SNAP commends the parishioner who exposed an abusive Catholic priest 25 ago for sharing his story publicly, calls on the Diocese of Springfield to be fully transparent
Earlier today a former parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, came forward publicly to reveal that in 1977 he confronted the Rev. Daniel L. Gill, the assistant pastor at the parish, about a 14-year-old girl's report of sexual molestation by the priest. Russell G. Powell also said that he informed Fr. Gill's superior of the accusation and of the priest's admission of guilt. Fr. Gill subsequently disappeared from the parish, Russell said, and later was transferred to another Catholic church in Brimfield.
We commend Russell for his actions in 1977, and also for coming forward publicly with his testimony after the story of a courageous survivor of Fr. Gill, Sheri Biasin, appeared in the Berkshire Eagle last week.
What concerns us is how the Diocese of Springfield is responding to this new information. It is easy enough to do the math and to determine that the girl that Russell helped is the third known victim of Fr. Gill. Yet the Diocese still insists that it needs more from Sheri to place the priest on its list of "credibly accused" clerics. After reading about the many gaps in Sheri's file, we wonder if Fr. Gill's superior reported to the Diocese in 1977, and whether or not that information was also "lost."
To us, transparency and accountability are actions. Words alone do not help survivors to heal. In a previous statement, the Diocese acknowledges that Sheri's repeated outcries were not handled well. Let us hope that this new information is a huge wake-up call for Church leaders in Springfield. They need to look into what happened to Sheri's reports, and any others. The Diocese must provide a full public accounting of who knew what about Fr. Gill, when they knew it, and what they did with the information. Catholic officials have acted with impunity, to the detriment of countless young lives, for long enough.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])
(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)