OH--SNAP: "Church staff ignored repeated red flags”
Victims seek Catholic bishop’s help
They also release list of 8 accused Columbus clerics
All attended same school as just-arrested seminarian
SNAP: “Ohio church staff ignored repeated red flags”
Prelate should hold “open public meeting” about case
"Why do Catholic institutions still put kids at risk?” group asks
All priests should “reach out now to any local victims,” SNAP says
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims and supporters will disclose the names of eight publicly accused sex offender clerics who spent time at a Columbus seminary. They will also beg the top Catholic official in Columbus to
---hold an open public media about the “troubling” pending case of a seminarian who offered $150 to babysit Ohio kids and arranged to buy infants and toddlers for sex, and
---use pulpit announcements, church bulletins and parish websites to “prod anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes or misdeeds by the seminarian to call police.”
Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 1-p.m.
On the sidewalk outside the St Joseph Cathedral, 212 East Broad St. in Columbus
Three-four members of a self-help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org), including a Missouri woman who is the organization’s associate Midwest director
Victims are upset that Columbus Bishop Frederick Campbell is largely “being silent and passive” about Joel A. Wright, the recently-arrested Columbus seminarian who had arranged to buy, adopt and rape Mexican youngsters.
Until last month, Wright was a student at The Pontifical College Josephinum, just north of Columbus, and within the boundaries of Bishop Campbell’s diocese. (Bishop Campbell in fact has taught at the Josephinum.)
But in cases like this, SNAP says, bishops “distance themselves from and pretend to be powerless over Catholic institutions in their dioceses,” instead of “stepping up, admitting responsibility and aggressively helping law enforcement.” According to Catholic church practice, custom and law, a bishop is responsible for the safety and well-being of his entire flock, SNAP says.
“If Josephinum staff were ripping off Columbus Catholics financially, Bishop Campbell wouldn’t be passively sitting back and keeping quiet,” said Judy Jones, SNAP’s assistant Midwest director. “He can and should do more.”
“The only prudent assumption is that Wright has assaulted or exploited kids around here,” Jones said. “And Columbus Catholic officials have the ability and duty to see if that’s true by using their resources to beg others with information or suspicions about Wright to call police.”
SNAP is also releasing what it says is “a partial list” of “publicly accused sex offender clerics who have spent time at the Josephinum.” The group believes most of them, including Wright, also helped out at Columbus area parishes temporarily, another reason they say Bishop Campbell should do outreach seeking other victims of Wright.
News accounts show that Ohio Catholic officials had at least three warnings about Wright. But it seem clear that they did little or nothing to heed those warnings, SNAP says.
1) An informant for Homeland Security called and wrote to Josephinum staff about Wright and his efforts to buy infants or toddlers so he could abuse them.
2) Franciscan University officials in Steubenville reported to police that Wright had offered to pay $150 to babysit young kids alone (but the university may not have told Josephinum officials).
3) Wright’s mother admits that more than 40 seminaries across the US had rejected her son’s applications for enrollment. (She claims it was because of his physical disabilities, but SNAP leaders don’t believe this is true.)
On Jan. 29, he was arrested in San Diego en route to Mexico to obtain youngsters. At the time, his studies were sponsored by Steubenville Bishop Jeffrey Montforton.
This “horrific case” shows that the Catholic hierarchy still act recklessly with kids’ safety, SNAP says.
“Once again, Catholic officials endanger kids by ignoring clear, repeated warnings about an obviously sexually troubled cleric,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s director. “And once again, when abuse reports surface, Catholic officials basically clam up instead of aggressively reaching out. They should be using pulpit announcements, church bulletins, parish websites and mailing lists to help find victims, witnesses and whistleblowers who could help law enforcement prosecute and convict Wright so kids will be protected from him for many years to come.”
SNAP is especially worried that Wright may have molested one or more Ohio children. When asked if he had ever had sex with an infant before, Wright wrote “had made it very close.”
Wright is originally from Vermont. A photo of Wright is at BishopAccountability.org
Columbus diocesan priests: Fr. Ronald J. Atwood, Fr. Thomas J. Brosmer, Fr. Michael Ellifritz, Fr. Joseph N. Fete, Fr. Michael F. Hanrahan, Fr. Robert E. “Paul” Hayden, Fr. David Heimann, Fr. Philip J. Jacobs, Fr. Raymond E. Lavelle, Fr. Frederick A. Loyd, Fr. Thomas L. McLaughlin, Fr. Samuel E. Ritchey, Fr. Francis R. Schaefer, Br. Fintan Shaffer (a.k.a. Guy Dale Shaffer), Fr. Martin “Marty” V. Weithman, Fr. Robert A Brown, Fr Aaron AJ Cote, Francis A Benham, and John J. Walsh
Judy Jones (314 974 5003, [email protected]), Carol Zamonski, 614 447 2084, [email protected], David Clohessy (314 566 9790, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314 503 0003, [email protected])