AL--Accusations against priest kept secret

For immediate release: Thursday, Feb. 19

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-503-0003,

Alabama’s highest ranking Catholic official is breaking the national church abuse policy and breaking the trust of parents, parishioners and the public by recklessly, callously and secretly mishandling child sex charges against one of his priests.   

For a full year, Mobile Archbishop Thomas Rodi has hidden allegations that Fr. Johnny S. Savoie was accused of molesting a youngster. Now Rodi is going even further and using parishioner donations to pay lawyers to try to keep a continued lid on these allegations.

Shame on these archbishodi. And shame on Fr. James J. Cink, Leanne Oberkirch, and Colleen McNorton, who are supposed to handle these cases with Rodi.

In 2002, every US Catholic bishop adopted a policy to be “open and transparent” about clergy sex abuse allegations and to suspend accused priests while investigations are conducted. But just three years later, Alabama Catholic officials again opted for the time-tested, self-serving approach that almost all of the church hierarchy has embraced for centuries: secrecy. And they evidently did NOT suspend Fr. Savoie for even one day.

Mobile church officials claim to have done some sort of quiet, internal so-called investigation into these charges. Based on our 25 years of experience in these cases, we have no faith whatsoever in these church processes. Alabama Catholics should not have such faith either.

We call on Archbishop Rodi to end his inexcusable and hurtful secrecy about this troubling case. We urge him to suspend Fr. Savoie now and bring in outside experts to conduct an independent investigation into these allegations. We beg him to go to each parish where Fr. Savoie worked and prod anyone with information or suspicions that might prove or disprove these accusations to come forward and call police. That’s what a truly caring shepherd would do.

(Just a few months ago, we criticized Alabama Catholic officials about secrecy in another pedophile priest case involving Fr. Sean Leo Rooney.

We beg anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes or cover ups in the Mobile archdiocese to step forward. Seek independent help, call law enforcement, expose the wrongdoers, protect the children and start your healing now.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have 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

Contact - David Clohessy 314-566-9790,, Barbara Dorris 314-503-0003,, Barbara Blaine 312-399-4747,   

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