IA--Victims challenge SC bishop on abuse
For immediate release, Thursday, December 10, 2015
Many of us are confused by and skeptical of Sioux City's bishop's claim that he's starting a new program to teach kids about avoiding child molesters. We suspect it's just a public relations move. We hope we’re wrong.
The "new program" is touted in the Catholic diocesan newspaper under the headline “Diocese of Sioux City Promulgates Safe Environment Program in Catholic Schools.”
Such a program was supposed to be set up 13 years ago when bishops were pressured to adopt their first-ever national church abuse policy. According to Article 12 of that policy in 2002 (called the Charter for the Protection of Children and Youth), dioceses are to "provide education and training for children. . .and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children and young people."
We urge Bishop Walker Nickless to hold a news conference, give more information and take questions from reporters about this supposedly “new program.” We ask for other concrete actions:
~~Make a commitment to report to civil authorities, police and child protective agencies, of abuse or a reasonable suspicion of abuse previous to any church action; aggressively encourage victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police and prosecutors about known and suspected clergy sex crimes and cover ups in the Sioux City area, no matter when they took place.
~~Visit every parish to seek any child harmed by sex abuse and offer aid and comfort
~~Open the books, notify each parish that has be plagued with clergy who have abused children; permanently and prominently post on the diocesan website the names, photos and work histories of every single child molesting cleric who spent time in Sioux City Diocese.
~~Make any new “Safe Environment Program” real by speaking from the pulpit; confirm the errors of the past; encourage awareness of parents, teachers and the community of the dangers
Dozens of US bishops are clearly worried about the new, highly-acclaimed film “Spotlight.” It details how dedicated journalists and brave victims exposed decades of abuse and cover up in the Boston Archdiocese.
Those revelations led to thousands of news stories across the US about nearly-identical crimes and cover-ups in virtually every diocese, including Sioux City. I was raped and abused by Father Murphy when I was twelve at Blessed Sacrament parish. Murphy was a known child molester and they transferred him to Blessed Sacrament when he got caught in Fort Dodge. My abuse ended only when Murphy got caught molesting another child at Blessed Sacrament and Bishop Mueller transferred him once again. The widespread cover up of clergy sex abusers of children was not limited to Boston, or Chicago, or Dallas, or Los Angeles, it happened here in Sioux City.
In response to the exposure cover ups as revealed in the movie Spotlight, many bishops are now sending out self-serving “news releases” that contain little or no “news,” but are designed to mollify parishioners.
We hope that’s not what Nickless is doing here. Regardless, we hope he’ll aggressively prod victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to call police and prosecutors about known and suspected clergy sex crimes and cover ups in the Sioux City area, no matter when they took place. And we hope he’ll permanently and prominently post on his diocesan website the names, photos and work histories of every single child molesting cleric who spent time in his diocese.
(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)
DIOCESE OF SIOUX CITY PROMULGATES SAFE ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM IN CATHOLIC SCHOOLS
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As Bishop of the Diocese of Sioux City, I am firmly committed to the safety of all people, especially children and the vulnerable, who participate in our parish, school, and diocesan programs. The current Safe Environment Program employed in our diocese is well-designed and working well to meet that goal. This program helps to ensure that all children and young people are kept safe. Our safe environment policies and practices have focused on educating parents, teachers, clergy, and all volunteers who work with children about the dangers of child predators, how to be aware of the behaviors exhibited by those who intend to victimize children, and how to report such behavior.
We recognize, in addition, that the prevention of child sexual abuse requires more than adult awareness, education, and training about the nature and scope of the problem. We must also give our children the tools they need to overcome the advances of someone who intends to do them harm. The newly-available Teaching Touching Safety curriculum is a tool designed to assist parents, teachers, catechists, youth ministers, and volunteers in this important task.
The U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued guidelines for training programs in Catholic schools in order to ensure that children are given the tools they need to keep themselves safe. The Teaching Touching Safety curriculum, produced by the Virtus Company, through the National Catholic Risk Retention Group, meets these guidelines.
By this letter, I hereby promulgate the Teaching Touching Safety curriculum, for the training of children in the schools and parishes of the Diocese of Sioux City.
Please join me in our ongoing efforts to ensure that all vulnerable people who come to Christ in our parishes, schools, and diocesan programs do so in a safe, holy, and respectful environment.
May our Lord Jesus Christ, our most merciful king, grant us his grace and peace, and increase our obedience and fidelity!
The Most Reverend R. Walker Nickless, Bishop of Sioux City