedures that cause bishops to ignore or conceal child sex crimes. It's a lack of courage and compassion.
The kind of action we want, and know will be effective, unfortunately won't be part of any Vatican policy:
The latter two steps must be taken by secular authorities. The Pope should push hard for such legislative reforms and independent investigations. But he won't. He'll insist on doing what Catholic officials have always insisted on: trying to handle horrific crimes internally, which is inherently problematic.
He'll announce a "zero tolerance" policy which will sound reassuring but change little. But he either won't spell out penalties for violators or won't actually impose those penalties, and the long-standing, deeply-rooted culture of child endangerment and self-serving secrecy will remain intact.
Finally, just yesterday, we asked the Pope to take immediate action to deter future wrongdoing in the church. We asked him to forbid Cardinal Darion Castrillon-Hoyos from leading a mass in Washington DC this weekend. He's a prelate who advocates the always-reckless and often-illegal action (refusing to call police about known and suspected abuse), as evidence by his 2001 letter praising a French bishop who was found guilty of not reporting child sex crimes. When wrong-doers like Castrillon-Hoyos get rewarded by the Catholic hierarchy, church employees everywhere see that wrongdoing is sanctioned. No new policy or procedures are needed to stop this unjust and hurtful action. All it takes is courage and compassion on the part of the Pope and Washington DC church officials.
Pope promises "action" on sexual abuse crisis
Wed Apr 21, 2010 12:25pm EDT
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, who has come under fire from victims' groups for using vague language about the Roman Catholic sexual abuse crisis, Wednesday publicly promised Church "action" to counter the scandal.
In the past month since the sexual abuse crisis has exploded, with allegations mushrooming in the United States, Austria and his native Germany, he has used vague terms such as how the Church was "wounded by our sins" or needed "penance."
Speaking at his general audience, he used the word "abuse" in public for the first time in more than a month, a period in which the scandal has spread extensively and developed into the greatest crisis of his five-year pontificate.
Summarizing his weekend trip to Malta at his weekly general audience in St Peter' Square, Benedict said:
"I wanted to meet some people who were victims of abuse by members of the clergy. I shared with them their suffering and with emotion I prayed with them, promising them action on the part of the Church."
Victims groups had demanded the pope say something directly in public instead of using indirect reference and generalities.
A statement Sunday in Malta after his meeting with eight abuse victims said the pope promised them the Church would do "all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future."
That was one of the clearest statements yet from the Vatican that it wanted local bishops to cooperate with civil authorities in prosecuting priests who abused children.
HUNDREDS OF CASES
Hundreds of cases of sexual and physical abuse of youths in recent decades by priests have come to light in Europe and the United States in the last month as disclosures encourage long-silent victims to finally go public with their complaints.
Many cases date back so far that the statute of limitations has expired.
In the past month, the pope himself was accused of turning a blind eye in 1980, when he was archbishop of Munich in Germany, to the case of a priest who was sent there for therapy after sexually abusing children and soon transferred to parish work.
His deputy has taken responsibility for that decision.
As Benedict marked the fifth anniversary of his pontificate Monday, the Vatican was swept up in another potentially explosive case.
Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, a former Vatican official who congratulated a French bishop for hiding a sexually abusive priest in 2001, told a conference at the weekend in Spain he acted with the approval of the late Pope John Paul.
Last week the Vatican spokesman indirectly confirmed that a 2001 letter Castrillon Hoyos sent to the bishop posted on a French website was authentic and was proof the Vatican was right to tighten up its procedures on sex abuse cases that year.
A U.S. victims group has demanded that the archdiocese of Washington rescind an invitation to Castrillion Hoyos to lead a mass this weekend in the American capital to mark the start of the sixth year of Benedict's papacy.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests