Rome--Victims "very skeptical" of new Vatican abuse policy
For immediate release: Saturday, June 4
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, 314 645 5915 home, [email protected])
Instead of just sacking bad bishops, or turning over abuse records to law enforcement, the Vatican is setting up yet another untested, internal church “process” to purportedly deal with bishops who ignore or conceal child sex crimes. We’re extraordinarily skeptical.
A “process” isn’t needed. Discipline is what’s needed. A “process” doesn’t protect kids. Action protects kids.
A “process” is helpful only if it’s used often enough to deter wrongdoing. We doubt this one will be.
Popes and bishops have long had the power, but not the will, to oust those who protect predators and endanger kids. They refuse to do this, and the consequences are devastating.
When it’s advantageous to move quickly, Catholic officials move quickly. When they want to move slowly, or not at all, they set up commissions and “processes” and the like.
We’re reminded of the policy adopted by US bishops in November of 2002, pledging to “correct” prelates who ignore or conceal child sex crimes. It’s never happened. Not once. Not even close. Not even when they’re convicted of failing to report abuse to police (like Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City).
We fear the same will happen with this “new procedure.” We suspect it will be used once or twice soon and will then be ignored. And it will be “business as usual.”
In a clear, rigid monarchy like the church, the monarch calls the shots. He needs no “process.”
We’ll be called naïve. “Of course there must be a process,” some will say. But history and common sense prove otherwise. Look at how quickly popes act against bishops who even question celibacy or women priests or other “hot button” issues. Look at how quickly Francis sacked the German bishop caught extravagantly spending on his mansion (the so-called “bishop of bling”).
And we’ll be called “chronic complainers” by some. But for almost 30 years, we’ve see church policies and protocols and procedures drafted often and ignored just as often. It’s dreadfully disillusioning. (Look at the US bishops’ abuse policy that supposedly mandates “openness and transparency” while bishops continue to hide the names of at least 2,668 accused predator priests.)
In nearly every country on earth, there’s a “process” for dealing with those who hurt kids, directly or indirectly. It’s the justice system. But Catholic officials often and arrogantly and conveniently fixate on their own internal guidelines, and only in a minority of cases – when forced by brave victims or investigative journalists or irate parishioners or aggressive prosecutors – belatedly and reluctantly involve the independent professionals in law enforcement in clergy sex abuse and cover up cases. This latest untested internal “process” is, in reality, likely “more of the same” in a slightly new package. It’s more “let us deal with this ourselves” rather than what’s really needed – harsh punishment of dozens of bad bishops coupled with full disclosure of abuse files to secular authorities.
And it’s worth noting that while Vatican officials use words like “negligent,” that’s disingenuous. Bishops hide predators deliberately, for their own comfort, convenience and careers. These are intentional cover ups, not “botches” or “oversights.” Pretending otherwise is irresponsible and inaccurate.
Finally, no matter what church officials do or don’t do with this “new process,” we urge every single person who saw, suspected or suffered child sex crimes and cover ups in Catholic churches or institutions to protect kids by calling police, get help by calling therapists, expose wrongdoers by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and be comforted by calling support groups like ours. This is how kids will be safer, adults will recover, criminals will be prosecuted, cover ups will be deterred and the truth will surface.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 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)