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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Wednesday, May 18, 2011

3 victims respond to new church abuse report

Statement by Barbara Blaine, SNAP President, May 18, 2011

It's 'garbage in, garbage out.' Two academics, paid by bishops and using information from bishops reach the conclusions bishops desperately want to reach themselves.

The Catholic hierarchy wants us to believe that the abuse of children by clerics is ‘situational.’ It's not. It's systemic. And most important, the tragic continuing cover up of those crimes, by bishops, is even more systemic. But the bishops report will give them even more reasons to avoid tough questions and take decisive steps to make children safer, expose the truth, discipline wrong-doers and stop the abuse.

The document is yet another reminder of the sad, simple truth that keeps getting overlooked here: no institution can police itself, especially not an ancient, rigid, secretive, all-male monarchy. The report is a clarion call to police, prosecutors, lawmakers and judges to end decades of dangerous deference to church officials and start reforming secular laws so that those who commit, ignore and conceal child sex crimes can be held responsible for the devastation they cause.

Four fallacies in new bishops abuse report

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

Predictably and conveniently, the bishops have funded a report that tells them precisely what they want to hear: it was all unforeseeable, long ago, wasn’t that bad and wasn’t their fault.

It gives bishops even more reasons to do avoid what they clearly want to avoid: questioning celibacy, married priests, secular laws, serious reforms or their own virtually limitless power as kings in a medieval monarchy.

Here are four of the most crucial fallacies in the document:
--The crisis is and was unforeseeable, the report claims, because child molesters don’t have forked tongues or devil tails and can’t be easily detected. Fair enough. But the report essentially dodges the crucial question: Why don’t bishops quickly out and oust child molesting clerics the first time they sexually assault a child? (And why then, if predators can’t be spotted in advance, do bishops tout their alleged seminary “screening” processes as panaceas?)
--The crisis was long ago, the report claims, because the bishops say so. Never mind the fact that only a handful of five and ten year olds march down to the police station and promptly report their own victimization, so it’s dreadfully misleading and dangerous to assume clergy sex crimes have gone down in recent years.
--The crisis isn’t all that bad, the report suggests, because many of the kids who are or were violated had experienced puberty. Never mind the fact that child sex crimes, no matter at what age, are always illegal, immoral and hurtful. So the hair-splitting between pedophiles and ephebophiles (a distinction that seems to matter to few besides bishops) is, for the most part, at best irrelevant and at worst distracting.
--Most important, the crisis isn’t bishops’ fault, the document implies. It was what the New York Times calls the “Blame Woodstock” defense. At best, this is naïve. At worst, it’s deceptive. There are at least three reasons why it may appear to some that abuse ‘peaked’ in the 60s and 70s. The first is that victims during those years are old, strong, smart, healthy and desperate enough to finally be able to report their horrific pain. The second is that bishops are much more willing to disclose clergy sex crimes that are beyond the reach of the criminal and civil justice system than more recent clergy sex crimes that could result in prosecution and litigation and embarrassment. And bishops are more willing to acknowledge child felonies committed under their predecessors than themselves.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, the bishops’ ‘take-away’ here is: “We don’t have to change a thing.” Thankfully, most people realize that’s nonsense. Most people understand that a feudal system lacking any ‘checks and balances’ is inherently unhealthy and that a culture premised on sexual abstinence and secrecy and self-perpetuation is inherently problematic.

Finally, David Gibson writes that the apparent jump “in abuse cases in the 1960s and 1970s, the authors found, was essentially due to emotionally ill-equipped priests who were trained in earlier years and lost their way in the social cataclysm of the sexual revolution."

Lost their way? Please! The writing on the wall seems clear: We fear that bishops are going backwards and laying the groundwork to recycle and restore proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics to ministry. Because, if those child sex offenders merely “lost their way,” they can clearly be “rehabilitated,” right?

Countless times over the past decade, bishops have claimed “We used to be naïve about abuse. Now we understand it better.” But if that’s the case, how can they, or anyone, attribute heinous, repeated sexual assaults on innocent, vulnerable kids as some priests “losing their way.”

New bishops document on abuse released; SNAP responds

For immediate release: Tuesday, May 17

Statement by Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach CA, western regional director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (949 322 7434, jcasteix@gmail.com)

Little in this document is really new. Not surprisingly, it confirms the same tired, self-serving rationalizations that bishops began trotting out years ago. This report is the latest, and perhaps most shrewd, effort by bishops to shift blame and make excuses. They’re counting on us having short memories and being swayed by the patina of academic respectability.

As the AP reports, the document says that “homosexuality, celibacy and an all-male priesthood did not cause the scandal.” What did and does cause this crisis is clear – timid, self-serving bishops who are obsessed with their comfort and reputations, so work very hard to keep clergy sex crimes and cover ups covered up.

As the New York Times reports, “The researchers concluded that it was not possible for the church, or for anyone, to identify abusive priests in advance.” But the real question is: Why was and is it not possible for bishops to quickly oust predators once they started molesting? That’s what really needs to be addressed.

As the AP reports, the report claims abuse “peaked in the 1970s,” then began declining. This is perhaps the most absurd and damaging assumption. All but a few victims are only able to report child sex crimes decades later. Because of this inevitable lag time, it’s irresponsible to pretend anyone has any real sense of how many clergy sex crimes happened in recent years or are happening now.

