Diocese of San Diego Bans Communication Between Priests and Minors, SNAP Reacts
A Catholic bishop in California is forging ahead on his own to find new ways to combat clergy sexual abuse scandals. We appreciate these efforts but believe that it is only actions and not words that can be taken at face value.
Bishop Robert McElroy took the unprecedented step of calling every member of the Archdiocese of San Diego together in order to discuss responses to the abuse crisis. The district attorney will also be there. But while the scale of this meeting and the representation of law enforcement may be unprecedented, its content does not appear to be.
The simple fact is that many discussions and meetings on the abuse crisis have taken place over the years. From the Pope’s meeting in February to the annual meetings of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, survivors and advocates have watched and waited as meetings of powerful men come and go, often with a lot of tough language but little actual change. We hope that the case will be different in San Diego.
One way of ensuring that it this meeting is different is to give experienced abuse survivors and advocates a chance to speak. Bishop McElroy can also go further and:
- encourage every church staff and member to share every single bit of knowledge or suspicions they may have about clergy sex crimes and cover ups directly and immediately with the law enforcement in attendance and especially with the California AG's office, and
- teach parishioners how to respond sensitively when abuse reports surface.
Finally, Bishop McElroy’s idea of banning all private communication between priests and minors is a good one that should, in theory, make grooming more difficult. It also will likely only affect those priests who would not have groomed or abused children in the first place. We hope that Bishop McElroy will follow up this new rule with strong discipline against those who break it. This is one way that church officials in San Diego can show their dedication to prevention through their actions, not just words.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org, 517-974-9009)
(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)