IL--Victims to Archbishop: Fire your review board
Victims to Archbishop: Fire your review board
They OK’ed admitted child predator for ministry, even after Priest yanked in LA for abusive past
Chicago board refused to meet with victim
Newly exposed documents say cleric would have no unsupervised contact with kids
But cleric still works with kids, presents himself as priest
Archdiocese, Cupich defies zero tolerance vow, group says
What: At a sidewalk news conference, victims of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church will attempt to hand-deliver a letter to the Chicago Archbishop. The letter cites a Chicago Tribune story about an admitted predator priest in Chicago. It also demands that Archbishop Blase Cupich:
- Fire all members of the lay review board for allowing the admitted predator to be reinstated as a priest,
- Remove the cleric from any location and job where he can have access to kids, and
- Make public announcements, post online warnings to all churches, groups, and neighborhoods about the priest’s past.
The letter also:
- Exposes new letters to the victim from church officials that state that the cleric would not be allowed alone with children,
- Shows how Cupich is not following the letter or the spirit of zero tolerance, and
- Highlights how the cleric is still working as a priest around families and children.
Where: Outside of the headquarters of the Chicago Archdiocese
835 N. Rush St. (at Pearson) in Chicago
When: Wednesday, January 6 at 1:30 p.m.
Who: Two-three members of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPNetwork.org), including a Chicago woman who is the organization’s founder and long-time president
Why: Newly exposed documents show that the Archdiocese of Chicago and their lay review board reinstated a priest who admitted to sexually abusing a child, even after church officials promised the victim that cleric would have no unsupervised contact with kids.
As a result, sex abuse victims are giving a letter to Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich demanding that he fire his lay review board members, take action to ensure that an admitted abuser has no contact with children, and keep his promises of zero tolerance when it comes to sexual abuse.
A new page one Chicago Tribune story reveals that a Chicago priest, Fr. Bruce Wellems, has admitted to sexually abusing a seven-year-old, while he was an older teen. Despite the admission and the fact that the priest was removed from the LA Archdioces for breaking the US Catholic Bishops' policy of zero tolerance, the cleric was reinstated in Chicago and still works with families and children. The Chicago Archdiocese Lay Review Board, the group in charge of investigating sex abuse cases, did not meet with Wellems’ victim during their review of the case.
In 2014, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles quietly removed Wellems from a parish because of his past. When members of SNAP met with Los Angeles parishioners, Wellems said that allegations SNAP raised about his past had “no factual basis.” http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/social-affairs/20140910/san-gabriel-priests-past-misconduct-detailed-in-letters-called-smoking-gun.
Wellems did, however, admit to his crimes in the Chicago Tribune.
In March 2015, Wellems was reinstated as a priest by Archbishop Cupich and his lay review board—despite Wellems’ admission and the US Bishops’ policies and promises of zero tolerance. A month later, a member of SNAP reported what they knew about Wellems to the Cook County Department of Children and Family Services. When the Archdiocese learned of the report, they temporarily removed Wellems’ ability to administer sacraments or perform Mass.
Despite the fact that Wellems is not allowed to act as a priest, he was still working with children and presenting himself as a priest in good standing in November 2015. http://www.thegatenewspaper.com/2015/11/back-of-the-yards-unites-to-honor-the-departed/
Members of SNAP are appalled that Wellems is allowed to work with children. “Despite your repeated promises of zero tolerance and transparency, you have decided to protect an admitted predator. Despite your promises of chid safety, you have put innocent and vulnerable children in the past of an admitted predator, who has lied about his past, lashed out at victims, and covered-up his crimes,” the letter says.
“It doesn’t matter if Wellems was 16 or 60 when he committed the crime,” said Barbara Blaine, SNAP President. “The Pope himself said that there is no place in the priesthood for men who molest children. All of the Wellems’ work cannot take away the pain he caused to his victim or the fact that he covered up his abusive past. Archbishop Cupich is defying the spirit and the rule of zero tolerance by allowing Wellems to present himself as a safe and trustworthy priest. Other bishops have been forced to resign for lesser cover-ups than this.”
Blaine says that is also shouldn’t matter that the abuse happened before Wellems became a priest. “You wouldn’t want your child’s second grade teacher to say, ‘I sexually abused a child, but it was before I became a teacher, so it’s okay.’”
The group believes that the only way to ensure the safety of Chicago’s children is by removing Wellems from any post and organization where he could have contact with children, making public announcements about Wellems and his crimes, and encouraging victims to report to law enforcement.
Joelle Casteix, SNAP Southern California Region, 949 322 7434, [email protected] Barbara Blaine, SNAP President, 312 399 4747, [email protected] David Clohessy, SNAP Executive Director, 314 566 9790, [email protected]