For immediate release: July 11, 2013
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790,SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
For the Vatican’s image, this is a successful move. For children’s safety, this is another setback.
It’s a setback because it will help foster the false impression of reform and will lead to more complacency.
In the real world, this changes virtually nothing. It’s is precisely the kind of ‘feel good’ gesture that Vatican officials have long specialized in: tweaking often-ignored and ineffective internal church abuse guidelines to generate positive headlines but nothing more.
While the headlines may proclaim “Pope makes new church rules about abuse,” the fine print makes it clear that there’s just one rule, and it purportedly makes more child sexual violence illegal on the 0.2 square miles of Vatican property.
The church hierarchy doesn't need new rules on abuse. It needs to follow long-established secular laws on abuse. And it needs to push for, not oppose, real reforms to archaic, predator-friendly secular laws (like the statute of limitations).
Church officials, starting with Pope Francis, need to actually punish those who conceal and enable abuse, which they have ample power to do but inadequate courage to do.
Sacking even one of the hundreds of complicit bishops across the world would do far more to protect kids and deter cover ups than this small change to a rule that’s likely never been or never will be used.
Hundreds of thousands of kids across the globe have been sexually assaulted by Catholic clergy. (Church experts estimate 100,000 such victims in the US alone.) We suspect that thousands are being molested right now by priests, nuns, bishops, brothers and seminarians. And we suspect that only a small number have been violated on the actual grounds of the Vatican.
That said, we do find it troubling that proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics continue to be sent abroad, including to the Vatican.
A 2004 investigation by the Dallas Morning News found more than 200 priests, accused of sexual abuse, who sought refuge in foreign countries. Nearly 100 cases involved clergy who escaped or were sent elsewhere to elude law enforcement. SNAP suspects this reckless and irresponsible practice is increasing.
The newspaper discovered that at least six accused priests have been sent to live or work in Rome: Fr. Julian Fox (Australia), Fr. Juan Baptist Ormechea (Illinois and Kentucky), Fr. Barry Bossa (Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York), Fr. Joseph Henn (Arizona), Fr. Richard Mataconis (New York), Fr. James Tully (Massachusetts, Sierra Leone and Giunea).
(Fr. Fox has since been forced to return to Australia to face criminal charges).
More recently, SNAP has learned that another US priest, Fr. Charles H. Miller – who worked in Missouri and Texas – was also transferred to Rome after a settlement was paid to one of his victims.
We consider Rome to be a particularly dangerous place to send predator priests, because of close ties between church and state in Italy, and because of the sheer number of devout Catholics who come to Rome and who are apt to trust priests there.