Survivors of childhood sexual abuse advocating for Maryland legislation empower others | GUEST COMMENTARY
It is not a group anyone wants to join. The Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is made up of people who have experienced clergy sexual abuse during their childhoods. The group was first introduced to me as a support for my husband, who is a survivor of sexual abuse by a priest that occurred when he was 5-years-old. My husband participates in a peer group, and we have attended two national SNAP conferences.
People would stand up and say what happened to them — how old they were, how long the abuse continued, whether they were believed if they told others. They were tearful, they were angry, but they were not silent. I was just astonished. I also am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, though the crimes against me were not committed by a clergy member, and it never occurred to me that I could be in a room with hundreds of other survivors and feel empowered and proud.
TEXAS’ HB 206: FAQs
Thank you to our allies at CHILD USA and CHILD USAdvocacy for this important information
What is HB 206?
HB 2061 is a civil statute of limitations (SOL) reform bill. It permanently eliminates the civil statutes of limitations (SOL) so that survivors of child sexual abuse (CSA) can file a civil case no matter how long ago the abuse took place, and no matter how old the survivor is. It is retroactive, reviving previously expired SOLs.
How does this differ from our current civil statute of limitations in Texas?
Texas’ current civil SOL2 was extended in 2019, from 15 to 30 years past the age of 18, or 48 years old. However, it is NOT retroactive. Our current SOL only applies to those cases of abuse “going forward,” or those cases that the old SOL (age 33) has not already expired.
What is the current Texas criminal statute of limitations for survivors of child sexual abuse?
In 2007, Texas eradicated its criminal SOLs for most child sex abuse cases3, however, once again, this law is NOT retroactive, and applies to newer cases. Criminal SOLs cannot be reformed (such as making the law retroactive) due to the Supreme Court decision in the case of Stogner v. California4.
WE HAVE NO OTHER OPTIONS TO SEEK JUSTICE - Pennsylvania Survivor Weighs In!
January 10, 2022
By Debbie Warren
The Christian school Science teacher and upstanding member of our school’s Baptist church in Philadelphia sexually abused me and raped me as a 9, 10. And 11-year-old child --obviously failed me.
The church and school leaders who hid my abuse swept it under the rug and spiritually abused our family, failing me as a child. The same Christian school/Church leaders who were forced to answer and acknowledge what was allowed to happen to me in the last 10 years, failed me.
The leaders of the House and Senate of Pennsylvania have repeatedly failed me for the last decade by not passing important legislation that would give me justice. Just a couple of years ago, the Department of State failed me of their disorganization of filing the correct paperwork to get our Constitutional amendment advertised to the people of the Commonwealth. Last night, I was failed again as the drama unfolded in the Capitol in the special session called to begin the passage of our Constitutional amendment for the second time.
I have made dozens of trips for a decade from Florida where I live to Harrisburg to try and help move the needle toward victims. But it’s not just me. There are thousands of us who have the same story. We have suffered the same abuse over and over. So many of us have pounded the pavement, halls, and doors of the Capitol building in Harrisburg for years. We pass the dozens and dozens of members of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference and Insurance federation in the hallways making their way out of the same offices fighting any change in the Statute of Limitations. The lobbyists fight against survivors in every way towards our seeking any justice.
The law in the United States only gives us 2 ways to seek justice.
1. We put our perpetrators in jail,
2. We take their money.
WE HAVE NO OTHER OPTIONS TO SEEK JUSTICE
The leaders of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have chopped both hands off and burned them to ashes. Many of our Statutes of Limitations expired before we even finished puberty! They are antiquated and unfair. The laws failed me as a child, and then the justice system turned around decades later and failed me as an adult.
My abuser is still free to go to YOUR church. YOUR kid's program. YOUR after-church Sunday dinner at your house. YOUR child’s little league. He has no background. So go ahead and do a background check. Since I have come forward and been vocal on social media, more victims have come forward to me from the same pedophile who abused me. This SOL reform would allow me to name him, name the people who hid this abuse, and protect children from him. There are thousands of sexual abusers and pedophiles all over the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that are being protected and nurtured all because the leaders of Pennsylvania put money, politics, squabbles, in-house competition, and egos before doing what is RIGHT.
Giving victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse JUSTICE is what is RIGHT and GOOD. Right now, these leaders are making history and will be remembered in our History books for years ago as people who stood on the wrong side of History.
When we know better - we DO better. Clearly, we haven’t learned from the past and from other states who have changed their antiquated Statute of Limitations.
While we wait….yet again, we enable MORE harm done, MORE abuse, and MORE children’s lives ruined by sexual abuse, We are destroying lives as we speak because the Legislatures of Pennsylvania can’t stop playing games with one another and put their egos over the protection of children.
Get it together! PLEASE. Pass this legislation. Do the right thing. We already lost victims this year who couldn’t fight or wait anymore…We should not have to wait several more years…. again.
Don’t fail us yet again….
Former CT State Representative John Metsopoulos reports sexual harassment and psychological abuse by Greek Orthodox Archbishop George Aneste
December 19, 2022
Former CT State Representative John Metsopoulos reports sexual harassment and psychological abuse by Greek Orthodox Archbishop George Aneste
John Metsopoulos, former Connecticut state representative for the 132nd district (1984-94) and former first selectman (mayor) of Fairfield, CT (1999-2003), has come forward to report sexual harassment in 2019 in Mexico City by George Aneste, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Mexico and Central America. Aneste is also referred to as Athenagoras of Mexico. Metsopoulos also reports ongoing physical and psychological abuse by Aneste in Mexico from 2017 to 2019. In addition to the harm Metsopoulos suffered personally, he is reporting direct knowledge of Aneste’s fraud, and he can report numerous incidents of fraud occurring in both Mexico and in the United States.
Metsopoulos comes from a devout family long involved with the Greek Orthodox Church in Fairfield County, CT. He met Aneste in the United States as a 15-year-old. When Aneste contacted him in 2017 with an urgent plea for him to come to Mexico to help run his charities, Metsopoulos quickly sold his business and moved to Mexico City to assist him.
When Metsopoulos arrived, Aneste reported that his charitable causes were in dire need of money. Metsopolous reports that he lent him a total of $10,000 over a period of months, none of which was paid back. Aneste also owes him $15,000 in unpaid wages.
Within a few months after Metsopoulos’ arrival in Mexico, Aneste appointed him as executive director of One World One Community, Aneste’s California-based charity, and treasurer of the Chicago-based Orthodox Church Mission. Both charities were known to the Archbishop of America Elpidiphore and appeared to be legitimate. However, Metsopoulos soon discovered that the church that Aneste claimed he had funded in Haiti had received no funding from either charity. Furthermore, the school in Haiti that Aneste claimed to have funded did not exist. Metsopoulos also reports that Aneste took $100,000 from the Greek Orthodox Mission of the Virgin in Danbury, CT, whose pastor at the time was Father Peter Karlout. Aneste claimed the funds would be used to establish a candle-making business to employ Mexican workers. However, the funds were purportedly used instead to renovate Aneste’s private residence in Mexico City. Metsopoulos claims these are a few examples among many.
Metropoulos further reports that before he recognized Aneste’s duplicity and corruption, he asked fundraiser Heidi Hartt to volunteer her time, but she declined upon learning that One World One Community’s funds may not have gone to charitable causes. In like fashion, Barbara Segal, a grant writer, refused Metsopoulos’request that she write grants for the charity, saying that no grants would be awarded when only two people served on the charity’s board. Both individuals are willing to corroborate Metsopoulos’ claims.
As Metsopoulos, while still trusting Aneste, attempted to alert him to his charities’ legal problems, Aneste became increasingly hostile. When Metsopoulos attempted to discuss the lack of a functioning board for One World One Community, the Bishop swore at Metsopoulus and, on one occasion, hit him with his mitre, which is the staff that bishops carry. On another occasion, in 2018, Aneste loudly berated Metsopoulos in front of a roomful of forty people because the rice he had prepared was sticky.
In the summer of 2019, as their working relationship reached a new low point, Aneste invited Metropoulos into his office. Metropolous claims that the Bishop asked him to sit across from him on a low chair, then spread his legs so that Metsopoulos could not avoid seeing that Aneste had an erection.
“He was sitting with his legs open,” said Metropoulos, “I thought to myself that there must be a reason for this. I’d known him since I was 15. He had told me I had the faith and innocence of a child.”
He hesitated a few seconds, horrified, trying to understand what was going on. Then he quickly left the room, utterly confused and deeply shaken. To this day, he remembers exactly what Aneste was wearing: a gray cardigan, white shirt, black slacks and black loafers.
A few days later, at about 9:30 a.m., Aneste called Metsopoulos on the phone. He remembers being in his plaid pajama bottoms and red tee shirt.
“He asked me to come over for coffee in my underwear,” says Metsopoulos.
“My life has been decimated. My faith has been destroyed,” he continued.
Soon thereafter, Aneste stopped paying Metsopoulos. Traumatized, isolated and now without income, Metsopoulos saw no path forward other than to continue focusing on legitimate charitable works of the Church while sidestepping Aneste’s efforts to get him to participate in fraud. But after four months, Aneste fired him and threw him out of his living quarters. He has never been paid for the final months of his work.
Metsopoulos has attempted to alert the Greek Orthodox hierarchy to Aneste’s crimes, but they claim Aneste is out of their reach because he is in Mexico. He has also tried to alert Greek American organizations to Aneste’s corruption. In response, Aneste has threatened to sue for defamation.
John Metsopoulos now lives in Nicaragua and can be reached through email at [email protected]. He is available to meet on ZOOM. Gail Howard, a Leader of SNAP CT (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, CT Chapter) can be reached at 203-644-0387.
Letter to Bishop Michael Barber-Diocese of Oakland-SNAP has identified 227 publicly accused perpetrators
December 13, 2022
SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
PO Box 16376
Chicago, IL, 60616
Most Reverend Michael C. Barber, SJ
Diocese of Oakland
2121 Harrison Street, Suite 100
Oakland, CA 94612
Dear Bishop Barber,
We are writing to you because, so far, SNAP has identified 227 publicly accused perpetrators associated with the Diocese of Oakland, a stark contrast from your current list which only includes 65 names. Our list has been created through careful study of documents in the public domain, including culling the lists released by other Catholic dioceses and religious orders. We are sending you this complete list and ask that you take our research and use it to update your own list.
While we have strived very hard for accuracy, as you review our list if you find we have mistakenly included a name, please let us know why you believe we have erred. We will then modify our list if we agree.
We suspect that more names are likely coming because of the still open civil window in California. Right now, our list includes 20 newly accused who lived or worked in your Diocese. There will likely be a flurry of new lawsuits filed before the window closes on December 31, 2022. Only 20% of the 1100 known cases are in the public domain and Oakland is named in 54 individual lawsuits. If the trend holds, ultimately Oakland will likely be associated with several hundred lawsuits and dozens of new accused perpetrators.
In the current open window, 41 alleged abusers associated with the Oakland Diocese are being named as perpetrators so far, either in Oakland or other Northern California locations. Br. Sal Billante, for example, worked in Oakland from 1964 to 1972 according to the Official Catholic Directory and various published work histories. He is named in at least 22 lawsuits ranging from 1964 to 1989. While there is no new litigation against Oakland yet, he was working in your Diocese for several of those 25 years. Despite these now-public accusations, Br. Billante was only sidelined in 1989 when he was arrested.
The Oakland Diocese is in fact connected to three of what appears to be this cycle’s most prolific abusers: Br. Billante, Fr. Stephen Kiesle, and Msgr. Vincent Breen. Each of these men not only abused while in Oakland but are also on other lists compiled by SNAP. All three were arrested, but apparently, none were ever reported to law enforcement by their bishops or provincials.
What Is a Missionary Kid Worth?
Twenty Years Post Dallas - The Limitations of the Charter
Twenty years ago, the American Catholic Church lauded itself for establishing essential norms that the authors believed would eliminate the problem of clerical sexual abuse and cover-up within the institution. While the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People – colloquially referred to as the “Dallas Charter” – did create new strictures that would aid in identifying and removing priests who abused children, it failed to go far enough to actually make a difference in solving the problems that, we believe, are at the true root of the Catholic sex abuse scandal.
