MN- Two more lawyers to advise archbishop; "Ho hum" SNAP says

Two more lawyers to advise archbishop; "Ho hum" SNAP says

For immediate release: Wednesday Oct. 9, 2013

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, [email protected])

Ho hum. Another church abuse panel. It’s the same old, same old.

First, the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese had such a panel in 1995:

Second, on the national level, Catholic officials created a panel like this, made up of bishops, in the early 1990s. (For years, it was headed by St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Harry Flynn, on whose watch Fr. Jonathan Shelley’s thousands of porn images were found but kept secret from police, prosecutors, parishioners and the public).

Third, in 2002, every archdiocese was mandated to create such a panel and a national church panel like this was set up.

Fourth, just last month, the Twin Cities archdiocese quietly created another clergy misconduct panel:

Each time, on each panel, the appointees have solid-looking resumes. Scratch a little deeper, though, and one finds that sometimes they have closer ties to top church figures than they may have initially disclosed. And over time, the panel that’s depicted as a “watchdog” ends up being a “lap dog.”

(The two men heading Nienstedt’s task force are both lawyers. That’s not helpful. Nienstedt already listens to too many lawyers.)

And that’s one reason we see, time and time again, continued abuse and cover ups (notably, in the Twin Cities, the cases of Fr. Jonathan Shelley, Fr. Curtis Wehmeyer and Fr. Rudolph Henrichs, among others).

Setting up such panels is a very common “damage control” move by embattled bishops. It gives the appearance of reform. It implies that policies, not people, are the problem. But it’s disingenuous at best.

Over the past two decades, bishops in dozens of dioceses, when facing a public firestorm because of continued recklessness, callousness and deceit in clergy sex cases, have set up new panels.

And this is what happens: a new toothless panel that tweaks old meaningless policies which are then approved by a complicit bishop and is then ignored by him and his top staff until, years later, another scandal emerges and the process repeats.

If the scandal is sufficiently large or persistent, another twist is added: complicit church officials changes offices and job titles, new staff are added and new job titles are created, public pressure wanes, and it’s back to “business as usual” until, years later, another scandal emerges and the process repeats.

Bishops count on us to be naïve, have short memories, feel forgiving, and to assume that bishops have “erred” but have now “learned their lesson.” Kids, however, count on us to be skeptical and determined and insist on real reform – tangible steps that expose predators, deter cover ups and safeguard youngsters. We’re still waiting.

For more info: David Clohessy 314 566 9790, [email protected]

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant