SNAP Legal Action

The landing page for all information related to the SNAP and CCR filing in the International Criminal Court which names Pope Benedict and other church officials in a lawsuit alleging systemic human rights violations. Here you will find important documents and fact sheets, and will also be able to show your support for abuse survivors.

Welcome to the landing page for all things related to the SNAP and CCR lawsuit filed against Vatican officials and Pope Benedict for human rights violations. Below you will find informative documents and links to other important websites.

SNAP and CCR file supplemental evidence on April 11, 2012

  • Read the supplemental filing here

Editorials by SNAP Leadership on the ICC filing:

  • Op-ed by David Clohessy, SNAP Director, in the Star-Tribune: Read it here.
  • Op-ed by Barbara Blaine, SNAP President. in the Guardian: Read it here.

Documents, News, and Fact Sheets:

  1. Press release
  2. Press advisory for DC and NYC
  3. Facts of the case
  4. Complete text of the filing communication to the ICC
  5. Statements by SNAP Leaders
  6. Biographies of SNAP and CCR members involved
  7. List of cities on the Europe tour and times of events
  8. ICC Letter from Prosecution 
  9. "Abuse Victims ask Court to Prosecute the Vatican"- New York Times
  10. "Hague Court Declines Inquiry into Church Abuse Cover-up"- New York Times

Links for more information:

What experts on law and religion are saying:

  • "The legal situation is not yet clear," but that the dossier submitted "re-opens the question over a cover-up in the 1980s and 1990s. The problem remains that the Vatican has not opened its archives and has not even launched an international investigation into its dioceses around the world." - Marco Politi, Vatican Expert and commentator for Il Fatto Quotidiano. Taken from the Montreal Gazette. 
  • "It is a very slim avenue, but it's an avenue nonetheless," - Lorraine Smith, International Bar Association. Taken from Reuters. 
  • "You get a great deal of publicity," "And you put new pressure on the national courts, letting them know that if they don't prosecute there are alternatives." - William Burke White, Deputy Dean and Professer of Law at UPenn. Taken from the Bellingham Herald.
  •  "At least since 2001-2002, [Pope Benedict] has at least had primary responsibility for these cases," "It's unlikely that the court will take this up, but they won't be able to dismiss it easily. They may have to open up a preliminary investigation." - Laurie Goodstein, Religion correspondent for the New York Times. Taken from PRI.
  • "Jurisdiction is a hurdle. "The court has handled war crimes, but the argument can be made that the abuse of children is as tragic and heinous as anything. It's a crime against humanity." - Mike Pfau, Seattle attorney. Taken from the Seattle Times.
  • The complaint to the ICC "suddenly reframes the issue in the public consciousness." - Tim Kosnoff, Seattle attorney. Taken from the Seattle Times.
  • "The ICC filing marks the most substantive effort yet to hold the pope and Vatican accountable in an international court for sexual abuse by priests." - Nathan Koppel, WSJ contributor. Taken from the Wall Street Journal.
  • "The Holy See is a sovereign, which like all other sovereigns, must be accountable for violations of human rights.  SNAP's action under the ICC is timely and appropriate.  If successful, it will secure more protection for children not just against the Holy See, but all sovereigns." - Marci A. Hamilton, Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law Yeshiva University

 

Media Statements

Quebec Cardinal Ouellet set to retire amid sexual abuse allegations

(For Immediate Release January 30, 2023) 

The Vatican announced on Monday that Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who oversees the influential bishops' office, will retire on April 12.

The announcement that Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet, comes two weeks after allegations of sexual misconduct against Ouellet by a second woman in the Quebec Archdiocese were made public.

In August 2022, Pope Francis passed up a perfect chance to demonstrate that even those closest to him, such as Cardinal Ouellet, are not immune to investigation.  We simply do not understand why the uninvited actions by a high-ranking Catholic official that is the subject of a current lawsuit can be so easily -- and quickly -- dismissed by the Church. Victims who fight hard to bring forth the wrong done to them do not have the luxury of retirement, their fight continues. It shows the superficiality of the Church's promises to handle such accusations competently.

Pope Francis shouldn't wash his hands of Ouellet upon this announcement. We believe that it is no longer acceptable to continue to ignore church officials' involvement in sex crimes, the news of it flows steadily. Additionally, it makes adults' suffering worse and encourages complicity from other church officials. We urge Pope Francis to take all possible measures to bar Ouellet from using any sort of public forum or position. We also urge Ouellet to refrain from applying for such positions or platforms.

 

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager, (267-261-0578, [email protected]) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected]) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President (814-341-8386, [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)

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San Antonio Priest Quietly Removed After Sexual Misconduct Investigation

Fr. Duncan Amek, a Catholic priest from the Archdiocese of San Antonio has been removed from active ministry following an investigation of sexual misconduct involving women and financial impropriety.

On May 15, 2019, in St. Ann's Church, where he had been a deacon for the previous year, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, MSpS, ordained Duncan Amek, a native of Homa Bay, Kenya, to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of San Antonio. Amek then went to work for St. Matthew Church and School in San Antonio, Texas.

We are worried for the unsuspecting adult women involved who may have fallen for Amek’s predilection and scheme. More importantly, our concern is this. Was Amek’s actions criminal? If so, we hope church officials turn over all the information they have obtained in their investigation to law enforcement. We would also like to know what constitutes sexual misconduct in the eyes of church officials.


SNAP raises concern over former high ranking priest employee, now current parish pastor

**UPDATE REGARDING MSGR PULSKAMP TO REFLECT INFORMATION REPORTED JANUARY 23, 2023 https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/santa-rosa-priest-was-accused-of-child-sex-abuse-by-error-plaintiffs-atto/**

 

(For Immediate Release June 27, 2022) 

SNAP raises concern over former high-ranking priest employee, now current parish pastor

This past week, NBC Bay Area News (Part 1 and Part 2)  revealed that at least four prominent Catholic priests in the San Francisco Bay Area were accused of child sexual abuse in lawsuits filed under California's look-back window. Yet contrary to the promises of the 2002 Dallas Charter, all four are still working. 

While all four clerics are a serious concern to us, it appears that Msgr. James Pulskamp of the Diocese of Santa Rosa -- accused in a current suit of sexually abusing a child at the Hanna Boys Center -- was in the best position to also cover up accusations of abuse, including perhaps any against him. As we have come to expect, Catholic officials attempt to minimize the gravity of the allegations by saying, "we've never received a complaint about Rev. Pulskamp.” Yet it seems to us that this lawsuit is a complaint and it has now been received.

The monsignor is still working today as a pastor. Bishop Robert Vasa's apparent excuse for this failure to protect today's children is that the Msgr. Pulskamp was "cleared" by "internal review board" investigations.

As advocates for survivors, we know that false allegations are incredibly rare. With the civil window still open, "internal review" seems premature. More lawsuits will no doubt be filed before the window closes on December 31, 2022. Moreover, we also know that internal review boards have "cleared" other accused clergymen only to have additional information lead to the opposite result down the road. One California example is the case of Fr. Eric Swearingen. The priest was placed on leave briefly after he was accused of child sexual abuse in a 2006 lawsuit. However, the Diocese of Fresno subsequently deemed the allegation "not credible" and Fr. Swearingen was allowed to return to ministry. In 2019, Fr. Swearingen was again placed on leave, reportedly based on information that was uncovered during the course of that lawsuit. Ultimately Fr. Swearingen was added to Fresno"s list of accused priests.

 

 


Letter to Kansas Attorney General 'Victims back reform bill & seek predators' names'

(For Immediate Release January 20, 2023) 

Dear Attorney General Kobach:

Two weeks ago, after four years of investigation, your predecessor released a dreadfully disappointing 21 page report on Catholic officials who committed or concealed horrific child sex crimes. But he refused to name a single wrongdoer.

The Nebraska AG issued a similar report, 182 pages, naming 57 credibly accused abusive Catholic clerics. https://www.bishop-accountability.org/2021/11/nebraska-clergy-sex-abuse-report-258-victims-57-predators-no-prosecution/

The Missouri AG released a similar report, 329 pages, naming 173 credibly accused abusive Catholic clerics. https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/2019/catholicchurchclergyabuseinvestigationreport.pdf

The Pennsylvania AG issued a similar report, 884 pages, naming 301 credibly accused abusive Catholic clerics. https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/taking-action/attorney-general-shapiro-details-findings-of-2-year-grand-jury-investigation-into-child-sex-abuse-by-catholic-priests-in-six-pennsylvania-dioceses/

The Colorado AG released a similar report, 241 pages, naming 41 credibly accused abusive Catholic clerics. https://www.bishop-accountability.org/reports/2019_10_22_Colorado_Special_Masters_Report_FINAL.pdf

The Michigan AG released a similar report, 149 pages, naming 44 credibly accused abusive Catholic clerics in just one small diocese (She also criminally charged seven predator priests in just one year). https://www.michigan.gov/ag/news/press-releases/2019/12/27/ag-nessel-seven-priests-charged-in-2019-more-to-come
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/252666/michigan-attorney-general-releases-clergy-sex-abuse-report-marquette


SNAP APPLAUDS THE BRAVE VICTIM IN NEW LAWSUIT AGAINST THE ARCHDIOCESE OF DENVER

(For Immediate Release January 19, 2023) 

On behalf of a former altar boy, attorneys on Thursday filed a civil lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Denver and a nearby church. We applaud the brave survivor in this case for coming forward, sharing his story, and assuredly letting other victims know they are not alone and that there is a pathway forward to healing and justice.

The lawsuit filed today accuses a longtime priest, Rev. Timothy Evans – one of Colorado's most notorious sex abusers – of sexually assaulting Scott Verti more than 100 times inside church buildings and at the priest's apartment. Scott says he was repeatedly abused between the ages of 14 and 18, from 1999 to 2003, at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Parish in Fort Collins by Fr. Evans.  Scott spent a lot of time at the parish during the abuse years, serving as an altar boy and staying late into the night and coming in early on Sundays. According to court documents, Fr. Evans exploited his position of authority to dominate his victim and keep him silent about the violence he was experiencing. The priest was convicted of sex crimes against children in 2007 and was serving time in prison for those assaults when he was finally laicized in 2013.

Like the majority of childhood sexual abuse survivors, Scott suffered permanent injuries as a result of this abuse. We stand with Scott and applaud his bravery and courage as he seeks to hold the Church accountable for the injuries he suffered and for the cover-up. We hope that Scott's example will provide hope and encouragement to other victims throughout Colorado, and we are confident that his speaking out today will inspire others to break their silence.

We are also grateful to attorneys Kurt Zaner and Mara Essick of Zaner Harden for aggressively pursuing this case and helping Scott find justice. Especially given the fact that Catholic officials never pursued an investigation of their own in the late 1990s, when the first accusations were made, there is no doubt in our minds that the Church breached its duty of care to Scott. Thanks to these attorneys and this brave survivor, the institution is now finally being held accountable.

CONTACT: Contact: Jeb Barrett, SNAP Leader Colorado,( 720-608-8532 [email protected]) Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected] 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President, (814-341-8386 [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)

 

 


SNAP Urges Lawmakers in Maryland to Advance and Pass Child Victims Act of 2023

(For Immediate Release January 19, 2023)

The Child Victims Act of 2023, a bill that would change Maryland's statute of limitations, will be explained before the Maryland Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee. We hope that this meeting will help legislators better understand the urgent need to remove age and time constraints on civil claims in Maryland for victims of childhood abuse.

The road to justice is frequently difficult for victims of molestation, assault, and childhood sexual abuse. Most survivors don't even begin to accept the abuse until they are far into adulthood, a medical fact known as delayed disclosure. Due to this delay, it is normal for adults in their 30s, 40s, or 50s to acknowledge and admit to having been the victim of child sexual abuse. Despite this fact, civil statute of limitations laws around the country have been slow to change to reflect this reality,

Reviving adult victims of child sex abuse's civil claims is the only means to ensure that justice is served in cases when the civil SOL has passed. In other words, individuals deserve the chance to initiate civil actions if they so choose to correct the wrongs done to them. Older accusations of abuse should be admissible for a variety of reasons, including the importance of maintaining the public's safety. The public gains in many ways when victims can report their abuse and file claims for damages. Most clearly, abusers and those complicit in enabling them are exposed, helping protect other children from the same fate.

Since window legislation has passed in states including New York, New Jersey, and California, we have seen hundreds if not thousands of new survivors come forward, exposing uncomfortable truths about hidden perpetrators and their enablers. To us, there is no question that this law will provide a path toward justice, healing, and prevention for survivors in Maryland.

Society is made safer every time a survivor comes forward to share their experience. We are aware that many abusers are still alive and unreported, endangering the communities in which they reside. The Child Victims Act of 2023 will aid in fixing that issue, enabling survivors to come forward and fostering safer, more educated communities.

We appreciate the Maryland General Assembly for pursuing this remedy for abuse victims, and we hope that Anthony Brown, the state's attorney general, will support victims and use the authority of his position to fight for the release of the thorough investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic clergy in Maryland. Together, we can devise fresh approaches to safeguard children and assist survivors.

 CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected] 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President, (814-341-8386 [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)


Philadelphia Area Catholic Grade School Teacher Charged with Child Pornography Crimes

(For Immediate Release January 18, 2023) 

Todd Philip Napolitano was arrested on January 13, 2023, on charges he disseminated sexually explicit photos and film of child sex acts, child pornography, and criminal use of a communication facility.  Napolitano started teaching middle schoolers at St. Charles Borromeo School, a private Catholic school in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, roughly five months ago.

Child pornography is illegal to view, own, share, or produce, and for good reason. The boys and girls in the pictures are victims of sexual abuse and likely do not know it yet. These poor, helpless children will endure anguish and misery for the rest of their lives. Additionally, it is not unusual for people who own child porn to abuse sexually.

We urge Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia to take aggressive steps and reach out directly to the parents/guardians of students at St Charles. Also, it is incumbent upon Church officials to publicly share the work history of Napolitano. It is highly unlikely that this horrific crime was the first time for this defendant, and we are concerned that Napolitano has worked in other local schools in the tri-state area.

No matter what the courts or Catholic officials do or do not do, we implore everyone who witnessed, suspected, or suffered from child sex crimes and cover-ups in Catholic churches or institutions to protect children by calling the police, expose predators by calling law enforcement, get justice by calling attorneys, and receive help by contacting therapists and support groups like us. In this way, children will be safer, people will recover, criminals will face justice, cover-ups will be discouraged, and the truth will come to light.

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected] 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President, (814-341-8386 [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)


Donald McLeish of SNAP Australia Statement on the death of Cardinal Pell

For immediate release January 13, 2023

 

The surprise death of George Pell came as good news to many survivors of clerical abuse in Australia. SNAP or its network members do not celebrate the death of anyone, even of a man despised and mistrusted by thousands of survivors and supporters in Australia and beyond.

 

Donald McLeish of SNAP Australia, says “George Pell had become a target and focus for survivors, and seen as the embodiment of the church’s attitude to those sexually abused by clerics, religious brothers and sisters, and lay employees of the Catholic Church in Australia.” The ‘modus operandi’ used worldwide, was to immediately dispel the situation, minimise the damage, and move the perpetrator on to other places where abuse continued almost unabated until recent times.

 

George Pell was recognised by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, as a witness whose testimony at the very least, left much to be desired. Pell, rather than being instrumental in change as a church senior leader supporting survivors and victims of sexual abuse, adopted even refined, the long-standing Church practice of secrecy, and protecting the institution, seemingly at all costs. Caring for the abused was only to a degree that did not ‘upset the applecart’ or bring discredit to the Church. The hierarchy attitude held more sway than responding to the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being and hurt caused by the sexual abuse.

 

In the words of one such survivor, “Pell was a sanctimonious, lying sociopath who exhibited no remorse, compassion, empathy, decency, or integrity when questioned about the abuse which happened under his leadership”. Another said, “Bloody relieved, Pell is dead”. This was uttered by a man continuing to deal with the abuse suffered many years ago. Then a gentler comment, “Let’s not condone wrongdoing by honouring those who enabled or concealed wrongdoing”, obviously referring to Pell’s time in Ballarat, and as an Assistant Bishop in Melbourne. An interesting note here is, the Victorian Government (Pell’s home state) will not hold a formal memorial to Pell, the rationale provided is the possible triggering and hurt it may cause.

 

It was at this stage George Pell showed his ‘colours’ by not dealing with the paedophile priest Father Searson at the Doveton Parish, directly under his authority. This abuse involved among others, a particular young student at the Parish school Julie Stewart, and her whistle-blowing school principal Graeme Sleeman, whose pleas to the Church were not heard for a further twelve years. Graeme Sleeman’s experience with George Pell and the Church was a crushing blow to him and his family. He never worked in Catholic education again and to date remains frustratingly legally entangled with the Catholic Church. Pell was aware of this, did nothing, and Searson continued abusing for another seven years before his removal. This action followed a parishioners delegation meeting with Pell tragically, five years after the abuse of Julie Stewart.

 

The Royal Commissioners were scathing of Pell for this inaction, and SNAP members will not forget this mammoth oversight and further enabling of abuse to innocent children.

 

At that time Pell’s battle with the Foster family formed a significant part of the clerical abuse history in Australia. Emma and Katie Foster, were both abused by Fr. Kevin O’Donnell, a prolific child abuser over the course of 50 years. Some of his crimes including rape were committed during Pell’s tenure as Assistant Bishop. Emma Foster tragically took her life, as numerous victims have done, while Katie lives with the ongoing effects of a car accident resulting from the misuse of alcohol and trauma caused by O’Donnell.

 

The Royal Commission described the Ballarat abuse situation as a “Catastrophic institutional failure.” It was much more than that, and those victims who have died, many by their own hand, convincingly demonstrate that fact. The survivors who live day to day struggling with flashbacks, PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, addictions, and the list goes on, can verify and confirm the tragedy of the carnage of human dignity and life. All caused by a systemic failure to place human life over the credibility of the institutional Church.

This is the legacy George Pell leaves, and there will be no tears shed by SNAP survivors on his passing. He was one man, there are others, and the fight for justice, compensation, and recognition continues. To echo a comment made in an article by the author of ‘Cardinal’ a book on Pell, by journalist Louise Milligan, we share the summing up of George Pell as she quotes a line from a character in Charles Dickins’s David Copperfield. “Ride on! Rough-shod, if need be, smooth-shod if that will do, but ride on! Ride over all obstacles and win the race.”

 

Is the race over? SNAP members disagree.

 

ENDS

 

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

International Website: https://www.snapnetwork.org

National Website: https://www.snapnetwork.org/australia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/snapaustralia

 

SNAP contact in Australia: Donald McLeish, 0411 565 691.

 


KBI Releases Report into Clergy Abuse, SNAP Applauds Victims for Coming Forward

For immediate release: January 9, 2022

A long-awaited report into Catholic clergy sexual abuse in Kansas has been released, and once again an independent, secular authority has reaffirmed the reality of the situation when it comes to institutional sexual abuse: the church playbook has always been to minimize, obfuscate, and silence.

In this case, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation spoke to 137 victims and combed through 225 reports and more than 40,000 pages of documents to create this final report. Despite the work that went into this report, we expect more to be revealed in the future as, due to delayed disclosure, it is likely that victims from the 1990s and 2000s have yet to come forward.

While it is important and valuable to learn about the investigation, it is disappointing that, of the 30 cases forward to prosecutors, none have been able to move forward. The reality of statutes of limitations and the passing of time has made these cases nearly impossible to prosecute, but we hope that the victims who came forward for this investigation feel helped and healed. We honor their courage and bravery in coming forward.

Ultimately, it is both disappointing and validating to read that the church in Kansas did exactly what the Church did in BostonPennsylvaniaMunichAustralia, and so many other places. First, church officials acted to protect the accused priest, minimizing their crimes of rape and assault as mere “boundary violations” or “inappropriate conduct.” Then, when they moved the priest to a new area where they could escape the allegations, they lied to parishioners about the reasoning, describing the moves as procedural or due to retirements. Finally, victims were treated with disregard, subjected to biased and inefficient investigations, and forced into silence through the use of non-disclosure agreements and fear of retribution. Our hearts break for the victims and their families throughout Kansas who were subjected to this kind of treatment.

Michael McDonnell, a spokesperson for the international Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that while the numbers of alleged abuses before 1990 are not surprising, the numbers after that are “still questionable” because many victims likely have not come forward. McDonnell said it’s “the Catholic Church playbook” to run out the clock on potential criminal charges and then be cooperative. “What we want to know is who was complicit?” McDonnell said, adding that abusers were allowed “to continue their careers in transfer upon transfer upon transfer only to go on to abuse more children?”

This report is yet another signal flare that legislative change is needed to support survivors and protect children. A glaring absence is that of the alleged abusers’ names. In a comment to KCTV-5 “The Archdiocese has openly collaborated with the KBI from the moment we initiated an extensive and thorough review of our internal files by an independent, outside law firm,” said Vicar General Father John Riley. “We shared the full results of our independent review with the KBI and have continued to provide additional information throughout the investigation.”

