Rome- New Vatican panel must hold hearings and denounce bishops
For immediate release: Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago, president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (European cell +39 366 1160224, U.S. cell +1 312 399 4747, Rome hotel- +39 06 598591; [email protected])
If Pope Francis' new abuse study panel is to be effective and seem credible, it must act quickly. After all, Catholic officials have dealt with clergy sexual violence privately for centuries and publicly for decades, yet painfully little reform has happened or is happening. And clergy sex crimes and cover ups keep happening while predator priests are being protected, moved and kept on the job.
We're pessimistic about this panel. But if it is to have any real chance of making any difference, we believe the panel should:
–make their meeting agendas public (long in advance),
–make their meeting minutes public (promptly afterwards),
–immediately denounce the new, secretive Italian bishops’ abuse policy,
–publicly rebuke even a few individual bishops, by name, who are clearly concealing or have concealed abuse, and
–hold open, public hearings about the church's on-going abuse and cover up crisis in at least a dozen nations.
Secrecy has enabled child rape and cover up. Openness will help expose and prevent it.
Why are we pessimistic? Because over the past two decades, hundreds of similar church panels have been set up at the national and diocesan levels across the world. Because these panels often operate in secrecy, with little real input from independent sources and have almost no power we believe they are mostly ineffective.
These hand-picked panel members –mostly all Catholic church-goers –have rarely spoken out in public, even in the most egregious cases of recklessness, callousness and deceit by Catholic officials. Thus, they lend their names and reputations to an effort that is destined to fail because bishops retain all their power and continue with their irresponsible complicity.
Historically, church spokesmen claim that these church abuse panels are to focus on the “big picture” and “long term proposals,” not on individual cases. But children can't wait for one or two or three years of “study.”
Regardless of what the church hierarchy wants, we believe that these panels - or panel members - have both the chance and the duty to take action now to expose and deter cover-ups. The best way to do that is to rebuke the most serious and blatant “enablers,” the church supervisors who endanger kids by protecting predators and keeping secrets.
The panel should also urge bishops to fight for, not against, reforming secular child safety laws (like the archaic, predatory-friendly statutes of limitations).
We believe that only similar swift and public action will help keep children safe, and that the panel will only be effective if it insists on quick and concrete reforms, including the punishment of wrongdoers.
Finally, we urge the Pope to take proven steps now to safeguard kids. He should not postpone action until the committee finishes its “study” or meetings.
Francis has taken quick, decisive action to reform Vatican finances and governance; he should do the same here.
Francis also moved quickly to remove the German “Bishop of Bling” because he embarrassed church officials with his extravagant spending.
But Francis hasn't taken a single step that protects a single child or exposes a single cover up, much less disciplines, a single Catholic bishop who ignores or hides clergy sex crimes.
On church governance and finances, he takes quick action. On abuse, he takes no action.
Or worse, he takes hurtful actions. Last year, he met privately with Cardinal Bernard Law. In January, he met both privately and publicly with disgraced US Cardinal Roger Mahony. Advocating change in almost every other arena, he told Vatican officials who deal with abuse to “keep doing what you are doing.” And this spring, he claimed that no one has “done more” on abuse than the Catholic church yet is “singled out” for criticism.
He promoted Australia's complicit Cardinal George Pell. And he took months to announce this panel, another month to name even one member of it, and more months to call its first meeting.
And his dealing with abuse in Argentina is abysmal:
So in sum, at this point in the on-going church abuse and cover up crisis, the harm is great, the risk is high, and the church track record is dismal. That's why we are pessimistic about this panel. But we would love to be proven wrong.
(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 SNAPnetwork.org)
In Rome----Barbara Blaine, European cell +39 366 1160224, U.S. cell +1 312 399 4747, Rome hotel- +39 06 598591; [email protected], Miguel Hurtado +44 7787 638245, Nicky Davis, European cell +39 388 9068750,[email protected]
In the US----David Clohessy (in Missouri) +1 314 645 5915 home, +1 314 566 9790 cell, [email protected] or Barbara Dorris (in Missouri) +1 314 503 0003 cell, [email protected] or the SNAP office in Chicago at +1 312 455 1499, [email protected]g or [email protected]