Media Statements

We are SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. We are the largest, oldest and most active support group for women and men wounded by religious authority figures (priests, ministers, bishops, deacons, nuns and others).

Knoxville Bishop Resigns or Retires; SNAP responds

Knoxville Bishop Stika, according to reports, is stepping down, after the diocese has been besieged by scandals, primarily of his own creating, for more than a year. We hope that this departure will result in genuine reform in this area, rather than just a people change.

For the past year plus, Stika has faced scandal after scandal, from his involvement in lawsuits, to his alleged victim intimidation, to priests with grave concerns of Stika’s leadership. We can’t help but wonder if there was anything sincere accomplished. The diocese is currently without an episcopal nominee. His bad performance as a church leader, in our opinion, caused or perpetuated an avalanche in the Diocese of Knoxville. Sitka has insulted parishioners' wisdom.

We hope that when the administrator for Knoxville is chosen, he will be a prelate who learns from Bishop Stika. That is, we hope that this new bishop will do the opposite of his predecessor at every chance, will be truly transparent rather than secretive, and will embrace the truth rather than try to stifle it. Knoxville parishioners deserve no less.

 

 


SNAP Applauds NOLA District Attorney Investigating Further Into Notorious Abusive Priest

(For Immediate Release June 16, 2023) 

 New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams announced yesterday that his office is investigating Catholic priest Lawrence Hecker. We are grateful to DA Williams for his efforts and hope that they will result in a successful prosecution of Fr. Hecker. Children are always safer when their abusers are behind bars.

Fr. Hecker is on the list of those clergy in the Archdiocese of New Orleans who are alive, who have been accused of sexually abusing a child, and who have been removed from ministry on the basis of those "credible" accusations. The list, released in November of 2018, was the first time that the priest was publicly acknowledged by his supervisors as a perpetrator. He is also on the Diocese of Baton Rouge's list.

The Archdiocesan website claimed that the first accusation against Fr. Hecker was received by it in 1996, and went on to say that the cleric was accused of assaulting children in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Sadly, yet consistent with the Catholic bishops’ playbook for dealing with child sexual abuse, Fr. Hecker remained on the job until 2002. 

 


Jesuits Dismiss Famed Catholic Priest Artist- Rupnik; SNAP says its not enough

(For Immediate Release June 15, 2023) 

 

The priest and artist Father Marko Rupnik, accused of the physical and psychological abuse of numerous religious sisters, was dismissed from the Jesuits this month, according to the religious order. In a June 15 statement from the Society of Jesus, Rupnik was expelled due to his "stubborn refusal to observe the vow of obedience."

Rupnik had been asked to change communities and “accept a new mission,” the statement said. “Faced with Marko Rupnik’s repeated refusal to obey this mandate, we were unfortunately left with only one solution: dismissal from the Society of Jesus.”

To us, it is clear that Rupnik remains a defiant cleric in an attempt to preserve his reputation as a famed artist in the Catholic church and refuses to address serious allegations. The Jesuits announced in February that they had launched a new internal investigation into Rupnik after receiving allegations against him dating from 1985 to 2018. They claimed that the "highly credible" accusations included assertions of spiritual, psychological, and sexual assault, as well as abuse of conscience were the reason.

As we see it, expulsion from a community of priests does not stop an alleged abuser from potentially committing further harm to others. To blacklist Rupnik now does nothing in the form of justice for the nine religious women from the Loyola Community in Ljubljana, Slovenia who have stepped forward with courage to share their stories. Do nuns not deserve justice? How does the Vatican reconcile its decision to disregard the canonical process with its criminalization of adult abuse? Most importantly, why is more important to deal with Rupnik’s refusal ‘to obey’ now? In our view, that disobedience began long before the allegations were ever made public and we believe high-ranking church officials knew then what is general knowledge now.

We continue to applaud and support the brave women who have pressed on to hold Rupnik accountable and the Society of Jesus responsible for enabling him.  As always, anyone who may suspect, witnessed, or learn of abuse by Fr. Rupnik to immediately report their information authorities. 

CONTACT: Michael McDonnell, Communication Manager (267-261-0578, [email protected]  Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]

(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)

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The final name removed from the Maryland report on Catholic sex abuse is that of a Philadelphia nun.

(For Immediate Release June 13, 2023)

According to the Baltimore Banner,  a former Catholic nun from Philadelphia who died 31 years ago is the last accused whose name was redacted from the Maryland Attorney General’s report on child sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The Banner came to this conclusion by examining census records, obituaries, and documents from the sister's religious order.

