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).

Former Dubuque Priest Faces Second Allegation of Abuse

(For Immediate Release May 25, 2023) 

An accusation of child sexual abuse against a Florida Catholic priest has been recently deemed to carry a "semblance of truth," by the Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. The cleric, Fr. Leo P. Riley, worked in 16 Iowa parishes following his ordination in 1982. He was transferred to the Diocese of Venice in 2002.

While the current complaint about Fr. Riley was apparently received on May 5th of this year, another accusation was brought to the Archdiocese of Dubuque in 2014.  That victim filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese the following year. The Archdiocesan Review Board initially deemed that accusation as “not manifestly false or frivolous.” (Page 5) However, several months later Archbishop Michael O. Jackels announced that his investigation did not find the complaint to be true and Fr. Riley resumed working in a parish in Florida.

 


Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul Releases Clergy Investigation Report; SNAP Reacts

(For Immediate Release May 23, 2023) 

On Friday afternoon, all six of Illinois’ Catholic dioceses sent out a sudden press statement, written in concert, that describes the policies and procedures each institution has in place to protect children from abuse. With today’s news, we now know why those Church leaders felt the need to remind parents and parishioners about these policies – because thanks to the work of the investigators at the Illinois Attorney General’s office, it is now apparent to us that those policies are weak, vague, and rarely followed.

In a stunning report, A.G. Kwame Raoul’s office has described the ways that Catholic leaders in every diocese in the state have acted in concert to protect abusive priests, to keep the public from learning about those crimes, and to push back on survivors and their loved ones who came forward in hopes of preventing other cases of abuse

According to the report, more than 450 priests have abused nearly 2000 children in Illinois since 1950. These numbers are at once staggering and, unfortunately, likely an undercount.

 


Diocese of Sacramento once again quietly removes priest for 'inappropriate conduct.' SNAP Responds

(For Immediate Release May 22, 2023) 

On May 19th, the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento once again quietly announced on its website the removal of a cleric for “inappropriate conduct.” Bishop Jaime Soto said that  Fr. Sijo Chirayath was found to have “violated diocesan policy regarding clergy conduct” with an adult man.  The priest no longer has an assignment nor does he have faculties in the Diocese, and he was asked to return to his order, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) in India, on Friday.

We applaud the Diocese for removing Fr. Chirayath and for posting this information on its website. We hope that the parents of students at St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School in Vallejo, where the priest worked as a chaplain, was immediately alerted when the accusations were first received on April 26th, and have now been apprised of the outcome of the investigation.


Will a Church-issued scannable ID help rid France of abusive priests?

(For Immediate Release May 15, 2023) 

The French Bishops' Conference has just introduced its "in-house" scannable ID card which will replace the "celebret", a paper document proving the holder's credentials.  The card provides color-coded background information on priests', bishops' and deacons' suitability to perform their duties or hear confession.  While green and orange indicates the holder is fully or partially qualified, the main goal is to wave a red flag at those who are no longer allowed to officiate.  

The Conference has finessed the context for this move by not spelling out the possible reasons for a red flag. However one can assume that the goal of this attempt at greater transparency is to weed out impostors and better keep track of those found guilty of sexual abuse - folks who often manage to evade detection and continue their criminal activities unabated. 

Culturally speaking this initiative reflects an acceptance in France of an Identification Card that must be carried at all times and shown at polling stations or to any law enforcement officer who asks.   Still, it has been met with dismay by some French survivors of clergy sex abuse who have years of well-founded skepticism vis-à-vis the Church.  

A couple of questions come to mind.  First, how can we be sure that this digital celebret will be properly updated in real time and thus reassure society that the carrier can be trusted?   One is also left wondering about a profession, a "milieu" so rife with criminal behavior that its members need to carry proof of their decency and credentials.  Abuse happens in all professions but we don't know of a hospital or university where doctors or university professors carry a card certifying that they have not abused patients or students in the privacy of their office.

The second question is who gets to scan the QR Code if a priest is about to take a group of children on a "pilgrimage". Is it me, a parent  petrified at the thought of leaving my child in the hands of an institution known for its treatment of children (example taken from a  real testimonial in the recent independent report on clerical sex abuse in France)?  Even if I did have the right, would I so openly signal my suspicions to people who have crushed me with their moral authority and supposed superiority since I was myself a child?  No risk of that: only the organizer of the pilgrimage will have that right.  Will he/she really exercise it, knowing the implied suspicion? On balance, SNAP feels the initiative is well-meaning although damning. We give the benefit of the doubt but fear that survivors' skepticism is amply justified.

Marc Artzrouni, Europe Coordinator
 [email protected]
 tel: +33 (0)6 95 73 65 92 (France)
 www.snapnetworg.org


Toledo Priest Convicted on Three Counts of Sex Trafficking

A priest who worked in Ohio's northwest side has been convicted on federal sex trafficking charges. We are grateful to the brave victims in this case and know that without their courage and constancy that this dangerous predator would still have access to children.


Additional Criminal Charges Against Catholic and Private School Teacher

(For Immediate Release) 

A 29-year-old teacher — who was working at a Jewish private school when police officers arrested him for child sex crimes at a private Catholic school and a charter school — is facing more charges on Wednesday in Miami-Dade County. Eric Bernard Givens, also known as “Mr G.”, has been at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center since Friday without bond. County jail and court records show that on Wednesday he was facing charges in cases involving three girls.

