SNAP's Letter to Attorney Generals Along the US-Mexico Border
Dear Attorney General,
In a time where cases of sexual violence perpetrated within religious institutions are being reckoned with like never before, we are writing to you to urge your attention to a critical issue affecting citizens in your state.
The linked article thoughtfully and factually expresses the growth of the Hispanic community within the US Catholic church. The geographic growth is focused for the most part on the states that share a border with Mexico. We at SNAP continue to believe that children in this population are at high risk for experiencing clergy sexual abuse for several reasons:
- Some Hispanics are undocumented and thus believe they have no power to speak out, either by themselves or through their parents.
- Hispanic clergy retain outsized perceived authority among the Spanish-speaking Catholic community, which creates an unhealthy balance of power that can be abused by clerics and the hierarchy if child sex crimes are reported.
- Catholic schools offer scholarships to low-income families. Because parents view education as a way "up" for their children, the reporting of abuse in schools likely is suppressed, with scholarships used as a lever against victims and their families.
It is common knowledge that only a small fraction of sex crimes against children is reported to police. According to some experts, only 12% of child sexual abuse is ever reported to the authorities. We at SNAP have tracked media reports of Catholic abusers arrested for crimes against children over the past 24 months. During that time, approximately 50 priests or lay employees have been charged or investigated for current crimes where the victim is still underage. Using a "12%" metric, that means that it is likely that almost 420 child sex crimes have likely occurred in Catholic institutions in the past two years, nearly three per individual diocese.
Hispanic priests in the US clergy only account for about 7% of the total number of clerics. Yet among the 50 Catholics that have been arrested in the past two years, approximately 20% involve Latino clergy. These numbers make us believe that the Spanish-speaking Catholic community may be targeted in greater proportions.
This is a problem that will only be solved through intervention by secular law enforcement and we believe that your office can be a key part of the solution. Attorneys general in states like Michigan, New Jersey, and Virginia have begun investigations into clergy abuse and have netted arrests that get dangerous men off the streets and help protect children and vulnerable adults from the scourge of abuse. We believe that if you were to start an investigation into these crimes in your state, you too would find opportunities to protect at-risk children and secure justice for those who have already been abused.
In particular, we believe the poor communities along the southern border are at greater risk and are least likely to report abuse or fully exercise their rights as whistle blowers. We urge your office to take steps to help investigate these crimes and protect the most vulnerable in your state.
Board Member, SNAP
Executive Director, SNAP