IA--Victims to bishop: do more about predator priest
For immediate release: Wednesday, Jan. 21
An Iowa man has been deemed too dangerous to be a Catholic priest and has been formally expelled by the Vatican. But no one seems to know where he is. Des Moines’ bishop must do more to protect children from him and warm others about him.
Last summer, Fr. Howard Fitzgerald was suspended – from two parishes and Simpson College - for child sex abuse allegations. Now Catholic officials in Rome have permanently removed him from the priesthood.
Bishop Richard Pates should now hold a news conference to warn parents, parishioners, police, prosecutors and the public about Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald can’t work as a Catholic priest. But that doesn’t “cure” him of pedophilia. It’s Pates’ duty to do all he can to also protect the safety of non-Catholic kids.
The only decent move would be to warn as many people as possible about Fitzgerald’s crimes. But if for some inexplicable reason Pates can’t bring himself to do that, he should tell the public more about Fitzgerald’s crimes. Because that’s where Fitzgerald is now: among the public, not in a Catholic parish.
It’s irresponsible for bishops to recruit, educate, ordain, hire, train, transfer and protect predators like Fitzgerald and then – when they’re finally exposed – cut them loose on society with little or no warning.
The Vatican doesn’t defrock priests willy-nilly. It’s a long process. It’s usually not done unless the cleric’s crimes are many or very well-documented. So once Rome has defrocked a priest, it’s very clear he is in fact guilty of molesting children.
We beg Iowa Catholic officials to use their vast diocesan resources – parish bulletins, church web sites, and pulpit announcements – to protect kids and warn parents about a potentially dangerous child predator.
And we beg anyone who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes by Fitzgerald – or cover ups by his supervisors or his colleagues – to speak up, call police, protect others, expose wrongdoers and start healing.
Pates has been far too secretive and lax about this child molesting cleric that he has suspended.
For the safety of kids, Pates should have disclosed where Fr. Howard Fitzgerald, was for the last six months. He should have disclosed when Catholic officials first received allegations of child sexual abuse against Fr. Fitzgerald. He should have put Fr. Fitzgerald into a remote, secure treatment center so he'll be kept away from kids. And he should personally visit every parish where Fr. Fitzgerald worked, begging victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police, so that Fr. Fitzgerald might be criminally charged, convicted and be kept away from kids even longer.
In short, Pates said and did far too little about Fr. Fitzgerald. Pates has pledged to be “open” about clergy sex abuse cases. He should honor that pledge right now. And he should star by disclosing Fitzgerald’s whereabouts.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have 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)
Contact - David Clohessy 314-566-9790, [email protected], Barbara Dorris 314-503-0003, [email protected], Barbara Blaine 312-399-4747, [email protected] , Steve Theisen of Hudson IA, Iowa director of SNAP, 319-231-1663, [email protected]