IL--Victims blast Congressman for backing ousted priest
For immediate release: Tuesday, October 6
Statement by SNAP leader Kate Bochte, 630 768 1860, firstname.lastname@example.org
Shame on Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) for issuing a statement praising a just-suspended priest, Father Marco Mercado, who engaged in “an inappropriate relationship.”http://1.usa.gov/1L2lCkl
The Congressman should apologize for his insensitive move.
Notice that archdiocesan officials did NOT say “an allegedly inappropriate relationship.” http://www.archchicago.org/
Adults have a simple choice: we can make it easier or harder for victims of sexual violence and manipulation to speak up. Gutierrez is making it harder.
We can also back the often-powerful accused or the usually-powerless accuser. Gutierrez is backing the powerful.
What does Gutierrez hope to achieve by publicly praising an alleged wrongdoer? It may be politically smart. But it’s morally wrong.
Somewhere in Gutierrez’ district is a fifteen-year-old girl who’s being molested right now by her step dad or teacher or minister. She’s considering reporting the abuser. But he tells her “If you speak up, no one will believe you.”
Then, she hears about a congressman praising a publicly accused priest. She thinks “My perpetrator’s probably right. There’s no sense telling anyone. No one will believe me.”
Is that what Gutierrez wants – to intimidate and depress victims of sexual violence and manipulation into staying silent?
If Fr. Mercado met a non-Catholic and was honest about his status as a priest, that’s one thing. But usually, these “relationships” involving priests are “inappropriate” because they involve Catholics who have been raised since birth to respect, revere, trust and obey priests, who, according to church teachings, can get a person into heaven by forgiving sins. That’s an inherently unequal relationship, and one that invites abuse and manipulation.
But regardless of the particulars of Fr. Mercado’s wrongdoing, it’s wrong for a politician to publicly back an accused wrongdoer in ways that deter other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from stepping forward.
Finally, Archbishop Blasé Cupich should use this opportunity to teach his flock how to act appropriately when abuse reports involving clergy surface. He should insist that they support accused clerics privately, not publicly, so they don’t discourage others from reporting sexual crimes and misdeeds.
If you have any information or suspicions about Fr. Mercado, please speak up now. It’s possible he has done more than “inappropriate” actions. He may have done illegal acts too. And there may be several people who have been manipulated and hurt by a cleric who claims to be safe and celibate.
(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)