Letters from Europe: French Survivors Organizations Meeting of October 8, 2022
Ever since he took on the job in March 2021 your Europe Correspondent (based in the southwest of France near Lourdes) has struggled to establish contacts with survivors' associations in the country. This is because over the years a multitude of micro associations have come and gone. When I say "micro" I mean groups with typically a dozen members or so - with several of them set up to deal with one particular offender in one small geographic area.
Still, a dozen of these associations, aware of the harm caused by their fragmentation, decided to gather on the occasion of the first anniversary of the release of the bombshell "CIASE Report" on the sexual abuse of minors in the Church over the last several decades. I had established enough contacts that I was invited to attend the meeting which took place under tight security in the ornate Paris town hall on Saturday, October 8. The security reflects the fact that survivors' "coming out" is often met with hostility by a society with deep catholic roots that has difficulty coming to terms with the appalling crimes committed by the clergy.
The purpose of the meeting was to get to know each other and start thinking about how to unite a disparate movement whose members have different agendas and purposes. An important divide exists between associations/survivors who stay close to the "faith" while others have broken away. (This happens elsewhere including in the US).
Following the release of the CIASE Report, the Church has set up "Reparations" commissions charged with assessing individual levels of financial compensation when statutes of limitations have run out. This was a central theme during the meeting and confirmed to me that unlike what I think is the case in the US French survivors are deeply uncomfortable with the "monetization/quantification" of their trauma and pain. They are also unhappy with the slow pace at which compensation are decided.
The "Reparations" discussions revolve around the arbitrary maximum figure of 60,000€ - roughly the same figure in dollars. Jean-Marc Sauvé, the thoughtful head of the CIASE commission was present at the meeting and was generally well-received. In an unsurprising but disappointing pique of anti-Americanism has was dismissive of the large payments in the US - complaining that much of the money went to lawyers and that statutes of limitations were shockingly short in the US (in France they are of the order of 10-20-30 years depending on the crime).
Jean-René, who represents a survivors association in the Loire Region showed an interest in my "Hall of Atonement", which documents the Church's efforts to atone for its crimes through plaque etc. In fact, Jean-René was instrumental in a plaque placed in the Luçon cathedral and described in the "Hall". The text is more a "prayer" laced with much religious jargon than a show of repentance. The prayer caused consternation with its call for mercy aimed at survivors but also at perpetrators. This interest moved me to add a French translation to the Hall.
The organizers of the meeting were anxious not to rush into anything - so no concrete decision was made art the end of the day - one typical problem being those little fiefdoms are reluctant to merge into something bigger. These folks are media-savvy and several media outlets were invited to a press conference at the end of the day, resulting in nationwide coverage of the event.
Despite my representing an American association I was warmly received at the meeting and offered assistance if SNAP can in any way help French survivors get organized. But cultural differences and sensitivities abound and are paramount.
The Sex Scandal Rocking Japan's Catholic Church | Violation
In Japan, Catholics make up less than 1% of the population. Despite the small numbers, allegations of sexual abuse have surfaced against Catholic clergymen in recent years. Mrs Harumi Suzuki is one of the first few in Japan to speak out against the sexual abuse she experienced when consulting with a priest at the church back in 1977. In September 2020, she filed an official lawsuit against the Sendai’s Catholic Church, seeking around $77,000 in damages, along with an official apology. She speaks to VICE World News about her experience and the impact the incident has had on her mental health.
VICE Asia - Full segment can be viewed here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piM1hoQ_vQE
SNAP Supporter & Donor Profile: Supporting Those Egregiously Harmed: Jake Anderson
This profile was written by Patrick Price, Fundraising and Development Manager of SNAP, to honor our courageous and dedicated supporters and donors.
The SNAP community includes those who tragically have experienced sexual abuse by religious and other institutional authorities, the family members of those who were abused, the advocates for our cause, and those who support SNAP because of the healing services and programs we provide. Though not a victim of sexual abuse himself, Jake Anderson of Chicago, IL, has been a sustaining donor of SNAP because of our mission to protect vulnerable children, teenagers and adults, to heal those who have been, in Jake’s words, “egregiously harmed” by clergy sexual abuse, and to expose the truth about the effects of abuse and those who should be held accountable for victimization in religious organizations.