The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
July 31, 2003
Dear Presiding Bishop Griswold:
We realize that this, during your triennial national general convention, is not the ideal time to reach out to you and the leadership of the Episcopalian Church. Still, given the horrific sex abuse scandal which has rocked the Catholic Church in recent years, and given what we have learned from it, we feel compelled to write you.
As you may know, SNAP is the nation's largest and oldest support group for clergy molestation victims. We provide confidential, independent support that are open to and include victims from ALL denominations, including Episcopalians. Formed in Chicago in 1989, we now have 50+ self-help chapters across the country and more than 4,600 members, dozens of whom were abused by Episcopalian clergy.
First, let us acknowledge that Episcopal leaders were among the first to instituting mandatory background checks and abuse training for church employees. We applaud your efforts in this regard. Of course, policies don't protect children. It takes concerted, on-going and courageous decisions by caring church leaders and members. But we are grateful that Episcopalians have taken some early steps to address this terrible problem.
At the same time, we know that every denomination can and must do better. Just last night, at a self-help meeting in St. Paul, one of our members spoke about his victimization in Michigan City, Indiana at the hands of a former Catholic priest who became an Episcopal priest: E. Brian "Skip" Carsten. (Carsten is no longer an Episcopalian clergy but still holds himself out as a minister. See his website: crosswoods.org.) And in a few days, a civil sexual abuse lawsuit will be filed against an Episcopalian priest who abused a California youngster years ago yet still serves a parish today. Again, clearly, every church and must do more to safeguard children.
Second, we are asking your help in spreading the word about our support group through your denomination's web sites, publications and church bulletins. This would send a clear signal to abused men and women that you and your colleagues really care. And it would surely enable some who were victimized by Episcopalian clergy to get the help they deserve and need to begin the long, painful recovery process.
Finally, let us humbly but firmly urge you and your colleagues to avoid the temptation of complacency. Because many in the Episcopalian Church began to address the traumatic issue of child sexual abuse earlier than other denominations, and because the bulk of the media attention and litigation in recent years has focused on the Catholic faith, we worry that a dangerous complacency may set in, a dangerous indifference based on the mistaken notion that "We've already addressed this problem."
Over the past few years, we in SNAP have sometimes detected this attitude among some Protestant clergy about abuse within their churches. We want to urge all religious leaders and faithful to be vigilant about suspected abuse, report to police and prosecutors, re-double prevention efforts, support victims, and learn from the scandal that has afflicted the Catholic Church in recent years, but to some degree afflicts all denominations.
Please know that our organization stands ready to work with you and others in the Episcopal faith in any way we can to help make sure that all churches are safe for children and vulnerable adults.
David Clohessy of St. Louis
Barbara Blaine of Chicago
Belinda Martinez of Maplewood, MN
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests