CA - SNAP Asks San Francisco Archbishop to Withdraw from Race
For immediate release:
Friday, November 12, 2004
For More Information:
Dan McNevin SNAP San Francisco 415 341 6417
Terrie Light SNAP West Coast 510 517 3338
David Clohessy of St. Louis SNAP National Director 314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915
Barbara Blaine of Chicago, SNAP President 312 399 4747
Mark Serrano of Virginia, SNAP National Board Member 703 771 9606
Group Doesn't Want Levada To Head Bishops Conference
SNAP Instead Supports South Dakota Prelate
Levada Gets Ripped By Founding Chair of SF Archdiocese Independent Review Board
SF Archdiocese leadership described as corrupt
In an unusual move, the nation's largest support group for clergy molestation victims is publicly urging the Bay Area's top Catholic official to drop his drive to head the US Bishops Conference. Instead, for the first time ever, the victims are backing the candidacy of a relatively obscure South Dakota bishop for the high profile post.
In a letter today to San Francisco Archbishop William Levada, leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, ask the prelate to put his "personal ambitions aside, and concentrate instead on healing those already wounded and safeguarding those still at risk.". Levada was ripped by his own Lay Chair regarding Levada's staunch refusal to release the Review Board's findings about SF Diocese abusers. (Chronicle www.sfgate.com.)
The Chair, James Jenkins, who is a clinical psychologist, states that under Levada the Review Board is in danger of becoming "an elaborate public relations scheme" and that he doubts the church can restore public trust "given its present leadership and the state of its corruption"
Ten prelates are in the race, which will be held Monday in Washington DC at the annual fall meeting of some 250+ bishops. The leading candidate appears to be Spokane bishop William Skylstad, who is threatening to declare bankruptcy in his diocese.
Former Chicago bishop Wilton Gregory (now of Belleville IL) is stepping down, having completed his three year term.
This will be the bishops' first national election since the clergy abuse scandal burst on the national scene in January of 2002.
SNAP is the nation's oldest and largest support group for victims of clergy sexual abuse with support groups in over 60 cities nation wide.
A copy of SNAP's letter to Levada, sent today via fax and e mail, is below:
Nov. 12, 2004
Dear Archbishop Levada:
We are disturbed by news reports that you are running for the presidency of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, and respectfully urge you to reconsider. The San Francisco archdiocese is still embroiled in a widespread and still-painful clergy sex abuse crisis and cover-up. Your own Independent Review Board Chairman has exposed your methods for blocking transparency and your own accountability for fostering an abusive environment. He states he doubts the church can restore public trust "given its present leadership and the state of its corruption".
You left an accused priest in ministry despite a credible allegation and a civil lawsuit against him.
You and your staff essentially retaliated against a whistle-blower priest, Fr. John Conley, http://www.sfweekly.com/issues/2004-01-14/bayview.html/1/index.html who had the courage to report suspected abuse but ended up penalized for his courage.
You sit idly by while your brother bishops seek to overturn California's new child protection law in the courts, a measure that makes exposing and removing dangerous predators a little less difficult and gives agencies and organizations more incentive to prevent abuse.
You refuse to do what your brother bishops in Baltimore, Los Angeles, Toledo, Tucson and Milwaukee have done: list known and suspected abusive priests on your archdiocesan web site. This simple, long overdue step enables parents to be warned, prospective employers to be careful, vulnerable children to be protected and wounded victims to heal. Yet, despite repeated pledges to be "more open and transparent," you fail to take perhaps the single most critical step toward preventing future abuse.
Given these factors, we believe you should not be seeking the presidency. Now is the time to focus on revealing the truth, healing the victims and protecting the children, not on self-aggrandizement and self-promotion.
We are sad that you are trying to restore a restrictive, arbitrary, and unhealthy deadline by which victims must come forward to get help and have their "day in court."
For these reasons, we ask that you end your campaign to be chosen president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. It would be wiser and more compassionate of you to instead focus on healing wounded victims and preventing future abuse in your own archdiocese.
For the sake of healing, justice and prevention, we urge you to put your personal ambitions aside, and concentrate instead on healing those already wounded and safeguarding those still at risk.
312 399 4747
SNAP Nat'l Director
314 566 9790
SNAP West Coast
510 517 3338