SNAP & VOTF Call Upon Bishops to Open Up Sex Abuse Meeting
For immediate release:
Monday, May 31, 2004
For more information:
David Clohessy (SNAP) - (314) 566-9790
Suzanne Morse (VOTF) - (617) 680-2131
Two Groups Call on Bishops To Open Up June Sex Abuse Meeting
Organizations Believe that Backsliding Must Stop
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) are calling on the U.S. Catholic bishops to open up their discussions of sexual abuse in June to public scrutiny and participation. The groups are also asking bishops to recommit to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People that they passed in Dallas in 2002. That commitment should include a pledge to maintain both the independent National Review Board and the Office of Child and Youth Protection.
The nation's largest support group for clergy sex abuse victims and one of the leading Catholic lay organizations are fearful the nation's bishops will discuss the Catholic Church's sex abuse policy behind closed doors when they gather in two weeks from today in Denver. Both organizations are concerned that the bishops will not follow through with their promise of 2002 to conduct an annual audit of child safety protection programs, and will not strengthen those audits through the recommendations made to improve the audits in January.
"History has taught us that institutions do not change overnight," said Steve Krueger, executive director of Voice of the Faithful. "The bishops need to focus on rebuilding the foundation of public trust that has crumbled - honoring their commitment of 2002 is necessary for this. The idea of 'taking a break', as several bishops have suggested, is unacceptable and places children in harm's way once again."
"Many bishops keep trying to assure us there's no 'backtracking' or retreat from their earlier promises," said Barbara Blaine of Chicago, SNAP's founder and president. "If that's so, they should welcome public input and participation in their deliberations on the most crucial issue facing the American church today."
Initially, the bishops' meeting was publicly described as a closed "retreat." But under pressure from survivors groups and lay Catholics, bishops have agreed to privately discuss future "audits" of child safety protection programs. The two groups' appeal is prompted in part by recent news reports that bishops have delayed decision on and may cancel the next round of planned audits which would monitor how church leaders are handing sex abuse in their dioceses. Also, SNAP and Voice of the Faithful were motivated by the claims of the chair of the National Review Board (NRB), Anne Burke, who expressed her concern that the process was being manipulated to weaken the work of the NRB and the Office of Child and Youth Protection.
Both organizations believe that openness and "sunlight" is necessary to begin the process of re-establishing the credibility of the U.S. bishops. Furthermore, the groups want the bishops to honor the commitment made in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which established an Office for Child and Youth Protection to provide a vehicle of accountability and assistance to dioceses. The OCYP is charged to assist individual dioceses in the implementation of "safe environment" programs, to assist provinces and regions in the development of appropriate mechanisms to audit adherence to policies, and to produce an annual public report on the progress made in implementing the Charter's standards.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. It was founded 14 years ago and has nearly 5,000 members.Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) is a Mass.-based worldwide movement of mainstream Catholics formed in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. Membership exceeds 30,000 concerned persons from 50 U.S. states and 39 countries, many of whom are actively involved in one of over 200 Parish Voice affiliates.