Harrisburg PA--Victims offer their support to the “thousands in pain”

Victims offer their support to the “thousands in pain”

They urge survivors, witnesses and whistle blowers to report to law enforcement

SNAP: Bishop must  disclose &punish “enablers” who “ignored or hid” abuse

Group urges government officials  across the US to launch investigations and change laws


Holding signs and childhood photos, clergy abuse survivors and their supporters will:

  • Notify survivors in the area of a peer to peer support group being held later today;
  • Encourage anyone who suffered, saw or suspected sexual abuse to go to secular authorities, not the Church.

While the group is grateful to the diocese for providing information on the whereabouts of all those on the diocesan list, they will also demand that top officials in the Harrisburg Diocese:

  • Publicly “expose and demote, discipline or denounce” current or former church staffers who helped hide abuse.

They will also urge:

  • Police, prosecutors and lawmakers to think outside the box to prosecute enablers;
  • Attorney Generals across the country to launch investigations into their local dioceses; and
  • Legislators across the US to change SOL and mandatory reporting laws to help deter future abuse.


Monday, August 20th at 12:30 PM


In front of the Diocese of Harrisburg Offices, 4800 Union Deposit Road, Harrisburg, PA


Four-five survivors and supporters from SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), including a Burke, Virginia, woman who is on SNAP’s Board of Directors.


Last week Pennsylvania’s Attorney General released an 887 page report that documents graphically that little has changed in how the Catholic Church handles sexual crimes since 2002. The report named 45 proven, admitted, and accused priests in the Diocese of Harrisburg. Previously only 24 individuals had been identified.


The grand jurors also concluded that “Over one thousand child victims were identifiable, from the church’s own records. We believe that the real number – of children whose records were lost, or who were afraid ever to come forward – is in the thousands.” (page 4)


SNAP is worried about those individuals who were abused in the diocese, particularly those who may still be suffering alone and in silence. The group urges victims to seek out medical help if necessary, and/or to reach out to peer to peer support through groups like ours. Becky Ianni of SNAP will be facilitating a support meeting in Harrisburg from 3-4:30 pm at the McCormick Riverfront Library (101 Walnut Street).

The survivors also urge anyone who suffered, saw or suspected child sexual abuse in the diocese to report the information to law enforcement, not to the Church. The investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General is ongoing. The number to call is 888-538-8541.

The group is very concerned for children that are at risk now, because of predators that may be living or working near them.  They are grateful that Bishop Ronald Gainer has also released some information on the whereabouts of these dangerous men.


However, since very few church officials who enabled, hid or transferred predators have been exposed - and even fewer punished - SNAP worries that this "callous and reckless pattern" will continue or be repeated. The group wants Harrisburg Catholic officials to voluntarily disclose, to the public and to parishioners, who these "enablers" are and "discipline, demote or denounce" them. The survivors maintain that this will deter future cover ups, inside and outside the church, help restore parishioners' trust and help victims heal.

Over three decades, SNAP has seen prosecutors and civil attorneys find and use innovative ways to "overcome the statute of limitations" and "nail wrongdoers on related charges like committing perjury, intimidating witnesses, destroying evidence, committing fraud, and failing to report abuse," even sometimes using RICO statutes. The group wants local law enforcement to "do extensive legal research and boldly seek other, new ways to stop abuse and cover ups, despite Pennsylvania's weak child safety laws."

The victims’ group will announce that they are urging all the survivors and supporters in their database to write to the AG in their state and demand a grand jury investigation like the one Pennsylvania just completed. They are convinced that other jurisdictions will produce similar outcomes.

SNAP is also soliciting support for its renewed call for US Department of Justice action on this issue. Last week the survivors group and the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York wrote to Tod J. Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General. They asked for the DOJ to initiate “a full-scale, nationwide investigation into the systemic rape and sexual violence, and cover-ups in the Catholic Church, and, where appropriate, bring criminal and/or civil proceedings against the hierarchy that enabled the violations.


Finally, SNAP will also again urge lawmakers to remove the criminal and civil statute of limitations on child sex crimes and to pass a civil window that would deter future cover-ups and protect kids now by enabling abuse victims to expose those who commit or conceal child sex crimes in court. Four states (MN, HI, DE and CA) have taken this important safety step, SNAP says.

Covering six dioceses, the grand jury report included "stunning revelations: a priest molested a 7-year-old girl during a visit to a hospital where she had her tonsils removed; priests shared naked photos of abuse victims; a priest arranged an abortion after impregnating a girl he had raped; a priest got a reference letter for a Disney World job after years of complaints about his abusive acts." 


In the Diocese of Harrisburg, “The Grand Jury report includes an extensive look at the ‘institutional failure that endangered the welfare of children’ as it pertains to three priests in particular, Fathers Augustine Giella, Arthur Long and Joseph Pease. The report alleged Giella abused five girls in a single family.”


Bishop Ronald William Gainer, has headed Diocese of Harrisburg since 2014, but he only released his list of names on the eve of the grand jury report’s release.


There are 89 parishes in the diocese covering 15 counties.

Founded 30 years ago, SNAP is a St. Louis-based support group of 25,000 survivors and supporters. (SNAPnetwork.org)


Becky Ianni (703-801-6044, SNAPvirginia@cox.net), Tim Lennon (415-312-5820, tlennon@SNAPnetwork.org), Judy Jones, (636-433-2511, SNAPjudy@gmail.com)

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