IL--Cardinal Francis George to release secret sex abuse files
For immediate release: Friday, Oct. 31
Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago, president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com)
“Cardinal Francis George will soon disclose more priest sex abuse files that have been secret for years.”
We urge him to do so soon, but not on a day on which the disclosures will be "buried" in other news (such as on Halloween, election day or the eve of election day or any Friday). When forced to reveal information about predator priests, Catholic officials typically do this self-serving kind of public relations maneuver. And it's wrong. It undermines their claim to care about "transparency."
We also call on George to
--release as much information as possible,
--do it in a “user-friendly” way,
--provide photos of the offenders,
--include religious order clerics (like Jesuits and Franciscans) and
--post it on parish websites (not just the archdiocesan website).
Finally, we urge him to not “over-redact,” and disingenuously exploit alleged concern for victims' privacy by hiding more information than is needed.
It goes without saying that all names and identifying information about victims should be withheld. But often, in these cases, Catholic officials go way overboard with the Magic Markers and cross out far more information than they should. Then, they claim they’re safeguarding victim’s privacy, when in fact they’re really safeguarding their own reputations.
We urge George to act with real transparency, not self-serving partial transparency.
Grand jury reports on clergy sex crimes and cover ups in Philadelphia, for example, struck a very good balance between protecting the safety of vulnerable children and the privacy of wounded adults. It kept track of the victims which made the exposure of the truth more complete.
For the well-being of children, adult victims should have some identifying information. If there’s no identifying information, not even phrases like “Jane Doe 1” or “John Doe 2,” then the truth in the documents still remains hidden. Of course, an important part of the truth is that church officials were usually warned by Doe 1 or Doe 2’s mom long before the predator began assaulting Doe 3.
Finally, we urge Chicago Catholics and citizens to take three steps.
First, read the records carefully and focus on what’s missing, especially two things. Often, the names and roles of “enablers” are withheld– current and former Catholic employees who knew of or suspected child sex crimes and ignored or hid them. These individuals should be named and punished. And often, details are withheld that show just how many years Catholic officials kept kids in harm’s way by concealing these crimes.
Second, ask loved ones about these predator priests. Specifically urge them to speak up if they saw, suspected or suffered crimes or misdeeds by these clerics, and to call secular authorities, not church officials.
Third, remember that this information is only now belatedly and grudgingly being released because of courageous victims and their lawyers. George and other Catholic officials will claim that this is an entirely voluntary move on their part. That’s disingenuous. The church hierarchy continues, for the most part, to reveal information about clergy sex crimes and cover ups only when they’re forced to by external pressure.
(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)