Rome--Yet another new church abuse panel is set up

For immediate release: Tuesday, Nov. 11

Statement by Mary Caplan of New York City, SNAP Leader, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (917 439 4187, [email protected])

Like his precedessors, Pope Francis tweaks policies instead of firing criminals. He’s doing it again now.

Yet another new church body will reportedly be created. This one will supposedly deal with the “most egregious” clergy sex crimes.

But it’s the front end where attention is needed, not the back end. The Pope should focus on independent prevention work, not on biased church adjudication.

And it’s not progress when the very prelates who conceal abuse rule on abusers’ fates.

The Tablet reports there will be a new “special procedure for any bishop accused of grave crimes.”   

Again, new procedures aren't needed. Decisive action is needed. And historically, only bishops who commit child sex crimes face even the slightest discipline while the hundreds more who conceal the crimes are ignored or promoted.

Defrocking dangerous molesters is a first step not the last that any bishop should take.   While this long overdue step may bring some comfort to the victims and their family members who have been hurt by these men, it is important to remember that molesters are not cured and may still pose a serious threat to nearby children. 

Bishops have a moral duty, we believe, to reach out aggressively to anyone who may have experienced, witnessed or suspected abuse by predator priests.  They should personally visit every parish where they worked to ask Catholics to ask their loved ones if they have been harmed by clergy.  Church officials recruited, educated, hired, ordained, supervised, transferred and shielded these predators for decades.  Their obligation to warn parents about and protect children from these men does not end if or when the criminals are defrocked .

Defrocking does not end the church hierarchy’s responsibility for these dangerous clerics, whether they are priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians or brothers.  Church officials recruited, educated, housed, ordained, shielded and protected these wrongdoers.  The obligation to warn parents and protect children still exists. 

It’s irresponsible for Catholic officials to recruit, educate, ordain, hire, transfer, and shield predators priests, then suddenly and quietly let them loose on an unsuspecting public with no warning or restrictions.

If these child molesting clerics are too dangerous to have in parishes, they’re too dangerous to have walking free and working among neighbors and colleagues and relatives who are told nothing of their crimes.

If church officials believe a priest assaulted a kid, they should do everything humanly possible to help get him prosecuted. They should promptly give the priests personnel files to law enforcement. They should reach out aggressively to anyone who may have experienced, witnessed or suspected abuse by these predators.  They should personally visit every parish where predators worked, urging Catholics to ask their family members if they have been harmed by these abusers. 

Suspending a pedophile doesn’t cure him. Neither does defrocking him. Defrocking a child molesting cleric helps protect a bishop’s image and a diocese’s assets. But it doesn’t do much to protect kids.

Jailing predators protects kids best. And that happens when responsible adults do everything they can to seek out and help victims call police. And it happens when caring employers give predators’ personnel files to law enforcement.

But Catholic officials refuses to do this. Instead, they do the absolute bare minimum: safeguarding themselves but not parents and the public and the kids.

So we in SNAP beg every single person – especially current and former Catholic church employees and members – to ask loved ones if they were ever hurt by priests. If so, those victims should be urged to call police and prosecutors. And every single person who may have seen or suspected these clerics’ crimes should also call police and prosecutors – no matter how old, small or seemingly insignificant the information or suspicions might be.

What works best are established external procedures like governmental inquiries and criminal and civil courts, charges and lawsuits. What works best is reforming predator-friendly secular laws that protect predators and enablers. That’s where all of us should put our energies.

Now more than ever we hope that victims of clergy sex crimes and cover ups will find the courage to come forward and report their crimes to the police and find the healing and justice – in the secular sphere- they deserve.

(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]), Barbara Blaine (in Switzerland now, 312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected])  

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