Catholic Diocese of Fresno acknowledges abuse can happen at the hands of a layperson of trust; SNAP wants more information
The text accompanying the "Safe and Sacred Safe Environment Training" video put out by the Catholic Diocese of Fresno reads, “Report sexual abuse of a minor by a priest, deacon, church/school volunteer or church/school employee by calling the Victim Assistance Hotline Number – 559-488-7400. Reports are held in strictest confidence.”
Since the Fresno Diocese explicitly acknowledges that Church volunteers and lay employees can abuse, we wonder why its list of the "credibly accused" only includes religious brothers? Were there no reports of abuse by nuns, teachers, and other lay employees or volunteers? We would find that hard to believe since every Catholic diocese that has been investigated by secular authorities has uncovered abusers in those categories. We hope that Bishop Joseph Brennan will clarify this. The list should either be expanded or the Bishop should state unequivocally to the public he has no reports that a nun, Catholic school teacher, lay employee, or volunteer has ever been accused of abusing a child in Fresno.
The text also has some dangerous advice; it says to call the Victim Assistance Hotline instead of the police when abuse is known or suspected. This archaic advice appears to be a page out of the Catholic playbook to hide information from the public. The Diocese must change this language immediately to clarify that reporters must first call the police. We suggest that they adopt the language from their own Victim Assistance Hotline Flyer: "To report an incident of child abuse that occurred, past or present, within the Church by a member of the clergy, religious order, employee or volunteer, contact the city or county law enforcement agency where the alleged abuse occurred. Then, contact the Diocese of Fresno Victim Assistance Coordinator at the above phone number." (Emphasis supplied)
Finally, SNAP has more than 80 names of those accused of child sexual abuse in Fresno. The Diocesan list only includes 66 of those names. We believe that the Fresno list is not fully transparent and does not assure a “Safe Environment.” We urge Bishop Joseph Brennan to take immediate steps to clarify the issues above and to include the names of all those accused of child sexual abuse in his Diocese on his list.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]), Dan McNevin, SNAP Treasurer ([email protected], 415-341-6417)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)