National- “More of the same” at national church abuse panel

For immediate release: Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790,[email protected])

Three new people (from Ohio, Minnesota and Indiana) have been put on the US bishops sex abuse panel. All are Catholic. All have close ties to Catholic schools or universities. None, as best we can tell, show any signs of real courage or independence.

So it's the “same old, same old.”

Originally, a dozen years ago, this National Review Board showed a glimmer of hope. Initially, some of its members were high profile and outspoken individuals who didn't depend on church institutions for their paychecks (such as former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating and Illinois Judge Anne Burke). Now, however, it's filled with low key Catholic insiders whose incomes often derive from Catholic institutions and who are clearly quiet and compliant “company men.” They will very likely never utter a single critical word about a single Catholic official, no matter how egregious his misconduct might be or how many kids are hurt on his watch.

Very quickly this so-called “watch dog” became a “lap dog.” It remains a “lap dog.”

Unfortunately, these new appointees (Mary K. Huffman of Centerville, Ohio; Donald J. Schmid of Granger, Indiana, and Nelle Moriarty of Rochester, Minnesota) look to be more of the same.

These men and women give their time and lend their reputations to church officials. But they end up being used as part of a shrewd public relations strategy in which bishops' put respected, sincere lay people on panels, give them inadequate and inaccurate information, and thus shield themselves from criticism when bad decisions are made.

Far too few Catholics on these panels ever become brave “whistleblowers.” And that's one reason why child molesting clerics remain hidden, why kids remain at risk and why the church's horrific clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis continues. 

NOTE - Just this week, two Seattle men who were on a local church review board blasted Seattle's archbishop for keeping secret – for a decade –  serious allegations against a predator priest. 

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 18,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell,[email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])

Showing 2 comments

  • Lani Halter
    commented 2014-05-14 14:41:09 -0500
    To again quote you, Mr. Clohessy: “Far too few Catholics on these panels ever become brave ‘whistleblowers.’ And that’s one reason why child molesting clerics remain hidden, why kids remain at risk and why the church’s horrific clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis continues.”
    I agree. And what’s more, I think that this observation is not only true, but a telling point to absorb. And sadly, I believe this comment regarding people coming forward applies (probably) in most cases of sexual child abuse; not just in catholic institutions, but in secular institutions and nuclear families, as well.
    I still remember (it has not been that long ago, yet) how the “whistleblower” in the Jerry Sandusky case, was and has since been, treated. “Horribly”, is one word that comes to mind. He had to have the courage to come forward, not once, but twice (years later) and had to appear in court. His life has been very nearly ruined by being willing to be a whistleblower. So, I think you are very likely correct in thinking that individuals on the catholic panels should not be catholics, or at least not ones whose income is dependent on the c. church.
    However, I think it seems difficult for people of all ages, and in all stages and “walks of life”, to be whistleblowers about suspected or actual proof of child sexual rape and/or abuse. It’s still a very troubling and extremely upsetting crime that to date, in the world’s history, has been able to proliferate because it is often committed in privacy, which is something that I think will be equally as daunting to remedy as convincing whistleblowers to come forward, has proven to be, thus far.
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