IL - Survivors Group Offers Amendments to Strengthen Bishops' Sexual Abuse Proposal

For Immediate Release

Paul Steidler, Effective Communications
703-467-5981 (office); 703-587-3462 (cell)

Group Stresses Need for Accountability

Historic Meeting with Cardinals Also Expected on Wednesday

Chicago, IL/June 11, 2002 - The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) today announced that it has put forward 14 proposed detailed amendments to the U.S. Catholic Bishops' draft Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

"SNAP and the vast majority of Catholics, want the Bishops to incorporate three clear principles in the charter," said David Clohessy, Director - SNAP. "These principles are:

1. Assistance to victims and their families.

2. The removal of all known sex offenders from the priesthood.

3. The removal of any church leader who aided and abetted priest felony sex offenders to commit further crimes after being detected," said Clohessy.

The specific recommendations, with a preamble thanking the Catholic people for their strong and unwavering support for sex abuse victims and children in general, are attached to this news announcement and can also be found shortly at: .

"The current draft suggestions are fundamentally and fatally flawed," said Barbara Blaine, Founder and President, SNAP. "They fail to include any enforcement mechanisms and leave gaping holes in implementation details solely to the interpretation of individual Bishops, many of whom have violated the spirit of laws that protect the most vulnerable among us. We hope the Bishops take very seriously each of our proposed changes," said Blaine.

SNAP also expects that three Roman Catholic Cardinals will meet with a group of 25 clerical sexual survivors on Wednesday, June 12 from 5:00-6:15 p.m., central time, in the Dallas Room of the Fairmont Hotel, in Dallas, Texas.

The meeting was sought by SNAP in early May and originally announced by SNAP on June 6. However, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops canceled the meeting upon learning that SNAP was a party to a newly filed lawsuit that sought to end confidentiality agreements between sex abuse victims and the Church. SNAP has agreed to permanently withdraw from the lawsuit.

At the meeting with the Cardinals, survivors are expected to provide brief personal introductions, discuss the impact that childhood sexual abuse has had on their lives, and suffer suggestions on how the Church can help victims to heal and prevent future abuse.

While the meeting with the Cardinals and the survivors is closed to the press, a joint press briefing session is expected to take place afterward in the International Ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel.


As victims of sexual abuse by priests we wish to thank the Catholic people of America -- conservative and liberal, young and old, men and women for their outpouring of love, support and solidarity with us. Catholics have spoken to us with a single voice. Their sincere hopes and heartfelt prayers for our recovery and happiness have lifted our spirits and mobilized our courage during this difficult and challenging time.

The deliberate efforts on the part of church authorities to conceal from Catholics the true scope and nature of felony sex abuse by priests have left all Catholics mournful and dismayed. Catholics are a reasonable and forgiving people. But they also know that true reconciliation and healing requires respect for the law and professional accountability by leaders. They fully grasp that this crisis is not only about felony sex offenders that have molested and raped generations of Catholic children but the moral
failure of church leaders to protect children and youth from predatory priests.

Catholics are sympathetic with the many demands placed upon Cardinals and Bishops and Religious Order Provincials to live out their leadership duties. They are not sympathetic with aiding and abetting those who commit crimes against children because they happen to be priests or religious. Catholics want felony sex offenders punished and removed from the priesthood. And they want any church leader who allowed a known sex offender priest to remain undetected in ministry or to be moved to another public ministry removed from office.

We victims, our families and the vast majority of Catholics want the Bishops to adopt three clear principles followed by their swift enactment:

(1) The removal of all known sex offenders from the priesthood.

(2) The removal of any church leader who aided and abetted priest felony sex offenders to commit further crimes after being detected.

(3) Assistance to victims and their families.

While the Charter proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee partially reflects these concerns it completely ignores others. Therefore, the following amendments need to be added in order to meet the true spirit of the Charter to protect children and young people.

Section 1: To Promote the Healing and Reconciliation with Victims of Sexual Abuse of Minors.

Amendment 1: The church should not involve itself in any activity that is outside the scope of its professional expertise. Therefore, every diocese should refer to independent and qualified agencies any mental health or legal concerns that victims have when contacting a diocese. It is professionally improper and a conflict of interest, for instance, for the church to conduct criminal investigations or mental health assessments and treatment of victims. The church must, however, embrace its pastoral and spiritual responsibilities to victims and their families who seek these services from the Catholic Church. To meet this obligation, each diocese must work with and include victims of clergy sexual abuse in the development and implementation of its spiritual and pastoral outreach efforts, including the proper training of clergy and lay ministers to work with victims, their families and the effected parishes and communities.

Section 2: To Guarantee an Effective Response to Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors.

Amendment 1: Every Cardinal, Bishop and Religious Order Provincial will lobby state lawmakers to place all clergy as state-mandated reporters of sexual abuse.

Amendment 2: Every Cardinal, Bishop and Religious Order Provincial will lobby state lawmakers to extend or eliminate the criminal and civil statute of limitations on child sexual abuse.

Amendment 3: Every Cardinal, Bishop and Religious Order Provincial will support a federal investigation concerning the moving of priest felony sex offenders across state lines or international borders without reporting to civil authorities.

Amendment 4: At the completion of the Dallas Conference, every Cardinal, Bishop and Religious Order Provincial will immediately release to the District Attorney of its jurisdiction all files and information concerning sexual abuse and misconduct by priests in that diocese within its possession.

Amendment 5: Every Cardinal, Bishop and Religious Order Provincial will remove from the priesthood any priest with a confirmed or credible report of sexual misconduct or abuse.

Amendment 6: Every Cardinal, Bishop and Religious Order Provincial will petition the Holy See to remove from office any Cardinal, Bishop or Religious Order Provincial that transferred to a parish or public ministry any known priest sex offender.

Amendment 7: Every Cardinal, Bishop and Religious Order Provincial will stop using hardball legal tactics in current cases pending on behalf of victims.

Amendment 8: Every Cardinal, Bishop, and Religious Order Provincial will stop hiding behind statutes of limitations in current cases pending and acknowledge that the church owes a moral duty to assist victims in their healing by offering reasonable options for victims to settle their lawsuits and move on with their healing. Further, church leaders will offer to compensate all victims for the abuse they have suffered.

Section 3: To Assure the Accountability of Our Procedures

Amendment 1: The establishment of a truly independent national review board to determine which Cardinal, Bishop and Religious Order Provincial re-assigned or allowed to remain in ministry any felony priest sex offender.

Amendment 2: The establishment of disciplinary procedures, including removal from office, for any Cardinal, Bishop and Religious Order Provincial who re-assigned or allowed to remain in ministry a known felony priest sex offenders.

Amendment 3: The periodic and timely review of these procedures and their compliance.

Amendment 4: After the removal of a priest due to criminal sexual behavior, assisting the ex-priest by the offer of proper treatment and rehabilitation efforts for as long as would be required.

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