According to court records, the additional criminal cases involve two other girls who said Givens abused them while he was their teacher at St. Mary Cathedral School and a girl who met Givens while he was her teacher at the Theodore R. and Thelma A. Gibson Charter School in Miami's Overtown district.


Counselor for Maine diocese disciplined for ethics violations

(For Immediate Release May 10, 2023) 

A licensed social worker who remains working with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, Maine, was disciplined recently by a state regulatory board for ethics violations. Carolyn Bloom, an "independent" clinician who has worked for the Diocese for twenty years, was censured and agreed to pay for and participate in a year-long supervision program for her interactions with clergy abuse survivor Melissa Kearns.  

Melissa filed a complaint with the Diocese in 2020, saying that she was forced into a sexual relationship with Fr. Anthony Cipolle. Although she was ineligible for Diocesan therapy services because she was an adult at the time of the abuse, Melissa received a text message from Bloom. Bloom identified herself as a "clinical social worker who works for the Catholic diocese to help abuse victims." The communication between the two women continued for several months, which led Melissa to believe that Bloom was her therapist, which was apparently not the case.

We urge Bishop Robert Deeley to reconsider keeping Bloom on the payroll. In addition, he should do outreach to all the victims who have contacted the Diocese during Bloom's tenure, begging anyone who may have been similarly harmed to come forward. We also call on him to publicly apologize to Melissa and to anyone else Bloom may have harmed.


A sexual assault case filed by a former altar boy against a former New Bedford priest has been settled.

(For Immediate Release May 9, 2023) 

A sexual assault case filed by a former altar boy against a former New Bedford priest has been settled.

Jason Medeiros was a former altar boy at St. Anthony of Padua Church in New Bedford and participated in a Catholic youth group. Both were supervised by Father Richard Degagne, according to a press release issued by Boston-based attorney Mitchell Garabedian.

According to the complaint, Degagne, who was ordained in 1982 and is now in his late 60s, was working with St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford from around 1986 until 1991. Before being suspended from ministry, he worked in East Freetown, Attleboro, Fall River, New Bedford, and Taunton. He presently resides in Brownfield, Maine, and is listed on the diocesan website as ‘faculties removed’. The settled lawsuit claims that between the ages of 12 and 13 in the late 1980s, Degagne repeatedly sexually assaulted Medeiros in the rectory and in Degagne's automobile. The lawsuit claims that Degagne also took 12-year-old Medeiros on an overnight visit to Maine in or around 1988 when he allegedly assaulted him.

We stand in ovation for Jason Medeiros. Children are safer when predators and those who shield them are held accountable. It is also critical that parishioners and the public are better informed about the true extent of clergy abuse in Massachusetts and beyond. We know it takes a lot of courage and conviction for victims to step forward and we are certain that this example will inspire others to get the help they need.

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

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Bishop named in investigative grand jury reports in Pennsylvania has died; SNAP Reacts

(For Immediate Release May 9, 2023) 

Bishop Emeritus Edward Cullen of Allentown, Pa has died. Many Allentown Pennsylvania priests are accused of molesting kids and many of them worked under and were protected by the now-deceased Bishop Edward Cullen. We hope his passing will bring some comfort to the hundreds of victims who were sexually violated by priests during his tenure, victims whose allegations were buried.

On May 19, 1962, Cullen was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by the now-deceased Cardinal John Krol. He quickly ascended through the ranks and was appointed Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1988.  On December 16, 1997, Pope John Paul II appointed Cullen as Bishop of the Diocese of Allentown, succeeding retiring Bishop Thomas Welsh, a trained Philadelphia priest as well. Cullen took office on February 9, 1998. He received his episcopal consecration on April 14, 1994, from Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

According to the 2011 Philadelphia grand jury findings, Cullen sent a memo to another Philadelphia Archdiocese administrator, Monsignor William Lynn, in 1993, stating that parishioners of St. Therese of the Child Jesus church in Philadelphia should be informed that Rev. Edward Avery was quitting as pastor due to health reasons. Avery, in fact, had been accused of sexual abuse. Avery was eventually sent to another parish, St. Jerome, where investigators believe he, another priest, and a teacher began sexually assaulting a kid when he was 10 years old in 1998. Prosecutors claim the abuse persisted until the year 2000. That memo Cullen sent became part of a secret list in Philadelphia.

 


SNAP says Diocese of Oakland doesn't deserve to declare bankruptcy

(For Immediate Release May 8, 2023) 

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland today filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a move that we believe is an attempt to deny justice and transparency to the more than 330 survivors who have lawsuits for child sexual abuse pending against the Diocese.

Everything about this bankruptcy strikes us as wrong. It is all about keeping money and secrets. From one coast to the other, the same ruse is being used by Catholic bishops. Minimize and cover-up child sex crimes, while keeping abusers in ministry. Then, fight against changes to the statute of limitations which would expose those crimes. Finally, when secular laws provide a window to justice, go to federal bankruptcy courts and pretend that they are out of money.

The Diocese of Oakland is surely morally bankrupt, it seems to us, but they do not deserve to be declared financially bankrupt. The Diocese owns a Cathedral worth $200 million. It has hundreds of acres of land in Piedmont, Orinda, Lafayette, and Danville. Except for character and integrity, it is not poor.

 

 


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