IL - Victims ask for meeting with Pope Francis

  • Victims ask for meeting with Pope Francis
  • They want “real dialogue” with him about child sex abuse prevention
  • New Pontiff already paid visit with Cardinal Law, who covered up sex crimes for decades in Boston
  • Group says: “If he can meet with Cardinal Law, how can the new Pope not be willing and ready to meet with us”

Holding signs and childhood photos at a news conference, clergy sex abuse victims will announce that they’re asking:
--the new head of the global Catholic church to meet with them soon, and
--Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George to push for that meeting.
They will also discuss a list of 20 “action steps” they want to see Pope Francis to take in his first 100 days in office.

TODAY, Friday, March 15 at 11:30 am

Outside Chicago archdiocesan headquarters (“chancery office”) located at 835 N. Rush St. in Chicago, IL

A Milwaukee man who is the Midwest Director of an international support called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (

A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is writing Pope Francis seeking a meeting to discuss how to stop and prevent current and future child sex crimes and cover ups.

Over the past decade, leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, have rarely tried to meet with Catholic officials, saying such efforts over the group’s first 15 years were largely “frustrating and fruitless.” fruitless.” Instead, the group has focused its advocacy work largely on secular officials to reform laws and prosecute those who have committed or covered child sex crimes.

But SNAP has expanded into more nations over the past few years, and “we now better understand just how helpless and fearful so many survivors across the world feel, especially in developing countries and countries where this crisis remains largely unspoken,” said SNAP Midwest Director Peter Isely of Milwaukee. “So despite years of unproductive talks with the church hierarchy, we feel driven, for the safety of at risk children, to try again with this new pontiff.”

SNAP is also pushing for Chicago’s Cardinal George to assist SNAP is helping to set up the meeting. Since Cardinal George has spoken repeatedly in the past two weeks leading up to the conclave about child sex abuse, SNAP believes that, to show his sincerity, he could help put this meeting together.

In his travels, Pope Benedict met with a handful of victims in a few nations including the US and the UK. SNAP was largely unimpressed with those events, arguing that they were largely symbolic with little practical effect on the crisis.

SNAP routinely urges those with knowledge or suspicions of child sex crimes to contact secular authorities, not church figures.

“We stand by that advice,” said SNAP director David Clohessy of St. Louis, who is in Rome. “That’s almost always the safest and quickest way to get a dangerous priest away from kids.”

Still, Clohessy said, SNAP cannot overlook the “immense power” of the pope to make “sweeping changes” in what the group describes as “a long-standing, deeply-rooted and still devastating crisis in the church.”

Twice in the last week, papal spokesman Fr. Frederico Lombardi specifically mentioned SNAP by name in unflattering ways. (

Still, SNAP is willing to meet with the pope because “he has immense power and could, with the stroke of a pen, make radical steps to keep kids much safer,” according to the group’s Midwest director Peter Isely.

For info on how to contact SNAP leaders, click here


Dear Pope Francis,

We are survivors of childhood rape and sexual assault by catholic clergy around the world.

You have chosen as your namesake a man who was the one of the greatest reformers in church history, a figure whose memory is universally beloved because he stood for justice. Across the globe, as you know, tens of thousands of childhood survivors of sexual abuse by clergy – priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians and others - are by coming forward and demanding justice, accountability, prevention and transparency. We believe they are, by their courageous example, the “St. Francis” of the modern church.

Your predecessor met only a few times with a few carefully chosen victims in tightly choreographed settings, as he visited nations where this crisis had reached a fever pitch. We write today seeking a different kind of meeting – one in which our respective organizations – yours, huge and struggling, and ours, small and struggling – can begin to work together to safeguard children across the globe (not merely make gestures when forced to do so by external pressures).

Despite the differences we may have, we desperately hope we might be able – and you might be willing – to calmly talk with us about ways to better protect children from the devastating, lifelong effects of horrific childhood sexual trauma.

One of the famous sayings of St. Francis is: “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” We believe that as daunting as it seems to rid the church of child sex offenders and corrupt church officials, doing so is necessary, for the sake of justice, healing and prevention. Surely a meeting between us – survivors who have labored in this vineyard for 25 years – and you, the new pontiff of the global church, could be a helpful way to perhaps begin this crucial work in a more positive way.

