For immediate release: February 21, 2024
At a press conference on the 5th anniversary of Pope Francis’ abuse summit, Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability and an attorney for two women who were victimized by Fr. Marko Rupnik, Laura Sgrò, JCD, call on Pope Francis to begin an investigation of who protected the cleric. SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, stands in solidarity with this request.
Texas Catholic priest arrested on multiple child sex charges; SNAP urges Church outreach
For Immediate Release, February 15, 2024
A Catholic priest in Brownsville, Texas, has been arrested for multiple sex crimes against a child. The accusations include continuous sexual abuse of a child, continuous trafficking of persons, sexual assault of a child, and sexual performance of a child. SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, wants the local bishop to reach out to and encourage any other victims and witnesses, as well as those may have suspected criminal behavior, to come forward to law enforcement.
Fr. Fernando Gonzalez Ortega was removed from active ministry by Bishop Daniel E. Flores on February 3rd, 2024, just one day after the accusations were reported to the Diocese. While we are grateful for the Bishop’s prompt action, we believe he should and could have done more. Specifically, he should have shared the priest’s most recent assignment, as well as his complete history in the Diocese, in his statement. The Bishop also should and could go to each and every location within his Diocese where Fr. Ortega worked and beg the people there who might know something about the charges to contact the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the crimes.
The District Attorney’s Offices identified Fr. Ortega’s most recent parish as St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Brownsville. Given what we know about child sex crimes, and considering that the victim in this case is now an adult, we cannot help but wonder if there are others out there sitting alone in pain and in silence. At age 52, it seems likely that Fr. Ortega has had a long career in the Brownville Diocese. We have seen time and time again that abusers seek opportunities to perpetrate their crimes in trusting faith communities. We cannot help but wonder if Fr. Ortega joined the priesthood to gain access to children. Only 1 in 9 cases of child sexual abuse is reported while the abuse is ongoing, so there is a clear need for Bishop Flores to initiate outreach. People who may be reluctant to come forward may do so if encouraged by a high-ranking Church official.
By our count, this is the 4thth arrest of a Catholic cleric or employee this year, which makes two things absolutely plain. First, the clergy abuse scandal is neither over nor a thing of the past, as Catholic officials are wont to say frequently. Second, internal controls and policies do not do enough to prevent dangerous men from becoming clerics, and cannot stop those men from abusing others with their newfound power. Clearly there is a need for a complete overhaul of how the Church handles the problem of sexual abuse.
We believe this starts with complete transparency being forced on these institutions by outside, secular investigations, and by allowing time-barred victims to have their day in court. Parishes, Catholic schools, and even society will become safer with these actions.
CONTACT: Eduardo Lopez de Casa, SNAP Board of Directors, SNAP Houston ([email protected], 832-641-6319); Patti Koo, SNAP San Antonio ([email protected] 956-648-7385); Zac Zepeda, SNAP San Antonio ([email protected] 210-317-7511); Paul Petersen, SNAP Board of Directors, SNAP Dallas ([email protected], 972-569-0995); Mike McDonnell, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board of Directors President ([email protected], 814- 341-8386)
The office of Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) is actively seeking testimony from victims of child sex abuse in Maryland locations of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, for its ongoing probe into the Catholic Church.
“Our investigations into the Archdiocese of Washington DC and the Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, are ongoing,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement provided to Maryland Matters this week. “We are grateful to all survivors who have come forward and we encourage those who haven’t yet, but may be ready to do so now.”
We applaud Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown for continuing this important investigation. We know that pursuing justice against these perpetrators would not be possible if it were not for the strength and courage of the brave victims who stepped forward by calling the Office of Attorney General to report these crimes. We understand it’s hard for victims to speak up, but that’s what it takes to see justice, safeguard others, expose predators, and prevent crimes. ‘We must never again trust the institutions twice for what they showed us once.” Mike McDonnell, SNAP Executive Director
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications ([email protected], 267-261-0578) David Lorenz, SNAP Maryland leader ([email protected], 301-906-9161) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
For Immediate Release, February 7, 2024
Survivors and advocates have written to Bishop Robert Vasa of the Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa, asking him to release all of the information in his files on convicted child abuser Fr. Mark Kristy, as well as to order Fr. Peter Talcott not to allow Fr. Kristy to serve masses at the Talcott residence, possibly endangering any children who may be in attendance.
For immediate release: February 6, 2024
We applaud Governor Josh Shapiro in calling for what is right for survivors of sexual assault who have been time barred from justice. Never can we trust again institutions who have shown us once what they did. They must be held accountable. It is the responsibility of our legislators to see this through with a statutory bill and provide relief to victims who have long held the liability. Protection for the most vulnerable is a priority.
NorCal Catholic officials covered up for a priest convicted of a child sex crime: SNAP asks, “is this ‘openness and transparency?’”
For immediate release February 2, 2024
A Catholic priest from the Order of Discalced Carmelites was convicted of child sexual abuse on February 16, 2022, yet the 2015 accusations against him and the conviction are only now coming to the public’s attention. SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, wonders why two Northern California dioceses, as well as the priest’s religious order, did not give this important information to the faithful earlier?
On Feb. 16, 2022, Fr. Mark Kristy pleaded no contest to one felony count of committing lewd or lascivious acts on a girl younger than 14. The abuse was apparently reported to both the Diocese of Sacramento and the Carmelites in 2015. The Cathedral of St. Eugene in Santa Rosa issued a vague warning about the priest September of 2022, according to the Sacramento Bee.
