Rome- Papal sainthood encourages wrongdoing, says Austrian victim

For immediate release: Friday, April 25, 2014

Statement by SNAP leader David D’Bonnabel of Austria

We are leaders in an international support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. We are from the U.K., Austria, Australia and the U.S.

Our mission and our calling is to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded, expose the truth and deter future sexual violence in institutions and the cover up of that violence.

We are in Rome now, specifically, to

--denounce Vatican officials for making Pope John Paul II a saint,

--beg Pope Francis and other church supervisors to stop honoring those who commit and conceal child sex crimes, 

--urge the Catholic hierarchy to teach its flock and staff how to act properly when clergy sex abuse reports surface, and

--offer hope and reassurance to the millions of people - victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, parishioners and church employees - who feel hurt, betrayed, depressed and hopeless because callous Catholic officials continue to praise and promote those who conceal horrific clergy sex crimes.

Our basic message can be summed up in four words: Rewarding wrongdoing encourages wrongdoing.

That is what is happening now - in Rome and across the world. And that is what has happened in the church for ages - complicit and corrupt bishops, cardinals, priests, nuns, brothers and other clerics who deny, ignore, minimize and enable cruel sexual violence against innocent children and vulnerable adults are elevated, not expunged, from their positions of power and prestige.

In part, because of this - because the Catholic hierarchy praises wrongdoers instead of punishing them - clergy sex crimes and cover ups persist and preventable pain becomes prolific pain.

Across the world, church buildings, scholarships, streets, stained glass windows, and sports fields are named after proven wrongdoers. Church speaking roles and honorific titles and junkets are given to them. And worst of all, they keep getting promoted.

In just a handful of cases in recent years, clerics who protected predators and endangered kids were ever so slightly rebuked (mostly lower level church staff and only after their misdeeds were made public through civil lawsuits or investigative journalism). But those cases are recent and few and far between and the discipline is laughably light.

In virtually all cases, no matter how deceitful or egregious their misconduct is, no clerical “enabler” is ever defrocked, demoted, disciplined, or even denounced by his church supervisors, at the parish, diocesan or Vatican levels. That encourages even more reckless, callous and deceitful actions.

In fact, given this irresponsible, long-standing and on-going pattern, we are fools if we expect Catholic officials to “reform.”

The canonization of Pope John Paul II, who for decades presided over thousands of clergy sex crimes and cover ups, is the latest and most hurtful example of this irresponsible pattern. 

Our colleague Nicky Davis, Australia's SNAP leader, has said “For Pope Francis and Catholic officials to honor JPII with this exalted title is extraordinarily heartless and unwise. It rubs salt into the already deep wounds of tens of thousands of still-suffering clergy sex abuse victims and their loved ones across the globe.” 

Our colleague Barbara Blaine of Chicago, who founded SNAP, has said “It further hurts millions of already disillusioned and betrayed current and former Catholics. It sends a dangerous signal: if you endanger children and protect predators, you’ll still be rewarded in the church. And it discourages perhaps thousands of victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from speaking up, exposing wrongdoers, protecting children and healing fully.”

She has also said “We hope our brief, small presence in Rome during this insensitive ceremony will remind victims across the world that they aren't alone and that someone understands their pain.”

Our colleague Miguel Hurtado of London SNAP has said “The message is ‘keep putting the reputations of officials above the safety of children and you'll still be protected and promoted in this church. Catholic officials must punish, not praise, those who hurt kids, whether directly or indirectly. Not doing so leads to continued cover ups.” 

For tens of thousands of clergy abuse victims across the world, Pope John Paul's sainthood ceremony will be a difficult time, stirring up wounds and adding to the hopelessness that many feel because the Catholic hierarchy refuses to reform its reckless, callous and deceitful handling of clergy sex case.

In case anyone needs specific examples at this point to back our views, please recall that under Pope John Paul II:

-- the US bishops’ grudging, belated and weak abuse policy was delayed and further weakened allowing predators to remain in ministry and giving no consequences to those that enabled and shielded them,

-- repeated warnings and reports about child sex crimes and misdeeds by the Legion of Christ founder Father Marcel Maciel were repeatedly ignored and concealed, keeping children needlessly at risk, and

 – Boston's disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law was allowed to resign (instead of being punished) and move to Rome where he wielded even more power in the church hierarchy.

 Did Pope John Paul II do lots of good? Of course. Should that be acknowledged? Of course. But given the widespread and largely preventable devastation that was ignored, enabled or tolerated by him and by his aides and appointees, making him a saint is dreadfully hurtful and unwise.

 Finally, on our website is a 21 point plan called “What to do when your priest is accused.” We urge Catholic officials and parishioners to distribute it to church staff and members. It offers guidance for them on the sensitive and responsible ways to act when clergy sex abuse reports surface. It can help avoid deepening the harm to those already wounded like the ceremonies in Rome are doing right now.


1) Friday, April 25, from 8:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m., some of these same victims will hold a brief, candlelight vigil in Rome in honor and remembrance of the boys, girls and vulnerable adults who were victimized by clergy sexual violence on JPII's watch. It will be on the rooftop of the Hotel Orange with the dome of St. Peter's in the background.

2) A few SNAP members from several nations will be in Geneva from April 30 through May 7 for a hearing on May 5 and 6 before the United Nations Committee Against Torture, which will consider whether Vatican officials are violating or complying with an international treaty regarding torture.

For details about the two Rome events, please contact:

--SNAP staff contact information:

(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 USA) David Clohessy (in Missouri), +1 314 645 5915 home, +1 314 566 9790 cell, [email protected]; Barbara Dorris (in Missouri) +1 314 503 0003 cell, [email protected]; or the SNAP office in Chicago at +1 312 455 1499, [email protected] or [email protected].

For details about the Geneva event, please contact:

--Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) staff: Jen Nessel ([email protected]), Pam Spees ([email protected]), or at the CCR office in New York City (+1 212-614-6464).


--SNAP leaders in Europe: 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

–SNAP leaders in USA: David Clohessy (in Missouri), +1 314 645 5915 home, +1 314 566 9790 cell, [email protected]; Barbara Dorris (in Missouri) +1 314 503 0003 cell, [email protected]; or the SNAP office in Chicago at +1 312 455 1499, [email protected] or [email protected]

There are also dozens of local SNAP volunteer leaders on the SNAP website who are local spokespersons for the group: Also please check the SNAP website for details, media statements, etc. THANKS!





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