Clergy Abuse Survivors Return to Rome on First Anniversary of Vatican Abuse Summit to Bring About More Change
At his much-anticipated abuse summit last year, Pope Francis called for an “all-out battle” on clergy abuse. Now, on the anniversary of that summit, clergy abuse survivors and advocates are returning to Rome to mark the anniversary of the summit and demand more action and change.
“In the past twelve months, we have seen the Pope’s “all-out battle” fought by attorneys general, journalists, survivors and advocates. But we have seen precious little reform from church officials themselves,” said Tim Lennon, President of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “Church officials have spoken at length, publicly and privately, in the media and at fancy university events about the need to do better, but those words have not been followed up with action.”
SNAP Leaders from across the US and Canada will be in Rome from February 18-23 to hold press events, demonstrations, and events that will hopefully bring hope to survivors, encourage the public to get involved with sexual abuse prevention, and serve notice to church officials that this issue isn’t going to disappear.
“We are here to prove that we are not going away and that one public event is not enough to address this systemic and worldwide crime,” said Mary Dispenza, SNAP Leader from Seattle, WA. “But we are not relying on promises from church officials anymore; it is we survivors and our allies in government and media who are going to force through change.”
Among the reforms that SNAP wants to see instituted are a worldwide zero tolerance policy for cases of sexual abuse or harassment, an order from Pope Francis that every bishop, archbishop, and cardinal must turn over all files related to clergy abuse to local police and prosecutors, and the creation of a new system to track and monitor priests that have been laicized for sexual abuse.
“For too long, church officials have hid behind canon law and hierarchy to claim that their hands are tied and there isn’t anything they can do without the Pope’s permission,” said Brenda Brunelle, SNAP Leader from Windsor, Ontario. “But the Pope has committed to an all-out battle against abuse and so he needs to step in and demand that his employees do their jobs. In the meantime, we will look to police and prosecutors for transparency and truth.”
“It has been a year since Pope Francis’ summit, and in that past year he has done the bare minimum,” said Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Leader from Southwestern Pennsylvania. “At the same time, in the past year we have seen law enforcement officials across the world tackle this issue with renewed energy and spirit. We want to protect the vulnerable and ensure no one else is abused, and it has become clear that it is secular officials, not church ones, who share our goal.”
During the week they are in Rome, SNAP will be holding events to demand action from not just church officials, but also to remind the public of their role in abuse prevention and also to bring messages of hope and healing to the worldwide survivor community. Their goal is to bring this issue to the mainstream and encourage involvement from individuals at every level of the public.
“We are here to draw attention to the work that has been done by secular law enforcement officials worldwide,” said Kevin Bourgeois, SNAP Leader from New Orleans, LA. “We will call for survivors to come forward to secular law enforcement and join us in our call for secular involvement. And we will bring hope to survivors across that the world that there are places to turn for help.”
CONTACT: Tim Lennon, SNAP President (firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 415-312-5820), Mary Dispenza, SNAP Leader (email@example.com, +1 425-941-6001), Kevin Bourgeois, SNAP Leader (firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 504-376-5445), Brenda Brunelle, SNAP Leader (email@example.com, +1 519-903-7503), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Leader (firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 814-341-8386), Zach Hiner, Executive Director (email@example.com +1 517-974-9009)
(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)