The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Monday, September 13, 2010
SNAP statement about Belgian bishops’ plans
by Barbara Blaine, SNAP Founder and President
The question to ask about the Belgian bishops plan is simple: do their so-called reforms reduce bishops’ power or not? Because if they don’t, they are terribly flawed.
Why? Because bishops ignore and conceal child sex crimes because they can. Bishops are the lords of their kingdoms. They answer to virtually no one. They are virtually never disciplined or fired by the Vatican.
(When was the last time you heard of a bishop being disciplined, demoted or defrocked by the Vatican? It’s exceedingly rare. So bishops know that they can do almost anything and suffer no consequences.)
If history is any guide, we suspect Belgian bishops will announce panels and policies and procedures that tinker around the edges of this horrific crisis but don’t forthrightly address it.
Keep in mind that it was not a lack of policies and procedures that led to thousands of kids being molested and hundreds of predators being protected in the church. It was a lack of courage and compassion. No words on paper can turn cowardly and callous officials into courageous and compassionate ones.
For instance, when a diocese erupts because brave victims expose predator priests and corrupt bishops, church officials often take one or more of the following steps.
- They’ll set up one person in each diocese to handle abuse reports. But ask yourselves: is this genuine reform, or simply efficiency? (And ask yourselves: did any mom or dad try to report the abuse of his or her child but give up because the diocese had no “point person” designated to handle abuse.)
- They’ll talk of fingerprinting/background checks of staff. But most church officials conceal clergy sex crimes so predator priests rarely have convictions on their records. And this doesn’t address the core issue: corrupt, callous bishops with limitless power.
- They’ll talk of lay review board, but these panels are entirely handpicked by bishops, made up almost always of just Catholics, have no real power, can only make recommendations. And again, these committees don’t address the core issue: corrupt, callous bishops with limitless power.
- They’ll talk of training kids & volunteers. But of course this doesn’t address the core issue: corrupt, callous bishops. And other groups that deal with kids did this decades ago. And actions speak louder than words, so all the workbooks and talk and training sessions have little impact when the church hierarchy remains secretive, reckless, & unresponsive.
- They’ll talk of ‘codes of conduct’ that employees must now sign saying “I won’t abuse.” But these are, of course, utterly meaningless. (Is this a child molesting cleric who pondered molesting, realized he or she had never signed a pledge to NOT molest, so opted to go ahead and molest?)
The bottom line – these kinds of “reforms” are smoke and mirrors. They are “window dressing.” They are designed to maintain the status quo while fooling people into thinking things are changing when in fact they are not.
Real reforms increase the power of law enforcement, and decrease the power of bishops. Real reforms extend the time limits in which victims can come forward and seek justice in secular courts, both criminal and civil. Real reforms make it easier to prosecute not just those who commit child sex crimes, but also those who ignore and hide child sex crimes. Real reforms disclose the names of the predator priests, so that Catholics and citizens can protect their children from them.
Finally, we strongly suspect that Belgian bishops will claim or imply that it was a lack of knowledge on their part that led to hundreds of kids being molested, hundreds of predators being protected and thousands of crimes being committed. They will suggest that in recent years, they’ve “learned more” about abuse. That’s just wrong. Again, it’s no lack of knowledge. It’s a lack of courage – the courage to face the truth, suspend their colleagues, tell the public, call the police, and take similar steps to safeguard the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests