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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Denver SNAP leader on adult attempted rape case

Statement by Jeb Barrett of SNAP - 720 222 2412, SNAPdenver@comcast.net

We are here today in response to a revealing report this week in Religious Dispatches Magazine, an in depth report that discloses one more time the Roman Catholic Church’s cold-hearted treatment of victims of sexual assault, victims of rape. In this case the victim was a devout Catholic who reported being sexually assaulted in 2008 by a lay minister. Although Juan Carlos Hernandez is not a clergyman, he was a person in authority and involved in spiritual direction and counseling with young men and women at St. Cajetan Parish. Archbishop Chaput and his attorneys have mercilessly fought and revictimized this young woman and her family, claiming no responsibility for Hernandez actions.

We have nothing but admiration and sympathy for Katia Birge, the brave young woman who has been victimized twice – once by a predatory Catholic leader and again by his callous Catholic supervisors. She has done everything she can to warn others about a dangerous man and bring him to justice. She told criminal authorities. She told church officials. She filed a civil lawsuit. She spoke at length with a journalist. We applaud her courage and her persistence, especially in light of the irresponsible and cold-hearted response she has gotten from the management of the Denver Catholic Archdiocese.

We know that Juan Carlos Hernandez hasn’t been criminally charged or found guilty of rape or assault. But we also know that rape cases are often hard to prove. This is especially true when two other factors are present:

1) the accused is a charismatic, decade-older Catholic official, backed by a powerful and secretive church hierarchy,

2) the accuser is a devout, young, trusting, life-long Catholic who has been taught since birth to revere and respect church officials, and

3) the accused is backed and defended by a powerful, harsh church hierarchy with a penchant for secrecy and recklessness.

We in SNAP have talked at length with Birge. We find her very credible for several reasons including the fact that she
--patiently and repeatedly tried to talk with church officials,
--sought and won a temporary protective order against Hernandez,
--filed a police report (knowing it’s a crime to falsely report an alleged crime),
--filed a still-pending civil suit, and
--dropped a part of the suit when archdiocese threatened to force her to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees, and
--told her experiences, at length, to a credible journalist.

All of these steps are steps taken by those who have been deeply hurt and who want to spare others the pain that they are enduring. Again, we commend Katia for doing so much to warn others about Hernandez.

We are very disappointed and upset with the archdiocesan staff, especially these three men:
-- Msgr. Jorge de los Santos, who supervised Hernandez and who reportedly took three months to sit down and hear Katia’s report.
-- Msgr. Thomas Fryar, who acted as Chaput’s “” and who, Birge says, quickly rejected her ‘peace offering’ or comproise, claiming that the Christo Y Yo group Hernandez headed was no more “a part of the Church than was the pro-choice group Catholics for Choice.”

Denver’s Catholic archbishop Charles Chaput, who took three months to notify Katia, through an underling, that Hernandez was supposedly suspended but who allowed Hernandez to later head the same program in the Colorado Springs diocese. Chaput also told his lawyers to split hairs and deny Hernandez’ close ties to the archdiocese. Chaput also told them to try to force Katia to pay thousands in archdiocesan legal fees.

We believe Chaput should be ashamed of himself for the secrecy and ruthlessness he has shown regarding this alleged rape case. We believe he should apologize for and explain his callousness, especially his move to get thousands of dollars from the alleged rape victim.

While no one can magically “un-do” the horror Katia has experienced, there are some steps that church officials could take now to better learn the truth and better protect others. We urge Catholic officials – here and in Colorado Springs - to aggressively but compassionately reach out to others who may have been hurt by the lay minister and prod anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes to get help and call the police.

http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/atheologies/3690/sex_abuse_in_the_catholic_church%3A_when_adults_are_victims

(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 10,000 members. 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, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, peterisely@yahoo.com), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)


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