Diocese of Erie Refuses to Help Pay for Survivors’ Therapy, SNAP Slams their Callous Treatment

A Pennsylvania Catholic diocese’s callous treatment of a survivor in desperate need of therapy demands attention from parishioners and the public. Today we are calling for diocesan leaders to publicly justify their stance.

Kevin McParland was abused by serial sexual abuser Fr. Stephen Jeselnick, a priest who was recruited, trained, ordained, and hired by Catholic officials in Erie. Because of the abuse, Kevin needs therapeutic services to overcome his pain and trauma. Science is clear that the effects of sexual abuse are severe and lifelong, yet the Diocese of Erie’s “Clinical Advisory Panel” has decided that they have no responsibility to pay for Kevin’s treatment. Even worse, rather than offer Kevin a pathway forward, the Clinical Advisory Panel also requested, through an attorney, that Kevin refrain from contacting the Victim Assistance Coordinator in the future.

This decision is callous and morally repugnant. For years, Catholic officials in Erie have fought against legislation that would give survivors like Kevin an opportunity to secure justice and recompense for the abuse they suffered, forcing victims to enter into less-than-adequate compensation programs run by the diocese. Due to no fault of his own, Kevin was abused by a church staffer and then, later in life, was forced to go back to that church for help.

Catholic officials will no doubt point out that Kevin “signed a binding agreement, there is no legal requirement to help.” And by making this argument, diocesan leaders prove once again that their bluster about caring for the wounded is nothing more than empty air. What they truly care about is money and they will fight tooth and nail to keep it. While there may not be a legal requirement to continue helping Kevin, there is certainly a moral one.

We challenge Bishop Lawrence Persico, head of the Diocese of Erie, and Stefanie Lacy, an attorney on the diocesan legal team, to come out and defend their decision publicly. We call on them to explain why Kevin’s request for 10-weeks of therapy is too much for them to handle. We challenge them to justify their broad-brush approach to dealing with survivors instead of taking each situation on a case-by-case and need-by-need basis.

The simple fact is that Kevin is not demanding the diocese write him a blank check or even give him millions of dollars. All Kevin is asking for is help paying for the therapy that he needs due to the Diocese of Erie’s demonstrated history of hiring and covering-up for sexually abusive priests. For a Church that supposedly models itself after the teachings of Jesus Christ, current leaders and their attorneys have clearly failed to learn the lessons of Christ’s example.

CONTACT: Kevin McParland, Survivor ([email protected], 310-704-9421), Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant