OH--Cleveland diocese ignores parishioners’ wishes; SNAP responds

For immediate release: Wednesday, June 10

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)

In a troubling child porn case, Cleveland Catholic officials are writing to distraught parishioners but refusing to take their concerns seriously or address them openly.

Last week, we asked Bishop Richard Lennon to visit St. Barnabas parish. We asked him to discipline its pastor, Fr. Ralph Wiatrowski. We asked him to educate his flock about how to respond – with openness and compassion – in child sex cases.


As best we can tell, none of this is happening. Lennon hasn’t ever replied to our letter.


Instead, Lennon’s staff, however, is writing to parishioners who’ve complained. They’re asking parishioners to sit and talk with the wrongdoer – Fr. Ralph Wiatrowski. (See actual letter below.)

This is an insulting and ineffective dodge. We’re reminded of the Biblical adage “And what father, when his son asks for bread, gives the child a stone.”

Lennon knows what the parishioners want. He’s refusing to listen to or respond to them in any meaningful way. Shame on him.

Fr. Ralph Wiatrowski sided with a criminal and against kids. He and others at St. Barnabas tried to keep a convicted sex offender from going to jail. Sitting down with him won’t change that. And quiet, one-to-one meetings won’t deter other Catholic officials for going to bat for other church members (like Steve Bittel) or staff who are sex offenders.

Only Lennon can discourage wrongdoing. But he refuses.

We again urge him to hold an open public meeting with parishioners and the public, first at St. Barnabas, then at every other place in the diocese where Fr. Ralph Wiatrowski worked.

We again urge him to punish Fr. Ralph Wiatrowski for his hurtful actions.

And we again urge anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered abuse to come forward.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 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 SNAPnetwork.org)

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, bdorris@SNAPnetwork.org), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, bblaine@snapnetwork.org)


Letter of the Cleveland Diocese

Thank you for contacting the Diocese of Cleveland to express your concerns regarding Father Ralph Wiatrowski's letter to the Judge on behalf of Mr. Stephen Bittel. In response to your concerns, members of the diocesan staff recently met in person with Father Wiatrowski to share and discuss these concerns. While our summary of these concerns were clearly shared with Father at no time did we disclose Individual parties who have contacted the diocese since sorne parties wished not to have their names shared at this point.

As  part of our next step to address  these concerns,  Father Wiatrowski  would  like to contact those  individuals who have already been in contact wfth the diocese. As such, he would like to extend the Jnvitation for you to arrange a personal appointment  with him at the parish office.    In order to present  Father with an accurate list of those who have contacted the diocese, we a re asking for you r permission to have your name placed on t hat list so that Father may begin to set up these appointments.  Also, If you sent the Diocese of Cleveland an actual letter as part of your communication,  we would also like to afford  Father the opportunity  to have access to it.    However, we will  withhold your  name and any correspondence if you do  not explicitly grant  us permission to disclose this  information.

Perhaps you or others have requested a public forum to address this matter with Father.  While this approach can sometimes be effective in certain situations, lt is the opinion of the diocesan staff working with Father that this not belhe approach due to the fact that many concerns raised have varied in nature.  Furthermore, a nurnber of individuals who have contacted the Diocese of Cleveland prefer to address the rnatter ln a more personal nianner. Should you choose, however, to have a third party present at your meeting with Father Wiatrowsk1, a member of the diocesan staff will be available.  Should you choose to bring a guest, we have recomrnended to Father that a diocesan staff member also be present.

WhHe you niay have already expressed to us a desired outcome in order to meet your satisfaction, we would ask that you please take advantage of the invitation to meet with Father Wiatrowski as we sincerely believe this is a critical step in promoting open and thoup,htful dialogue,  When done in charity, this kind of dialogue can strengthen the Christian pursuit of binding us together in unity and harmony.  We maintain that such dialogue among individuals In these cases reinforces thls fundamental principle and benefits everybody involved in the conversation.

As for your concern regarding the safety of your child{ren), every parish in the Diocese of Cleveland partidpates in the collection of information for an annual audit conducted by an lndependent firm commissioned by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops. Furthermore, our Office for the Protection of Youth and Young Adults has ready access to parish and school files to ensure compliance with the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and to ensure that al1 dlocesan policies v11hich support our comn1itrnent to protecting our youth and young adults are strictly enforced. If you have specific concerns about the parish's compliance with any policy relating to the protection of children or if you believe the parish or fa ts stuff has In any way failed to protect the children in its care, we would ask you to contact us and provide us with specifics about those concerns.

We look forward to your response by 8 June 2015 so that we may prepare a Hst to present to Father Wiatrowski. Sincerely yours in Christi

Sharon Minson

Director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth

The Reverend Michael K. Gornick

Secretary and Vicar for Clergy and Religious


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