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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Monday, April 25, 2011

Charlotte diocese is sued; SNAP responds

Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago, president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com)

In almost every case like this, evidence surfaces showing that some Catholic officials knew of or suspected the child sex crimes and either stayed silent or concealed them. We suspect that will happen here.

Still, an allegation isn’t a conviction or a guilty verdict. So we beg anyone who saw, suspected or suffered misdeeds - by Berrell, Schneider or other church employees – to call police immediately so kids can be protected and so wrongdoers can be punished.

We applaud this brave girl and her family who are acting responsibly to expose and deter crimes while getting criminals away from children.

(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 23 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)

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http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20110425/NEWS/304250018/Lawsuit-targets-church-conduct?odyssey=tab%7Ctopnews%7Ctext%7CFrontpage

Asheville lawsuit targets Catholic church conduct

Knowledge of child sex abuse alleged

8:19 PM, Apr. 24, 2011

ASHEVILLE — The Catholic Church's pervasive pattern of hiring and protecting known sexual predators allowed a local parish music minister to repeatedly molest a girl, her parents claim in a lawsuit.

Paul Lawrence Berrell's history of assaulting children at parishes in Georgia, Massachusetts and Tennessee was known to church officials before he was assigned to St. Eugene Catholic Church in March 2007, according to the suit filed in Buncombe County Superior Court.

The lawsuit names the Diocese of Charlotte, which oversees parishes in Western North Carolina, along with Berrell and the Rev. John Schneider, the former pastor at St. Eugene.

In an answer to the lawsuit and motion to dismiss, the diocese denied knowingly employing or protecting sexual abusers and concealing the danger they posed. The diocese also denied that Berrell had a history of improper sexual activity that was known to church officials.

Asheville attorney Brad Searson, who represents the plaintiffs, said Friday it's unclear when the case might be resolved.

“It's a very important case,” Searson said. “We believe (the girl's) injuries are substantial, but we've got our fingers crossed that she's going to find a way forward.

“Our primary goal is to obtain a just recovery that will provide for her current and future needs.”

Berrell, 31, was sentenced last month to 28 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to production of child pornography. He was arrested in May 2009 after the mother of a student at Asheville Catholic School, a ministry of the church, called Asheville police.

Authorities said Berrell produced child porn by coercing the girl, who was 13 when he was arrested, to engage in sexually explicit conduct. The court found he “engaged in a pattern of sexual abuse against minor children dating back to 2002 while employed as a music teacher.”

Police also charged Schneider with deleting hundreds of child porn images from Berrell's home computer in an attempt to foil the investigation. Schneider's next court date on a felony obstruction of justice charge is scheduled for June 2.

(Page 2 of 2)

Schneider resigned as pastor of St. Eugene, Asheville's largest Catholic parish with about 1,000 families as members, shortly after his arrest.

According to the lawsuit filed by the girl's parents, the victim was taught by the church that Berrell and Schneider were “holy people empowered by and with special access to God,” and Berrell “singled out and groomed the minor child for the purpose of his own improper sexual interests and gratification.”

The suit filed in July contends Berrell, while ostensibly providing private piano and voice lessons for the girl, engaged in intercourse and other sex acts with the victim and created pornographic images of her having sex.

The day Berrell was charged by Asheville police, Schneider was attending a meeting of the board of Asheville Catholic School when he took a call from Berrell made from the police department, according to the lawsuit.

Schneider excused himself from the meeting, went to Berrell's apartment and attempted to delete pornographic images from his computer, then returned to the meeting, the suit states.

The Charlotte Diocese “engaged in a pattern and practice of protecting sexual abusers, even after the diocese had credible information showing that a particular priest or employee was a sexual abuser.” Such a pattern has been well documented in many instances, the suit states.

At each of Berrell's prior church assignments, his sexual misconduct had become known to church officials, yet he was given unrestricted access to children at St. Eugene, according to the lawsuit.

In its answer to the lawsuit, the diocese said that Berrell and Schneider acted on their own without church knowledge.

“Nothing Berrell did with regard to the improper relationship with the minor child was done in the course and scope of his employment or with actual or apparent agency authority,” the answer states.

If the allegations against Schneider are true, he “committed those acts outside the course and scope of his employment and not as an agent of the diocese.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, citing severe mental anguish necessitating psychiatric care, permanent damage to her sexual and emotional development and loss of faith in authority figures.

Schneider resigned as pastor of St. Eugene, Asheville's largest Catholic parish with about 1,000 families as members, shortly after his arrest.

According to the lawsuit filed by the girl's parents, the victim was taught by the church that Berrell and Schneider were “holy people empowered by and with special access to God,” and Berrell “singled out and groomed the minor child for the purpose of his own improper sexual interests and gratification.”

The suit filed in July contends Berrell, while ostensibly providing private piano and voice lessons for the girl, engaged in intercourse and other sex acts with the victim and created pornographic images of her having sex.

The day Berrell was charged by Asheville police, Schneider was attending a meeting of the board of Asheville Catholic School when he took a call from Berrell made from the police department, according to the lawsuit.

Schneider excused himself from the meeting, went to Berrell's apartment and attempted to delete pornographic images from his computer, then returned to the meeting, the suit states.

The Charlotte Diocese “engaged in a pattern and practice of protecting sexual abusers, even after the diocese had credible information showing that a particular priest or employee was a sexual abuser.” Such a pattern has been well documented in many instances, the suit states.

At each of Berrell's prior church assignments, his sexual misconduct had become known to church officials, yet he was given unrestricted access to children at St. Eugene, according to the lawsuit.

In its answer to the lawsuit, the diocese said that Berrell and Schneider acted on their own without church knowledge.

“Nothing Berrell did with regard to the improper relationship with the minor child was done in the course and scope of his employment or with actual or apparent agency authority,” the answer states.

If the allegations against Schneider are true, he “committed those acts outside the course and scope of his employment and not as an agent of the diocese.”

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages, citing severe mental anguish necessitating psychiatric care, permanent damage to her sexual and emotional development and loss of faith in authority figures.


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