Rome--Withhold judgment on new papal abuse panel
For immediate release: Wednesday, June 10
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314-566-9790 cell, firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Associated Press correctly reports that “the Vatican was never known to have meted out punishment for a bishop who covered up for an abuser.” Note the word “never.” Ponder this carefully before feeling hopeful about today’s Vatican move.
Again we remind everyone: The pope has virtually limitless power. By now, he could have sacked dozens of complicit bishops. He has, however, sacked no one. Nor has he demoted, disciplined or denounced even one complicit church official – from Cardinal to custodian. None of his predecessors did either. No prelate on the planet has even found the courage to say “Archbishop John Nienstedt shielded child molesting clerics.”
So in the face of this widespread denial, timidity and inaction, let’s be prudent, stay vigilant and withhold judgment until we see if and how this panel might act.
Imagine a huge oil company that had never disciplined a single manager and won’t admit it’s drilling offshore. If it sets up an internal panel to recommend possible manager discipline to its CEO, few would get excited.
That’s what we have here. Catholic officials have disciplined virtually no one for ignoring, concealing or enabling abuse, anywhere on the planet. And Catholic officials won’t admit there are deliberate cover ups, instead disingenuously claiming “mistakes,” “oversights,” and “miscommunication.”
If you can’t properly name a crisis, you’re likely unable to fix it.
Kids need a courageous church culture, not another church committee.
Kids need brave behavior by church officials, not more bureaucracy.
Kids need church members and staff to bring evidence to prosecutors, not to Vatican officials.
Church officials still fight civil lawsuits, criminal prosecutions, governmental investigations and independent institutions like the United Nations. So at one level, this looks again like an effort to stone-wall secular authorities, saying “Back off. Go away. We’re dealing with this internally.”
Accountability necessarily involves consequences for wrongdoers. Whether a new, untested, Vatican-ruled process will mean consequences for wrongdoers remains to be seen.
This move will give hope to some. But hope doesn’t safeguard kids. Punishing men who endanger kids safeguards kids. That should have happened decades ago. That should have happened days after Francis took action. That’s not happening now. And that must happen – strongly and soon – if the church is to be safer.
“The question of accountability for bishops who mishandle abuse cases has long been seen as the most unresolved issue in the church's response to clergy sexual abuse,” writes the National Catholic Reporter.
That question remains unresolved.
(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)