St. Francis once said “The deeds you do may be the only sermon persons will hear.” The deeds you do or omit do – during your first days as Pope about the greatest moral challenge to the modern church—the abuse of children and the cover up of that abuse—will indeed be the only sermon that many in the world today are going to hear from you. We hope those deeds will be practical, proven and effective steps to stop child molesting clerics and deter complicit church supervisors from concealing their crimes.

David Clohessy of St. Louis (314 566 9790, [email protected])

Peter Isely of Milwaukee (414-429-7259, [email protected])

Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach CA (949 322 7434, [email protected])

Barbara Dorris of St. Louis (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, [email protected])

Showing 4 comments

  • Tom Sadloskos
    commented 2013-04-26 18:19:33 -0500
    Even if the Pope meets with the victims, I doubt very much he will implement any changes that will benefit potential victims of abuse. Less than a week into his papacy, the Vatican was already circling the wagons, deiending his record as a Bishop in Argentina. What does that tell you? Obviously, he followed the instructions the Vatican issued regarding covering these things up and protecting the priest, to hell with the victims. Why would he make a change now? So far, he’s only mentioned this issue once, and his instructions were to continue along the lines Benedict implemented. Again, that was cover up and keep things quiet. The only way to fight this, is to keep the church under a glaring spotlight,to aggressively prosecute not only the priests who actually commit the acts, but the Bishops and Cardinals who take part in the coverups and are equally as guilty. If this takes place, and its constantly spashed across the headlines, this plus the money they have to pay out in damages, will make the Pope act.Silence on the subject, is the church’s greatest ally.
  • Lani Halter
    commented 2013-03-29 15:46:45 -0500
    Dear David, Peter, Joelle and Barbara,

    Please let the rest of us know if this March 15, 2013 letter signed by the four of you, was ever acknowledged?

    Is there a way to know if it was actually delivered to at least the Pope’s secretary?

    It’s frustrating to think that so much intelligent and heartfelt effort goes into your letters and your requests for action, frustrating in that they may not ever “see the light of day” in terms of being read anywhere, but here…let alone, read by the “addressee”.

    So, please try to follow up on this particular letter. And, please let us all know the results of your follow up. Perhaps, this Cardinal George in Chicago that you mention in this posting, will be able to find out, and let you know.

    Thank you,
    Lani Halter
  • Lani Halter
    commented 2013-03-18 16:30:57 -0500
    Monday, March 18, 2013
    Mr. Clohessy, I am wondering if you have received any acknowledgement from the vatican and/or the Pope regarding your letter requesting a meeting? If he has received it, I pray to God, that he says “Yes.” that he will meet with you as the founder and representative of all the SNAP members. Saying yes to you should not be difficult for a new pope who chose to liken himself to St. Francis of Assisi.
    If he has not responded, please send your letter again, before you leave Rome and the Vatican. There is still time for him to reconsider not having responded to you and your/our request. If the pope hasn’t yet had an epiphany on this matter of pedophile priests and laity, maybe God and the Trinity, in it’s infinite wisdom will cause the new pope to experieince a “seismic shift in perspective”, while you are still there. I pray that he does!
    Thank you for all your continued, conscientious, and hard, work on behalf of all the children and surviving victims, Mr. Clohessy!
    Lani Halter
  • Lani Halter
    commented 2013-03-15 14:13:32 -0500
    It’s noon, here in California. I’m sorry that the ch. 7 “eyewitness” news, did not carry Mr. Isely’s Chicago, IL protest. I suppose it was actually happening at 10am local time? I am glad to learn that you may have an ally in Chicago’s cardinal George. In fact, I pray that you do, and that he will assist in negotiating what used to be referred to as a “papal audience” (I guess?). I agree with all of you at SNAP, that this new pope could make and bring about these important changes in the world’s catholic church parishes and schools and charities. I agree with you that in fact, all things considered, this may be remarkably simple for HIM to achieve. With regards meeting with members of SNAP, all he has to do is say, “Yes.”

    And, with regards to changing the global church in dealing with pedophiles IN the church, i do not believe that it would be “difficult” for him, the Pope, to enact the changes and actions you are suggesting. Particularly since it was reported here this morning that he gave a homily to the cardinals there, saying that they should all return to do more of the works of Christ and the Gospel. He must also be mindful of Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:41 and Luke 17:2.

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