AK-Survivors disappointed in the Vatican’s choice for Anchorage’s new bishop
For immediate release: Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2016
We’re disappointed in the Vatican’s choice for Anchorage’s new bishop Paul D. Etienne of Cheyenne, Wyoming (replacing Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz).
Etienne has shown no leadership whatsoever in the church’s continuing child sex abuse and cover up crisis.
For years, Etienne has continued to honor a predatory bishop, Bishop Joseph Hart, against whom at least six child sex abuse lawsuits have settled, Hart’s name graces a children’s home in Torrington Wyoming.
Just three months ago, Etienne stayed silent while a different bishop, who’s credibly accused of committing and concealing sexual abuse, said mass at a conference both prelates attended.
Less than a year ago, previously-secret records about Fr. Charles J. Gormly, a serial predator priest who worked and abused in Etienne’s Wyoming diocese have been made public. They paint an unflattering view of the Catholic hierarchy.
The records show a bishop admitting that Fr. Gormly “has a sexual problem that prompts him to molest small girls” and that Fr. Gormly was sent for “treatment” to at least two facilities.
But Etienne ignored our plea to personally visit the parishes where Fr. Gormly worked, begging victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to come forward. He should also use parish bulletins, church websites and pulpit announcements across the entire diocese to seek out others who may have been assaulted and are still suffering.
He also ignored our request to permanently post on his diocesan website the names, photos and whereabouts of every child molesting Wyoming cleric, whether alive or dead, diocesan or religious order, or admitted, proven or credibly accused. (About 30 US bishops have done this. It’s the bare minimum a bishop should do to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.)
This is a simple, inexpensive, common sense step that protects the vulnerable and heals the wounded. We hope Etienne has the courage and compassion to post predators’ names in his new diocese.
Often, when a Catholic official retires and is replaced, many parishioners and parents assume the new guy will be better than the old guy when it comes to children’s safety. That’s a reckless assumption. Complacency endangers kids. Continued vigilance protects kids.
No matter what church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(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)