Letter to AG Hawley
Sept. 20, 2018
Dear Attorney General Hawley:
We're concerned about your inquiry into abuse and cover up in Missouri catholic dioceses. We desperately want it to be helpful. Based on our nearly 30 years of experience with this crisis, here are some of our recommendations:
1) Don't play politics and rush it.
You've already said that a cursory overview of Archdiocesan files show that they are 'voluminous.' You've also publicly committed to hearing from victims. To do this right, it will take months, not weeks.
A doctor's first duty is to do no harm. That should be yours as well. A hasty, inadequate review, rushed to completion before Nov. 7 for seemingly partisan purposes will only rub more salt into the already deep and often still fresh wounds of hundreds of victims of chld molesting clerics. It's far more responsible to take a careful, thorough approach than leave victims, parents, police, prosecutors and parishioners feeling betrayed by a hurried inquiry apparently timed to meet an electoral deadline.
2) Team up with a local prosecutor or two.
A real investigation must involve subpoenas and sworn testimony. You claim you can't do this without local prosecutors. We hear conflicting views about this. But if you're correct, then you have a choice: do a shoddy probe on your own or do a real investigation involving local prosecutors. There are more than 100 such prosecutors across the state. Surely you can find a few to lend a hand in this effort.
If this were a terrorist group, you'd cooperate with Homeland Security and other federal agencies. If this were a drug cartel, you'd cooperate with the Drug Enforcement Agency and other specialized agencies. Why would you not want to cooperate with local prosecutors in this inquiry?
3) Expand your inquiry to include the hundreds of proven, admitted, and credibly accused child molesting clerics who have quietly been sent, over decades, into the Archdiocese to live, work and/or be 'treated' at church facilities in the city, Webster Groves, Robertsville and Dittmer.
Over the years, some of these priests have been put into local parishes and hospitals and have abused again here (Fr. Romano Ferraro of New York, Fr. Fred A. Lenczycki of Illinois). Others (like Fr. Darell Mitchell of Washington) worked at local parishes but were ousted when SNAP alerted the public to their presence here.
No matter who sent or paid these potentially dangerous men, some of them had access to Missouri kids. Their presence here should be exposed, explained and investigated.
4) Expand your inquiry to include religious order priests, who comprise roughly 1/3 of the clerics working in the Archdiocese (especially clerics like Fr. William Cristensen, Fr. Robert Osborne and Br. John Woulfe and others who worked in schools like Chaminade, Vianney and St. Louis University).
5) Devise some accountablity mechanism.
In our experience, Catholic officials will adopt - on paper at least - virtually every recommendation your office advances. Then, as public attention wanes (and it always does), they'll go back to "business as usual." It's crucial that you not let this happen. We strongly urge you to look at what other attorneys general have done, especially in New Hampshire, in terms of setting up accountability mechanisms.
6) Do aggressive, repeated outreach to victims.
If you really want to hear from victims, you must show them - by your deeds, not your words - that you are sincere. Having been first betrayed by predator priests and then, often, by callous church officials, most victims are highly suspicious of authority figures. Use your bully pulpit and your website to assure victims, witnesses and whistleblowers that you'll respect their confidentiality, treat them with sensitivity and take them seriously. Hold news conferences begging them to overcome their fear and shame and contact local law enforcement and your office.
7) Set up a hotline for abuse victims to call.
This approach obviously worked in Pennsylvania and is working now in New Jersey. Again, it shows a level of resolve and commitment that will make a difference to victims.
8) Hold public hearings, both 'open' and 'closed,' and invite witnesses, whistleblowers and witnesses.
9) Involve experts.
Church rules and practices are complex. You won't get the files you need if you aren't even sure what to ask for. Often, confusing and Latin names are usedm "sub secreto" files, for example. There are several veteran and nationally known experts (Fr. Thomas Doyle and Patrick Wall, to name just two) who have helped many in law enforcement get their hands on long hidden church records. You should take advantage of their expertise.
We look forward to meeting with you to discuss these matters, and others, very soon.