Bishops desperately want us to believe that their long-standing, deliberate, repeated recklessness and deceit were just simple “mistakes” because they just “weren’t aware of” or “didn’t understand” abuse. That is deceit heaped on more deceit. Even more, they want us to fixate on abusive priests, not callous bishops.

Bishops are highly educated men with extensive staffs and resources. But even high school drop-outs have, for decades, known that child sex abuse is wrong, illegal and hurtful. Even teenagers know that we are to call police and prosecutors. But bishops didn’t call the police about abuse. And most still don’t call the police. And the Vatican doesn’t require them to call the police.

How much bishops knew about the causes or treatment of pedophilia is irrelevant. For decades, every one of them knew it was illegal. And nearly every one of them endangered kids by refusing to call the police or tell the truth. Nearly every one of them protected known and suspected child molesters instead of protecting children. Nearly every one of them used their position of authority and power to keep victims silent and marginalized.

What needs to be studied, but bishops ignore, is the inexcusable and on-going cover up of clergy sex crimes by top Catholic officials.

Wrongdoers often childishly point to other wrongdoers, saying “See, they’re naughty, too.” Such bald-faced diversionary finger-pointing is may be smart public relations, but it’s morally irresponsible.

We don’t need Catholic officials to distract us about other individuals or institutions that have mishandled child sex crimes and cover-ups. We need Catholic officials to seriously reform their own institution and stop current and future child sex crimes and cover-ups. It’s unseemly for bishops to spend parishioner donations on a document designed to restore bishops’ shattered reputations when true reform, transparency and child safety do not cost a nickel.

We don’t need Catholic officials to distract us by splitting hairs about whether most child molesting clerics are pedophiles or ephebophiles.

Bishops brag that they have adopted policies and procedures. Recent developments, however, show how worthless those policies and procedures are:
--In February, a Philadelphia grand jury found that 37 priests with credible allegations of abuse or inappropriate behavior towards minors were still in active ministry, despite the fact that just days earlier Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali said that no priest with credible accusations were working in the diocese. Five men (four priests and a teacher) were criminally charged, including the monsignor who was responsible for covering-up for predator clerics.

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2011/01_02/2011_02_11_NPR_PhillyDA.htm

--That grand jury concluded that the archdiocese “continues to engage in practices that mislead victims, that violate their trust, that hinder prosecution of their abusers and that leave large numbers of credibly accused priests in ministry” and the policies and practices allegedly “designed to help victims (are) instead helping the abusers and the archdiocese itself.”

-- In New Jersey, a Catholic school employee (Jose Feliciano) was accused of improper sexual contact with a child and murdering a priest. Just weeks ago, it was revealed that, along with one third of the other parish employees , the alleged criminal was never fingerprinted or subject to a background check.

http://chatham.patch.com/articles/slain-priests-notebook-shows-accused-murderer-was-facing-termination

http://www.dailyrecord.com/article/20110502/NJNEWS/110502028/Suspect-priest-s-murder-never-got-background-check-diocese-attorney-says-?odyssey=nav%7Chead

--In Kansas City, a priest named in two child sex abuse and cover-up lawsuits within the past six months remains in a parish. (Fr. Michael Tierney)

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2011/03_04/2011_04_27_Mansur_GroupUrges.htm

--In Fresno, a priest deemed guilty by a jury of molesting a boy remains in a parish. (Fr. Eric Swearingen)

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125420225&ps=cprs

--In St. Louis, a priest who’s been accused three times of molesting at least three boys (none of whom know one another) is still in ministry (Fr. Alex Anderson)

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2004_07_12/2004_08_26_Townsend_DioceseSettles.htm

--In Stockton, a judge has ruled that there is enough evidence to schedule a July civil sex abuse trial against a priest who is still in active ministry (Fr. Michael Kelly)

http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20110420/A_NEWS/104200318

--In Wyoming, a bishop against whom at least six child sex abuse lawsuits have been settled remains a bishop. (Bishop Joseph Hart)

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2008/07_08/2008_08_23_McCarthy_SettlementLeaves.htm

http://www.bishopaccountability.org/assign/Hart_Joseph.htm

--In March in Boston, Cardinal O'Malley's delegate said that there were 40 priests who have been accused of abuse but never named publicly. To date those names still remain secret.

http://www.bostoncatholic.org/uploadedFiles/BostonCatholicorg/Offices_And_Services/Offices/Sub_Pages/Archdiocesan_Pastoral_Council/2010_apc_minutes_031110.pdf
--Last year in New Jersey, a Catholic chaplain was ousted from his hospital job after a newspaper disclosed that he had been found guilty of molesting a boy in a criminal case in 2003. Although the verdict was overturned on a technicality, a judge ordered that the priest not be allowed around minors unsupervised (Fr. Michael Fugee), but Newark’s archbishop quietly put the offender in a hospital anyway.

http://www.bishop-accountability.org/news2009/09_10/2009_10_16_Diamant_ArchdioceseRemoves.htm

Child molesters gravitate toward jobs involving kids. Institutions tend to protect themselves. So the Catholic hierarchy doesn’t stand out because of child molesting clerics. Its stands out because of complicit bishops.

Here’s the bottom line: Other institutions have also mishandled abuse. None, however, ignores and conceals child sex crimes like the Catholic hierarchy. Other institutions must do more to better protect kids. The Catholic hierarchy must do much, much more.

(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)


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