VA--Victims beg Catholic officials for “more honesty & outreach”
For immediate release: Wednesday, June 8, 2016
A Catholic priest who worked in Virginia has been accused of abusing a male child in another state in 1990. Members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are grateful to the brave victim who spoke up, but they are disappointed in the response of Catholic officials in the Diocese of Arlington.
Father Kevin J. Downey has been employed as the pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle since 2011. While the priest has denied the allegations, he has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
The survivors’ group expressed gratitude that the diocese notified parishioners about the allegations, and they were relieved to learn that the allegations have been reported law enforcement. However, victims think that the announcement should have included more details. The group is also very disappointed that the bishop is not aggressively reaching out to anyone who may have been harmed by the priest in Virginia.
Becky Ianni, the Virginia Director for SNAP, commented, “As a mother and grandmother, I’m concerned that we don’t know where Father Downey is now. As someone who may be a threat to young people, I can only hope that he is being housed in a remote, secure location away from children while the allegations are investigated.”
The SNAP leader also expressed concerns about what Father John O’Connor had to say in Saint Francis’ parish bulletin.
“Most Catholics are reluctant to believe that their priest could be a predator. When Father O’Connor writes that this is a terrible time for the parish and for Father Downey, offers to forward mail to the priest, and refers to the investigation as an ‘unfortunate situation,’ he fuels that impression, which is usually wrong. How could any child who may have been hurt by Father Downey feel safe to come forward, when it’s clear that the priest and the parish are seen as the victims?”
SNAP has developed a list of guidelines for Catholics whose pastor has been accused of abuse. The group would like to see the Church adopt those same standards when an allegation surfaces.
The survivors also want to see more outreach on the part of the Diocese of Arlington.
Ianni concluded by saying, “We hope there are no other victims, but we beg Bishop Paul S. Loverde to personally visit this parish and aggressively reach out to any other possible victims of Father Downey, children who might be suffering right now in silence and self-blame.”
SNAP recommends that anyone with knowledge or suspicions of child sex crimes call secular officials – not church officials – in order to protect others and start healing.
Bishop Paul S. Loverde can be reached as follows:
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 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)
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.