Catherine Agnes Hasson joined the Sisters of Saint Francis of Philadelphia in 1943, lived at the group’s headquarters there for one year, and taught first grade at St. Katharine School in East Baltimore for one year, the order confirmed. She left religious life in 1945, shortly before she would have professed her vows. We believe that her name should be included on the accused lists for both the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, as well as on a list for her religious order.


Child Porn Priest Pleads Guilty; SNAP Reacts

(For Immediate Release June 9, 2023) 

Fr. James Jackson, a Rhode Island priest previously assigned to St. Mary's Church in Providence, pleaded guilty today in federal court in Rhode Island to receiving child pornography, admitting to a federal judge that he downloaded files of child sexual abuse using a peer-to-peer file-sharing network, according to United States Attorney Zachary A. Cunha.

According to information presented to the court, in September 2021, an East Providence Detective assigned to the Rhode Island State Police Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force identified an IP address assigned to the rectory at St. Mary’s Church that was being utilized to share files of child sexual abuse material.

A court-authorized search of a computer and digital device located in a church rectory bedroom utilized by Father Jackson was found to contain images and videos of child sexual abuse, including multiple images involving prepubescent females, some of which involved acts of bestiality and sadomasochism. A forensic audit of the devices subsequently identified over 12,000 images and 1,300 videos of child pornography.

Jackson was arrested again for allegedly violating the conditions of his release while in Kansas in July 2022.

To us, viewing or sharing child pornography is not a crime without any victims. Sadly, the innocent lives in film and pictures many never realize their trauma until much later in life. We hope Jackson faces a stiff sentence and is completely removed from the clerical state and under federal supervision for a long time.

Federal authorities need to keep this dangerous man under close watch and those charged with his supervision should never believe that Jackson has repented to sin no more. You can take the actor away from the scene of crimes, but as we have seen many times over in cases involving delict priests, they’ll never stop, there is no cure.

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager, (267-261-0578, [email protected]) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President, (814-341-8386, [email protected])


Registered sex offender remained an Orthodox Archpriest: SNAP appalled at this incomprehensible decision

(For Immediate Release June 8, 2023) 

******UPDATED LETTER AND RESPONSE FOUND IN THE LINKS BELOW******

A recently deceased Archpriest in the Diocese of the South (DOS), Orthodox Church in America (OCA), apparently continued bear the title of “archpriest,” despite being a registered sex offender. We are absolutely shocked that Archpriest Benjamin Henderson, who was convicted of possessing child pornography, was never defrocked.

We have written to the late Fr. Henderson’s hierarch, Archbishop Alexander Golitzin, asking him to explain how such a travesty came about, despite evidence that the DOS was at least aware that the priest had been charged with this heinous crime. A copy of the letter is linked below.

Child pornography is NOT a victimless crime. The images of the very real boys and girls who appear in the photos and videos are traded and used indefinitely, leading to a lifetime of victimization. Moreover, studies have shown a strong correlation between those downloading these disturbing images and those who abuse children themselves. At least 50 percent of those who consume such material also admit to child sexual abuse.

Accordingly, we urge the DOS and the OCA to not only give a complete and transparent public account as to why Archpriest Henderson was never defrocked, but also to do outreach to every parish where the clergyman worked, begging anyone who may have experienced abuse by him to come forward and get help. Finally, we believe that the DOS and the OCA should also directly notify any other Orthodox jurisdictions or religious institutions where Archpriest Henderson previously worked of his conviction, so that those groups can do the same outreach.

CONTACT: Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175),  Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, President, SNAP Board of Directors ([email protected], 814- 341-8386), Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(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)

Copy of Letter to Archbishop Alexander Golitzin

RESPONSE FROM BISHOP GERASIM ELIEL

Dear Ms Sakoda,
I am sending to you a copy of my report to His Eminence, Archbishop Alexander, who has asked me to send a copy to you.
In Christ,
Bishop Gerasim

DOS Letter 230608A Henderson Deposition

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Catholic Educator Under Investigation in California; SNAP Responds

(For Immediate Release June 8, 2023) 

According to a report from NBC Bay Area, an adult altar server at an Oakland Catholic church, who also worked as a theology teacher at Marin Catholic High School, is being investigated by the Oakland police. The educator, Jonathan Chavez, is accused of sending inappropriate electronic communications of a sexual nature to an underage altar server at the parish. According to the Diocese of Oakland, the crime was reported to them by the child's parents on April 19, 2023, and the Diocese reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) the same day. The Diocese also contacted Marin Catholic High School on the 19th, informing administrators there of the accusations.

We commend this family for taking the initiative to report Mr. Chavez. However, we are troubled that the Oakland Diocese did not immediately call law enforcement. CPS is not there to investigate crimes, and although this particular report ultimately found its way to the police, there was no reason to take this extra step. We are also troubled that the Diocese waited nearly a month before informing the parents of the other altar servers at the church, as well as its parishioners, of the accusations.

