Letter from SNAP and ECA sent to AGs Investigating Clergy Abuse
To the Attorneys General currently investigating cases of clergy sex abuse,
We are leaders of two of the United States’ foremost groups dealing with the issue of clergy sex abuse. While our organizations personnel and makeup may differ, we stand together in order to support survivors of clerical abuse and to advocate for change that prevents future cases of abuse from ever occurring in the first place.
For decades, we have heard promises from church officials regarding their efforts to clean-up the culture of cover-up and abuse that has permeated the Catholic Church. Yet it has been the actions taken by you that has finally given us hope for true, meaningful reform.
This week in Baltimore, America’s bishops gathered together and approved several changes in their internal policies related to sexual abuse. True to what we have seen in the past, these changes include no specific involvement from secular officials concerning sex crimes by clergy and church officials, and do not require the reporting of allegations to local, state or federal law enforcement. These measures, in effect, further codify and cement a system of internal reporting and investigation that could impede current investigations you are conducting. Once again, under the euphemism of 'reform,' church leaders in the U.S. have created, as they have for years, another iteration of a self-policing mechanism that does little but protect and hide criminal abusers and complicit bishops from justice.
The church does not operate a self-governing country when it comes to criminal acts against children or vulnerable adults. The changes agreed to by the bishops this week, absent the religious language and framing, is a human resource policy that protects its senior managers from reporting. Even worse, it maintained a long-standing corporate practice that all evidence of criminal acts by its top company officials, along with the investigations and determinations of crimes, will be conducted internally. Additionally, and most significantly, all allegations and criminal evidence against a bishop, along with the disposition of his case, will remain under the authority and control of an entity outside the United States, in this case, the Vatican.
So we are writing to you today, urging you to step further into this arena and ensure that the work you have done to bring light to these institutional crimes and failures is not undone. We are asking you to review the policies that the bishops have implemented in Baltimore, and which are now required to be followed by all bishops, clergy, church officials and church employees in your state.
We believe that the measures that the bishops have passed need a larger review from state and US law enforcement officials to ensure that these policies and reporting directives do not obstruct, impede or violate state laws. We are hopeful that your office will be able to review these directives under the auspices of your ongoing investigations and will be able to reinforce to the public that all allegations of sex crimes by clergy and institutional policies and decisions that cover up those crimes, no matter when or where it occurred, must be reported and investigated by secular law enforcement, not church officials.
Executive Director, SNAP
Founding Member, US Spokesperson
Ending Clergy Abuse Global
President, ECA Global