NY--Group of clergy sex abuse victims will hold an unusual public support group meeting
First-ever NYC “public support group meeting”
Event held in conjunction with survivors’ art show
SNAP has held thousands of such events in private
But this time, victims will share details in open setting
On the day Pope Francis arrives in the US, while surrounded by an exhibit of abuse-inspired paintings created by a young woman who suffered clergy sexual crimes, a group of clergy sex abuse victims will hold an unusual public support group meeting. In frank and personal discussions, they’ll describe the pain they endured (and still endure) because of clerics who committed and concealed sexual violence against them.
The artist will also discuss her paintings and her long, difficult but ultimately successful work to get her perpetrator extradited from overseas to face justice, both civil and criminal.
And the victims will be available to do one-on-one interviews and share their views on what Francis and the Catholic hierarchy must do to “protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and expose the truth.”
Tuesday, Sept. 22
Survivor Art Exhibit - 3:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Public support group meeting - 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 pm.
Cameo Studios, 307 W 43rd Street in Manhattan
Six-eight members of an international support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org), including an Illinois woman who is the organization’s long time president, a New York City survivor/artist whose perpetrator fled overseas but was extradited and pled guilty, and a California woman who is a best-selling author on child protection
1. Though many know SNAP as an “activist” group, for more than 25 years, its largely volunteer leaders across the US (and increasingly, across the world) have held thousands of confidential, peer-led self-help groups that enable deeply wounded and still-struggling victims of predatory priests, nuns, bishops, ministers, seminarians and other church staff to begin to regain their power and start healing.
In a rare move, the group will open its doors for this one support group media to the media.
2. A decade ago, Megan Peterson (then of Minnesota, now of Queens) was repeatedly sexually violated by Fr. Joseph Jeyapaul, a native of India. Unlike 90% of abuse victims, Megan was able to promptly report the abuse, initiate criminal charges and file a civil suit. But Fr. Jeyapaul did what an increasing number of predator priests are doing: he fled overseas. And while back in India, his bishop made him a supervisor of several Catholic schools.
Eventually, her civil suit settled, he was extradited and pled guilty.
As part of her healing, Megan uses acrylic/mixed media to create large, colorful paintings with Catholic symbolism or court references. One features an image of Pope John Paul II.
The Fr. Jeyapaul case is no aberration.
Last week, a year-long investigation by Global Post revealed that at least five predator priests from the US and Europe were quietly moved to South America where they continued to work in ministry. This is a trend, SNAP says, that is increasing: child molesting clerics being sent abroad to evade justice. The group suspects there are hundreds of “proven, admitted, and credibly accused” abusive clergy working who’ve moved to other nations.
The Post’s findings mirror similar investigations made in 2013 by the Chicago Tribune and an even more thorough one in 2004 by Dallas Morning News.
The Tribune found that “Since 1985, at least 32 priests have left the US for foreign countries while facing criminal charges or a police investigation over (child sex) allegations. Only five have been returned to the U.S. to face trial.”
The Global Post found five accused priests still working in Paraguay, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and Peru. One admitted on camera to molesting a 13-year-old boy while in Mississippi diocese. “All five were able to continue working as priests, despite criminal investigations or cash payouts to alleged victims.”
For the safety of parishioners and the public, SNAP wants Pope Francis to “defrock, demote or discipline” bishops who keep “sending and receiving predators from other countries.” Specifically, they want the pontiff to punish Newark Archbishop John Myers for “doing nothing” about Fr. Manuel Gallo Espinoza. Fr. Espinoza is now still teaching even though he admits to and is being sued for child sex crimes.
In a recent interview with the Newark Star Ledger, the priest says that when an abuse accusation against him was made, two Newark Catholic officials urged him to fly home. Archbishop John Myers, however, has been silent about Fr. Espinoza and refuses to even investigate the claim that two of his staff prodded the priest to flee abroad.
In 2003, Fr. Espinoza escaped to Ecuador for two years. He then return to the US. From 2005-2008, he worked at a public school in the Arlington Virginia diocese and from 2008-2014, he taught at a high school in the Washington DC archdiocese.
Catholic officials in four dioceses are ignoring SNAP’s plea to “aggressively urge anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes or cover ups by Fr. Espinoza to contact law enforcement.” For the safety of parishioners, SNAP also wants all three US bishops involved (in VA, MD and NJ) to write their colleagues in Ecuador begging them to keep Fr. Espinoza away from kids and out of parishes.
Predator priests still kept working is not just a “foreign” problem, SNAP says. The group cites a dozen “proven, admitted or credibly accused predator priests in the US who are, in fact, are still in church jobs here:
In part, SNAP believes, the practice of sending predator priests abroad continues because Francis has not yet officially declared “zero tolerance” of abuse to be the church practice and policy worldwide. (It’s formally only been adopted in a handful of nations.)
And the group maintains that the practice of keeping predator priests in ministry in the US continues because Francis has not defrocked, demoted or disciplined even a single US church official for endangering kids.” Instead, he has done what his predecessors have done: quietly accepting the resignation of a US prelate, citing vague reasons, only after “his egregious cover ups result in an unmanageable diocese and a public relations disaster.
Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Joelle Casteix (949-322-7434,[email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, [email protected]), David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected])