Diocese of Savannah, GA to Get New Bishop, SNAP Calls for Action

A Catholic diocese in Georgia is getting a new bishop. We hope that this incoming prelate will make the protection of children and the vulnerable his highest priority and we suggest two immediate steps he can take when he is formally installed as bishop.

Fr. Stephen Parkes from the Diocese of Orlando, Florida, has been appointed by Pope Francis to become the Bishop of Savannah, Georgia. With this promotion, Bishop-elect Parkes now has more responsibility for the safety of children and the vulnerable than ever. It is crucial that within his first few official weeks in this new post that he takes tangible steps to prevent abuse.

First, Bishop Parkes should read every file of every person accused of abuse in his diocese and ensure that each case is being or was handled properly. He should also turn over every single one of those files to local police and prosecutors to let properly trained experts in law enforcement determine if there are any crimes that can be charged.

Second, Bishop Parkes should review the list of the “credibly accused” released to the public by his new diocese and make sure that the list is complete. It should include the name of every abusive bishop, priest, brother, nun, and church employee or volunteer. He should then make sure the list also provides the most detail possible about every accused perpetrator, including headshots, current whereabouts, complete work histories with dates, as well as the dates when Catholic officials were first made aware of the allegations and what actions diocesan leaders took in response. We also urge him to make the list easily accessible to parishioners and the public.

One example that underscores the importance of this review is the fact that high-profile abuser Fr. Donald McGuire spent time in Savannah and conducted retreats there for seminarians. Yet, despite the fact that apparently at least two Georgia families contacted the diocese regarding abuse by Fr. McGuire, he is not named on their list of “credibly accused” priests. Even if allegations of abuse were never made in the diocese, we believe Fr. McGuire’s name should still be listed there. Bishop Parkes can correct this omission quickly and easily.

For years, Catholic officials have promised transparency and openness to the public about sex crimes. Bishop Parkes can live up to that promise now.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 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)

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