In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) promised “transparency and openness” after the revelations of wide-spread child sexual abuse and its cover-up in the Archdiocese of Boston. To us, this is NOT what was promised in the Dallas Charter, when the 2015 accusations against Fr. Kristy and his 2022 conviction are just now becoming public knowledge! We cannot help but wonder how many other children may have been abused by this man, and how many of them are still suffering alone because of Catholic officials’ silence?
For Immediate Release: January 26, 2024
A just released report commissioned by the German Protestant Church (EKD) in 2020 estimated that over 9,300 children and young people were sexually abused since 1946 by 3,500 perpetrators, a third of which were members of the clergy. The EKD is an umbrella organization of 20 regional churches, representing 19.2 million Protestants in the country.
SNAP welcomes the publication of this report on the appalling extent of clerical sex abuse - even if it exposes the depth of depravity that prevails in yet another faith community. We believe that it is always a good development to have these crimes exposed. We are also grateful that more is being done in Germany to identify victims, compensate them adequately, punish perpetrators, and put in place safeguards to ensure that such crimes cannot be repeated.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JANUARY 25, 2024
Survivor organizations alarmed by loophole exempting clergy from mandatory reporting in new bill
Backtracking in proposed legislation keeps children at risk
On Thursday, January 25th, the Human Services Committee of the Washington state Senate will hold a public hearing on SB 6298 , “an act relating to the duty of the clergy to report child abuse or neglect.” This new bill has been introduced following the failure of previous legislation (SB 5280 ) that included an amendment that made members of clergy mandatory reporters of child abuse, without offering an exception for information about a child that may be at risk for abuse that was obtained during private pastoral communication.
Under pressure from Catholic bishops , state Senate lawmakers have introduced a new bill that bypasses the amendment to the previous legislation brought by the House Human Services, Youth, & Early Learning Committee, by putting the clergy exemption back into the bill. If they succeed, clergy will be effectively exempt from reporting child abuse and neglect to law enforcement.
Seattle-based anti-abuse advocate and Ending Clergy Abuse (ECA) board member Tim Law said, “The vague and verbose language in this new bill effectively obscures any mandate that clergy must report child abuse. It gives the impression that the state is taking action to make churches a safer place for children, while upholding the exemption that has given clergy in Washington state a free pass to legally avoid reporting sexual crimes against children.”
(For immediate release 1/23/2024)
We're deeply worried that Kansas' Catholic archbishop, for the second time in six months, is putting an accused child molester to work in or near a Catholic school. These moves are reckless and irresponsible. In August, Archbishop Naumann let Bishop Miege hire Phil Baniewicz, who was named in a 2005 civil sexual abuse lawsuit in Arizona, as its new president.
Now, Naumann is transferring Fr. John Pilcher to Holy Trinity parish, which has a parochial school, in Lenexa.
Our simple question: Why take the risk?
Most parishes in Kansas do not have elementary schools. It would be cautious and prudent to put Fr. Pilcher in one of those churches. But Naumann is sadly but predictably opting to roll the dice with the well-being of children. The church 'investigation' into the abuse report involving Fr. Pilcher was relatively brief. We see no evidence that Naumann or his staff did any real outreach effort, urging anyone with information about the allegations - whether victim, witness, or whistleblower - to come forward. (Sadly, very few Catholic officials ever do this. When it does happen, however, it can be very effective.)
So we have no choice but to err on the side of caution and skepticism, and to urge Catholics - in Topeka and throughout Kansas - to express their concern and be particularly vigilant.
For decades, the church hierarchy has done purportedly internal 'investigations' into accusations of all sorts against priests. The results have often been very problematic. Alleged offenders have been reinstated to parish work only to be removed again when more victims come forward. (See the case of Msgr. Craig Harrison in California.) In St. Louis, Fr. Alex Anderson was re-assigned to parish work despite facing at least four accusers. In Chicago, Fr. Michael Pfleger is in a parish right now despite facing at least three accusers. In Kentucky, Fr. Joseph Edward Bradley is in a parish today despite facing at least two accusers.
Is it possible that Fr. Pilcher is innocent? Certainly. Is it likely that he is? No. History, psychology, research, common sense - and several church officials themselves - acknowledge that false or mistaken child sex allegations against priests are false.
We beg anyone who may have seen, suspected, or suffered any misdeeds by Fr. Pilcher or any other Catholic employee in Kansas to tell a trusted friend or relative, seek therapy, call law enforcement, and help protect other children.
For Immediate Release: January 8, 2024
We are grateful to the New Hampshire grand jurors who last year delivered an indictment against Episcopal priest Richard Losch for raping boy in the 1970s. At the time of the assault, Fr. Losch was working at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Marblehead, Massachusetts. The priest was also an assistant headmaster at Tower School in Marblehead and a Boy Scout leader.
SNAP applauds the brave man, Jack, who came forward in 2021 to report his assault to authorities. While we know that Fr. Losch has denied the charges, we also know that false accusations of child sexual abuse are extremely rare. We believe Jack and stand in solidarity with him. It is particularly difficult to be the first person to publicly accuse a respected clergyman of child sex crimes, and we honor Jack’s courage in speaking out.
We hope that any others who may have been victimized by Fr. Losch or others in the Episcopal Church will be inspired by Jack’s bravery and come forward. There is no need to suffer alone and in silence! There are people who understand that delayed disclosure is common, and who will believe you and support you.
Fr. Losch’s trial is scheduled to begin in June, 2024, so there is still time for any other victims to help hold him accountable. The priest was not only active in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, he also worked as a principal and math teacher at two schools in North Carolina, St. Timothy's School in Raleigh and Cape Fear Academy in Wilmington. Fr. Losch now lives in Livingston, Alabama, where he worked at two parishes for years, St. James Episcopal and St. Alban’s Episcopal.