Victims Prod Ex-Cardinal Law Aides to Do More
- Due to "Special Responsibility," They Must Go "Beyond Bare Minimum," SNAP Says
- National Group Writes Bishops On Anniversary of Clergy Abuse Crisis
Clergy sex abuse victims are asking five bishops who once worked under Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law to take specific "common sense safety precautions" to protect children from dangerous clergy.
The request by a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, comes on the three year anniversary of the public emergence of the Catholic church child molestation and cover up crisis.
"Given your role in Boston, the 'epicenter' of this catastrophic episode, we believe you can and should do more," write two leaders of SNAP. "Indeed, we believe you have a special obligation to heal the wounds -- widespread and deep -- caused by the mishandling of hundreds of abuse cases in Boston for years and years and to go further to prevent such betrayal and suffering in the future."
Each of the five now heads his own diocese: Archbishop Alfred Hughes of New Orleans, Bishop John D'Arcy of Ft. Wayne, Bishop Richard Malone of Maine, Bishop John McCormack of Manchester, and Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre.
In the last three years, nearly 800 admitted and suspected abusive clergy have been suspended. But virtually no bishop who covered up has been held accountable, they feel.
The group believes that the bishops who worked under Law have "a special responsibility to learn from their well-documented mistakes and work less on institutional damage control and public relations and more on tangible, common sense steps that will safeguard kids in the future."
Specifically, SNAP wants the ex-Law deputies to:
- permanently post names of known and suspected abusive clergy on their diocesan web sites,
- pay personal visits to each parish where a predator worked, urging victims and witnesses to contact law enforcement, and
- actively lobby for reforms in state laws so that it will be less difficult to seek justice in court against molesters.
SNAP's letter is signed by the group's national director David Clohessy of St. Louis and the group's founder and president Barbara Blaine of Chicago.
The letters have been sent via e mail and fax this morning, except in New Hampshire, where Blaine and a handful of supporters will try to hand deliver a letter to Manchester's bishop after a sidewalk news conference this afternoon outside the diocesan chancery office.
SNAP is the nation's largest support group for men and women molested by religious leaders) and several NH supporters
A copy of SNAP's letter is below:
Dear Bishop Murphy :
Widespread awareness of the Roman Catholic clergy sex abuse and cover up scandal has entered its third year. It has a robust life of its own and continues to command the public's attention with new revelations still emerging on a daily basis.
It's been three years since the Boston Globe series first appeared. Those articles led to an unprecedented horrific deluge of disclosures about abusive clergy and complicit bishops. They began an on-going process of truth-telling, sadly not by church leaders for the most part, but by abuse survivors, aided by journalists, prosecutors, judges, juries, civil attorneys, and caring Catholics.
You have responded to this devastating crisis like most of your colleagues, with new policies, procedures, paperwork, and press releases. But today we are writing to you and your colleagues who worked in Cardinal Bernard Law's inner circle. We issue a simple challenge: Forget the policies, procedures, paperwork, and press releases. It's time for real reforms.
Given your role in Boston, the "epicenter" of this catastrophic episode in the church, we believe you can and should do more. Indeed, we believe you have a special obligation to heal the wounds â€“ widespread and deep â€“ caused by the mishandling of hundreds of abuse cases in Boston for years and years and to go further to prevent such betrayal and suffering in the future.
Specifically, we ask that you, each bishop who worked under Law and now run a diocese, to undertake a series of "common sense safety precautions" to protect children from dangerous clergy.
Specifically, we ask that you and the other ex-Law deputies:
- disclose and permanently post the names of known and suspected abusive clergy on your diocesan web sites (as bishops in Baltimore, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Toledo and other dioceses have done in varying degrees),
- pay personal visits to each parish where a predator worked, emphatically reminding victims and witnesses that they have a civic and moral duty to contact law enforcement, and
- actively lobby for reforms in state criminal and civil laws to make it less difficult for those raped and sodomized to seek justice in court against molesters.
Why are we asking you five to take this initiative? Because you have, in our view, a higher duty.
Who better to address and help heal the millions of American Catholics who still want accountability from bishops than you who worked under Cardinal Law? Who better to show that bishops have learned from the widely-proven mistakes of the Boston hierarchy?
We believe that you in particular owe it to American Catholics and to all of us who have been molested by clergy to work less on "institutional damage control and public relations" and more on tangible, common sense steps that will safeguard kids in the future.
In the last three years, nearly 800 admitted and suspected abusive clergy have been suspended. But virtually no bishop who covered up has been held accountable. Recent surveys indicate that three of four Catholics, however, still want to see those who hired, trained, supervised, transferred and covered up for molesters to take responsibility for their misdeeds. Until some measure of accountability by these prelates happens, festering wounds will continue to ache and verbal reassurances of "doing better in the future" will continue to ring hollow.
There is no denying that you were part of the now well-documented and woefully destructive pattern of cover up in Boston.
We can debate to what degree you were or were not responsible for the crimes of Fr. Talbot, Fr. Shanley, Fr. Birmingham and dozens of others. But there's no debate about your position: you were part of Law's leadership team. You were part of a very sick, arrogant system that caused immeasurable harm first to hundreds of innocent children and later to innumerable Catholics, both of whom still suffer from shock and betrayal and struggle with deep emotional pain.
Suffice it to say that you worked at the "epicenter" of the abuse crisis, not as a low level employee or a just parish priest, but as a trusted "insider" at the archdiocesan head-quarters. You worked with and under a now-disgraced church official whose insensitivity and arrogance has become a painful symbol of corruption to millions of Catholics.
You and your fellow former Boston auxiliary bishops cannot undo the past. But you need to be leading the way toward a safer future. You can do this by taking responsibility, showing courage, and initiating the steps we're outlined.
Bishops here, and across the world, repeat the same carefully-crafted mantra "If only we'd known more. We just didn't understand back then. But we've learned from our mistakes and pledge to do better in the future."
By and large, we find this inadequate at best and disingenuous at worst. But assuming for the moment there's some truth in this claim, it begs a compelling question: where is the evidence now that indeed you have learned? Records now show that abuse by clergy was shockingly widespread in Boston. You had experience dealing with it in Boston, and in your current diocese. What are you doing now to prevent it in the future?
Again, you can point to policies, procedures, paperwork, and press releases. But for the most part, we believe those at best are peripheral and at worst are little but public relations. Can you, however, cite any significant difference between you and the rest of America's bishops when it comes to abuse cases
If indeed you have learned, these three steps we request should come easily to you.
You and your fellow "Law alumni" may not be the worst bishops. That's both irrelevant and impossible to ascertain. You worked, however, for one of the worst. You were, however, part of an unhealthy, self-aggrandizing system of clerical arrogance. You remain a part of that legacy.
As a result, you have a deep duty to help ensure that it doesn't happen again.
Years ago, when you were in Boston, you should have known and done more to stop abuse years ago.
In recent years, after you'd left Boston, you should have spoken out against the corruption and secrecy and insensitivity in Boston's archdiocese.
And starting three years ago, you should have been among the courageous voices calling Cardinal Law to accountability.
We've seen little proof that you have done any of this. It leaves us wondering about how much you've really learned.
By taking these common sense safety precautions, you will go far to regain the shattered trust of many Catholics and victims, and to safeguard vulnerable adults and innocent children in the future.
For more information:
David Clohessy, SNAP National Director, 314 566 9790, cell
Barbara Blaine, SNAP Founder and President, 312 399 4747