We demand the names of alleged abusers in this report and that the Archdiocese list of credibly accused be updated immediately. We hope that legislators in Kansas will look into abolishing their civil statute of limitations and open a lookback window so that more abusers can be brought to light and to justice. Similarly, we hope they will move to make clergy and church staff mandatory reporters so that there are penalties and deterrents for not reporting abuse to authorities.

CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications ([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386)

(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)

 


Accolades for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI are not well received by clergy abuse survivors.

(For Immediate Release January 4, 2023) 

For the next few days, we will continue to hear and read wonderful adjectives and eulogies about the life of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Many admirers have praised his handling of the clergy sex abuse epidemic, but we see things differently. On this traumatic issue, Pope Benedict XVI leaves a legacy of failure.

Hailing Pope Benedict as a reformer on clergy sex abuse is flat-out wrong. While many in the flock mourn his loss, they also anesthetize themselves more to the dark reality of sexual abuse by the clergy in both past and present cases.

As both Cardinal Ratzinger and later Pope, Benedict squandered opportunities to make a difference for victims and instead solidified the protection of abusers. Prior to becoming Pope, he was a prominent player on the Vatican stage for a quarter of a century, having led the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Roman Curia's most important dicastery, and later working as the Dean of the College of Cardinals from 2002 until his election as Pope.

As Pope, Benedict promoted a roster of men who protected the Church at the expense of children. From Cardinal Jean Pierre Bernard Ricard, who recently admitted abusing a 14 year old girl in the 1990s, to men like Cardinal Timothy Dolan – who kept priests like Msgr. John Paddock, accused at least 12 times of abuse, in positions of power over children – and Cardinal Donald Wuerl – who repeatedly shuffled and protected abusive priests while leading the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

In our view, when the now defrocked ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick's disclosure of abuse put another black eye on Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis, we can not help but think of how much Benedict, then Cardinal Ratzinger knew, yet did nothing while heading up the CDF. We are reminded of the stance he took when he became the supreme pontiff in 2005, around the time when more information about McCarrick surfaced. To McCarrick’s benefit, Benedict ultimately decided against a canonical trial or sanction, in part because the Vatican’s in-house legal code did not provide ways to prosecute old cases of priests who slept with young men. “Instead, the decision was made to appeal to McCarrick’s conscience and ecclesial spirit by indicating to him that he should maintain a lower profile and minimize travel for the good of the church.”

As Pope, Benedict reopened an investigation into Rev. Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, an influential religious order and John Paul II's mentee, and subsequently removed him from ministry. However, it is hard for us to imagine why he did not act while overseeing the CDF instead of waiting until he became the supreme pontiff.

When forced, the Church hierarchy occasionally suspends proven, admitted, and "credibly accused" child and adult predators. However, only in a few cases has the hierarchy ever disciplined a corrupt bishop. It is even more disturbing when the hierarchy honors one of its own with a dismal track record on the Church's most devastating scandal in modern times. Frontline trauma professionals have a duty to do their very best for those with emergent needs. That should be the case for Catholic officials as well, especially in an institution with a horrifying history of committing, ignoring, and concealing heinous child sex crimes. 

Church officials can do little to alleviate the suffering of the hundreds of thousands of deeply wounded men, women, and children who have been sexually abused by clergy. But the Catholic hierarchy CAN avoid rubbing salt into their wounds by heralding a pontiff who presided over many, well-documented clergy sex crimes and cover-ups.

In his more than 25 years as the world's most influential religious figure, Pope Benedict XVI fell short in protecting children and adults around the world. He used his unparalleled knowledge of Church doctrine and theology on other critical issues repeatedly and effectively. Still, he virtually ignored the burning problem of clergy sexual abuse during his tenure in office.

As we see it, Pope Benedict XVI did not resign because of his job performance, he abandoned the Church and his flock when certain truths could no longer be hidden. Throughout his long career, the same pattern of abuse, institutional knowledge, and cover-up are visible. Benedict’s multiple apologies are faint at best, especially to a population of victims who could care less about an institution that allowed the truth to be hidden. The Catholic Church essentially condones wrongdoing by honoring those who enable or conceal wrongdoing.

CONTACT:  Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications ([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386)

(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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