FL--Victims blast new Tampa/St. Pete Catholic bishop
For immediate release: Monday, Nov. 28, 2016
We are disappointed that Bishop Gregory Parkes of Pensacola-Tallahassee has been promoted to head Florida's second-largest market as the fifth bishop of St Petersburg. We disapprove of his handling of a 2013 predator priest case and see no signs that might indicate that he be any better than his predecessor in dealing with the church’s continuing child sex abuse and cover up crisis.
In 2013, Parkes waited five weeks before suspending an accused priest, Fr. Michael A. Cherup.
Then, adding insult to injury, Parkes let Fr. Cherup deny the allegations in the parish bulletin, which only serves to deter other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from speaking up, thus endangering more kids. It’s also a callous move that rubs even more salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of victims.
Before leaving Tallahassee, Parkes should tell his flock where Fr. Cherup is now. If he’s unsupervised, Parkes should insist that he stay in a remote, secure, independently-run treatment center, so that kids can be safer and that he can get therapy.
(Cherup had worked at Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Pensacola and St. Mary Parish in Fort Walton Beach.)
We hope Parkes will put a higher priority on the safety of kids and the healing of victims in his new post. Specifically, we urge him to permanently post on his diocesan website the names, photos and whereabouts of every child molesting St. Petersburg-Tampa cleric, whether alive or dead, diocesan or religious order, or admitted, proven or credibly accused. (About 30 US bishops have done this. It’s the bare minimum a bishop should do to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.)
This is a simple, inexpensive, common sense step that protects the vulnerable and heals the wounded. We hope Parkes has the courage and compassion to post predators’ names in his new diocese.
Often, when a Catholic official retires and is replaced, many parishioners and parents assume the new guy will be better than the old guy when it comes to children’s safety. That’s a reckless assumption. Complacency endangers kids. Continued vigilance protects kids.
No matter what church officials do or don’t do, we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(Parkes succeeds the retiring Bishop Robert Lynch.)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)