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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Clergy sex abuse victims challenge WV Jesuit University
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP director, 314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com
Shame on Wheeling Jesuit University President Sister Francis Marie Thrailkill and other top staff at the school for the shamelessly self-serving spin they’re trying to put on the arrest of a priest and teacher there. The Catholic hierarchy is essentially trying to pretend they barely know this alleged predator.
Instead of working to distance themselves from him, church officials should be working to find and bring forward other potential victims, witnesses and whistleblowers.
The alleged offender “has no current responsibilities” at the university and “is not expected or return” and “is not a member of the Jesuits” and “was on summer break” and was allegedly the subject of “no student complaints” and is “originally from Kenya” and was most recently teaching “online.” This is pathetic spin. Why not go further and try to reassure worried parents by saying the accused priest doesn’t own any t-shirts or jerseys or jackets with the university logo on them?
While school officials claim they haven’t received any “student complaints” about Owino, we can’t help but wonder if other staff and adult volunteers may have reported suspicious behavior. Often, Catholic public relations professionals carefully split hairs, parse words and make distinctions like this, deceiving the public into thinking the church hierarchy had little or no warning of suspicious or illegal actions by priests.
And shame on Sr. Thrailkill for urging victims to contact school staff. She’s dead wrong. Anyone who saw, suspected or suffered Owino’s crimes should call police officials, not church or school officials. This is almost always true, but especially when there’s already an active criminal investigation.
Those with knowledge or suspicions about Owino’s alleged crimes or misdeeds have a Christian and civic duty to step forward, call police, and help the truth surface. When victims, witnesses and whistleblowers speak up, at least there’s a chance that children will be protected, victims will be healed and wrong-doers will be exposed. But when victims, witnesses and whistleblowers stay silent, nothing changes and kids keep getting hurt.
Contact: Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
Statement on Arrest of Rev. Felix Owino, A.J.
WHEELING, WV, July 12, 2010 — The Rev. Felix Owino, a priest in the religious missionary institute of the Apostles of Jesus, was arrested on July 8 in Fairfax, Va. on charges of aggravated sexual battery of a minor.
Until June 2010, Owino was a faculty member in the philosophy department of Wheeling Jesuit University. Owino has no current responsibilities at the university and is not expected to return to campus.
Owino is not a member of the Jesuit order and was on summer break from his teaching duties at the time of the incident. During his two years at Wheeling Jesuit, the campus authorities received no student complaints about his conduct.
“This alleged behavior violates the core of who we are called to be as Christians and as a Jesuit, Catholic campus community whose mission demands that we dedicate ourselves to the care and protection of our students,” said Interim President Sister Francis Marie Thrailkill, OSU. “We want to assure the public that nothing is more important than the safety of our students. We encourage all students to report misconduct to the president’s office or their student advisor.”
Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Owino was ordained in 1992 and is a member of the Religious Missionary Institute of the Apostles of Jesus, headquartered in Philadelphia. He joined the faculty of Wheeling Jesuit in the fall of 2008 and taught for two consecutive terms, most recently instructing an online class. Prior to that he worked at Magdalen College in New Hampshire and before that at Alvernia College in Reading, Pa.
Further inquiries regarding Owino should be directed to his religious superiors with the Apostles of Jesus: Fr. Paul O. Gaggawala, A.J., 829 Main Street, Northampton, Pa., 18067-1838. Web: www.apostlesofjesus.org. Phone: 610-502-1728.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests