Survivors have a hard time taking Bishop Burns’ letter to Pope Francis seriously
For immediate release, August 31, 2018
Statement by Lisa Kendzior & Paul Petersen, Volunteer Dallas/Ft. Worth Chapter Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network (Lisa: 817-773-5907, email@example.com; Paul: 972-569-0995, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Bishop Edward Burns, leader of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, recently asked Pope Francis to hold an “Extraordinary Synod” on the sexual abuse crisis. We find ourselves wondering if this request is a joke.
The Dallas hierarch does not need to hide out and conspire with his brother bishops in Rome to bring about “systemic change.”
He and his fellow hierarchs just need the courage and commitment to do the right thing. It starts with reversing the “playbook for concealing the truth” exposed by the FBI on page 3 of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.
Bishop Burns could show true leadership and do what is right simply by asking himself, “What Would Jesus Do?” We even dare to suggest that a better use for the money that would be spent flying abroad and staying in plush hotels would be to donate it to a nonprofit that supports victims. There are many fine groups from which to choose.
At his news conference yesterday, the Dallas bishop said, “I offer my words of apology, sorry [sic] and embarrassment.” But apologies are meaningless gestures without actions.
It is particularly offensive for Bishop Burns to say that “the current crisis of sexual abuse by clergy, the cover-up by leaders in the church and the lack of fidelity of some have caused great harm.” In his letter to Pope Francis the bishop also mentioned “a recent revelation of one of our own who has harmed his parish terribly and has fled.”
But the Dallas hierarch covered up for Father Edmundo Paredes when he did not announce that there were three allegations against the priest, which the diocese had deemed “credible,” until just last week. That is, the revelation was only “recent” because of the actions of Bishop Burns. It appears to us that the Dallas bishop is part of the problem, not part of the solution. In fact, we have two questions for Bishop Burns about the situation at Saint Cecilia’s.
First, we ask why the bishop did not notify police when Father Paredes admitted to stealing money from the parish. Embezzlement is a crime. Instead, of answering questions at the police station, the priest was honored at a party because of Bishop Burns inaction.
Second, we ask whether or not Father Paredes is still receiving a pension and health care through the diocese? If he is, it would seem a simple matter to discern the priest’s location.
Yesterday Bishop Burns added to what he had written to Pope Francis. “We are working diligently at the local level to deal with these issues, but increasing accountability at all levels of the church is of utmost importance.”
Is Bishop Burns then willing to open his “secret archive” and expose all of the predatory priests from the Dallas diocese to the community?
If the bishop is truly seeking accountability at all levels of the church, We think he should voluntarily step down and turn the Diocese of Dallas over to a leader who will act with genuine concern for parishioners and their families, and for victims who are left to carry the burden for crimes they did not commit.
To us an Extraordinary Synod is nothing but a waste of time and money.
Instead, civil authorities MUST thoroughly investigate each and every diocese and Catholic order of priests, brothers, nuns, monks, and friars in the country with even the slightest suspicion of abuse, no matter how long ago.
Americans, Catholic or not, MUST demand from their elected representatives a complete investigation, exhausting every lead and leaving no stone unturned. The safety of children demands it. The well-being of clergy abuse survivors demands it.
And so does common decency.
Bishop Burns was ordained by Cardinal Donald Wuerl and hails from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, ground zero of the explosive PA Grand Jury Report.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, is the world's oldest and largest support group for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact - Lisa Kendzior (817-773-5907, email@example.com), Paul Petersen (972-569-0995, firstname.lastname@example.org), Tim Lennon (415-312-5820, tlennon@SNAPnetwork.org), Melanie Jula Sakoda (925-708-6175, email@example.com
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.