 


Virginia Attorney General Secures Conviction of Former Priest; SNAP responds

(For Immediate Release June 7, 2023) 

Richmond, VA -- Attorney General Jason Miyares today announced that Scott Asalone, a former priest of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Purcellville, Va., was sentenced by a Loudon County Circuit Court Judge to an eight-year prison term for carnal knowledge of a 14-year-old child. 

The sexual abuse occurred in 1985 when Asalone, now 66, was 29 and the victim was 14. In addition to the sentence handed down by the Court, Asalone is required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his life and to have no contact with the victim.

This example plainly proves that victims can heal and do not have to suffer in shame and secrecy. No matter how long ago the abuse occurred, it is still significant to investigators and us. The victim's bravery aided in the prosecution of a predator and the removal of filth from society. Jason Miyares, the Attorney General of Virginia, deserves our thanks. Thank you also to the Virginia State Police and the Major Crimes Unit for their outstanding work on this case.


Buffalo Priest Placed Back in Ministry Despite Substantiated Allegations

(For Immediate Release June 1, 2023) 

A Catholic priest from the Diocese of Buffalo has been returned to ministry despite a "substantiated" accusation that he had a sexual relationship with an adult woman. This decision by Bishop Michael W. Fisher causes us grave concern.

The Bishop acknowledged that an investigation by the  Independent Review Board determined that it was "substantiated" that Father F. Patrick Melfi engaged in a sexual relationship with an adult female in 2007. However, Bishop Fisher went on to say that based on the circumstances of this relationship, Father Melfi’s response to the investigation, and his faithful behavior since the relationship ended, the IRB recommended, and Bishop Fisher determined, that Fr. Melfi should be returned to ministry.

Placing Fr. Melfi back on the job with so little information about the circumstances of the accusation makes us uneasy.  Pope Francis has changed Church law to explicitly criminalize the sexual abuse of adults by priests. With this new understanding, accusations of a "relationship" between a cleric and an adult can no longer be so easily dismissed. 

Nancy Fratianni, a SNAP Leader who works with survivors who were abused by clergy as adults, shared her thoughts, “Meanwhile the true victim is often ostracized, or further victimized and even asked to leave their job, their parish, and what once was their support system. Returning a priest to service after the fact is encouraging future abuse of vulnerable people."

SNAP Leader Dorothy Small, who works with Nancy, added, "The priest is placed back in active ministry where he has access to supply with minimal supervision or accountability.  Priests make vows of chastity and celibacy and operate in power differentials that make consent between equal powers impossible, that includes adults. The Church minimizes the language used for abuse of adults as 'inappropriate' relationships and boundary violations. It’s an abuse of spiritual power and authority."

We recognize that we have limited information about the accusation. However, in our 35 years of expertise, we find it unlikely that this is Fr. Melfi's only such "relationship" in his 17-year career. Church officials are doing a disservice to parishioners by not fleshing out the particulars of the accusation. Did the woman attend Fr. Melfi's church and/or was she employed there? In secular culture, a supervisor who faced similar claims in the workplace could be fired and might have difficulties finding another position. We do not believe that the Church should be any less scrupulous in protecting those who walk through their doors, even if they are over the age of majority.

Fr. Melfi, who worked as a temporary administrator for Our Lady of the Angels Church in Cuba and St. Patrick's Church in Belfast and Fillmore, was placed on leave in December 2022, after the accusation was made public. The priest, who was ordained in 2006, only a year before the time of the accusation, was also a parish vicar at St. Christopher's Parish in Tonawanda. In addition, he formerly worked as pastor and rector of St. Mary of the Angels Basilica, as well as pastor of St. John's Roman Catholic Church.

We encourage everyone, which includes adults, who have experienced sexual contact by a Catholic cleric to reach out to trusted professionals and to groups like ours for help and support. If someone believes a crime has been committed, they should also contact law enforcement. 

Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(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)


Catholic Priest Charged with Assaulting an 8yr-old in Canada; SNAP reacts

(For Immediate Release May 31, 2023) 

A Catholic priest has been charged with sexually assaulting an eight-year-old girl in Little Grand Rapids First Nation, and Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) believe that there may be additional victims. Our hearts go out to this very young child.

We cannot help but think of her innocence as she describes the horror inflicted on her to the police. We hope that she is receiving much-needed support and assistance from family members and trusted professionals. We also hope that this example will motivate more survivors and witnesses to come forward and report the incident to authorities. We call on Archbishop Albert LeGatt to do aggressive outreach to all the communities where this priest worked and encourage anyone with information to immediately report what they know to law enforcement.

 

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