IL--Admitted predator priest is still on the job; Victims respond
In a long and troubling new article, the Chicago Tribune asks “Should Chicago priest return to ministry after revelations of teen misconduct?”
To be concise, the answer is no.
Fr. Bruce Wellems admits repeatedly sexually abusing a seven-year-old boy. At the time, Wellems was an older teenager. When confronted with these facts in Los Angeles, Fr. Wellems attacked the messenger, saying reports of his abusive acts had “no factual basis.”
Archbishop Blasé Cupich should not put Fr. Wellems back into priestly ministry. No bishop should. This is a “no brainer.” Why take the risk?
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez won’t let Fr. Wellems work in a parish there. Cupich evidently disagrees. He should hold a news conference and explain his irresponsible behavior with this admitted predator. Cupich should also explain why he’s been secretive about this case.
Fr. Wellems’ backers try to spin this as a story of sin and redemption. That’s disingenuous at best and downright dangerous at worst. This is a story of crime, not sin, and of recklessness, not redemption.
In a bizarre twist, when our group warned California parents and parishioners about Fr. Wellems, he attacked us, saying we’re guilty of “poor judgment” and “victimizing the thousands of families in the parishes where I have worked.”
Catholic officials in at least two states have long kept Catholic families in the dark about Fr. Wellems’ past. If they truly feel he is not a risk to re-offend, why won’t the honor their pledges to be “transparent” and be open and public about Fr. Wellems’ admitted crimes? Why won’t they be honest with parents and let them make their own decisions about whether to trust Fr. Wellems around their kids.
Instead, church officials kept quiet about his past and put children at risk.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is not much better. Although they did remove Fr. Wellems, they posted no public announcement and duped parishioners about the scope and scale of Fr. Wellems’ crimes.
If Fr. Wellems had admitted to embezzling money before he was a priest, we doubt that Catholic officials would be so “forgiving" and let him act as a treasurer.
Making excuses and minimizing crimes by calling them “sins” endangers children. Violating “zero tolerance” pledges by keeping admitted molester priests in ministry puts children in harm’s way.
Fr. Wellems may never be jailed for his crimes. But he can be removed from all work with children and youth. Parishioners can be informed and warned. Children can be kept safer.
It’s too bad that Archbishop Cupich and Archbishop Gomez can’t be trusted to keep their promises to do that.
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)