MA - SNAP statement on secrecy in the Fall River diocese

We're here today for 3 reasons. First, we want to urge everyone who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups in the Fall River area to come forward and to call police, expose wrongdoing, protect others and start healing. When victims, witnesses and whistleblowers stay silent, predators walk free and kids get hurt. But when we find the courage and strength to step forward, at least there’s a chance for healing, justice and prevention.

It is almost always possible to recover from childhood trauma. It is sometimes possible to get justice in the civil and criminal courts. And it’s sometimes possible to prevent future child sex crimes and cover ups.

But staying silent isn’t the way to do this. This can only happen when victims speak up.

Second, we want Fall River's bishop to take three steps regarding the self-serving and callous waiver that parents were given to sign - at one local parish, possibly more – relieving Catholic Church and school officials of responsibility for harm to kids.

The bishop should

--discipline the persons responsible for it.
--explain how this happened.
--promise, in writing, that he won't use that waiver again.

The safety of children – not the protection of church assets - should be the top priority for all Catholic officials. It’s insulting, hurtful and reckless for a bishop to ignore or sanction any effort that makes it harder for families to expose child molesters. Catholic officials should be making it easier – not harder – for anyone who sees, suspects or suffers clergy sex crimes and cover ups to take legal action to expose such wrongdoing.

Third, we want Fall River’s bishop to aggressively seek out anyone who may have been hurt by any current or former church employee - ordained, or lay, living or deceased, still in the area or living elsewhere. In particular, we want the bishop to seek out those who may have been abused by two priests who were "outed" earlier this year: Fr. James Nickel and Fr. Joseph F. Byrne.

In April, Fr. Nickel, was "outed" by Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who disclosed that church officials paid a settlement to a man who was sexually violated as a child by Fr. Nickel.

In May, Fr. Byrne was suspended from his parish because of credible child sex abuse allegations.

It’s irresponsible for Fall River Catholic officials to do little or nothing to try and find others who may have been hurt by these predators. If there’s only one other victim – trapped in shame, silence and self-blame – the church hierarchy must use its vast resources to find and help that suffering individual start recovering from this devastating childhood trauma.

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant