Popular Chicago Priest Accused of Abuse
A former US senator is defending an accused priest using inappropriate and hurtful language that will likely discourage all other victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from reporting suspected child sex crimes to authorities. We call on her to apologize for unintentionally intimidating survivors and to retract her comments.
Last week, Carol Moseley Braun expressed support for Fr. George Clements, a Chicago archdiocesan priest recently accused of abusing a child. She told the Sun-Times that “if somebody is coming now to decap him, then I think that’s terrible. I don’t know the nature of what the allegations are. I can tell you, if there’s anybody I’d take a bullet for, it would be Father Clements.”
She is no doubt well intentioned and within her rights to defend an accused abuser. Unfortunately, her remarks also hurt victims and endanger children.
When influential individuals, especially those who admit knowing little or nothing about an abuse report, immediately rally to the side of an alleged child molester this hurts all victims. It says to them “nothing will ever change,” “people disbelieve those who report,” “powerful people always prevail,” and “your pain does not matter.”
Such words also make it less likely for those who see, suspect or suffer sex crimes to speak up, expose molesters and safeguard others, endangering even more children. Many abuse victims believe the deck is stacked against them and that their perpetrators have powerful friends who will back them and make disclosing abuse futile or even potentially dangerous.
It is understandable that people want to defend others who are close to them. However, in cases alleging sexual violence where there are already so many hurdles in the way of survivors coming forward, we recommend people express their support privately rather than publicly.
While we have no first hand information about these allegations, we know that false allegations are rare, and that Cardinal Blase Cupich has already asked Fr. Clement to step aside from public ministry while the charges are investigated. We urge anyone with information about the allegations against Fr. Clements to come forward right away. We hope anyone who was abused in the Archdiocese of Chicago will speak out and get help from trusted sources like police, prosecutors, therapists or support groups like ours.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)