The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to Cardinal Keeler
September 23, 2004
Dear Cardinal Keeler:
A recent Dallas Morning News year-long investigation has revealed that seven known or suspected child molesting clergy have now moved across national boundaries and are living in or near the Vatican and still functioning, in the center of Catholicism, as priests. The same investigation also discovered that more than 200 other known or admitted pedophile priests have also fled civil or criminal prosecution by moving to other countries.
One such priest is your own Fr. Laurence Brett, one of the most prolific and notorious abusive clergymen in American history. In 1993, as you know, Brett vanished abruptly, leaving a trail of accusers stretching across four states (Connecticut, New Mexico, California and Maryland) and over 30 years.
The disturbing findings in the Dallas Morning News investigation prompt us now to write you. We call on you to do your Christian and civic duty regarding Brett.
First, we are that you publicly reach out to anyone molested by Brett who is still suffering in silence, shame and self-blame. They should be encouraged to come forward and get help.
Second, we urge you to do everything in your power to help make sure that Brett is prosecuted so that kids can be protected. Anyone who witnessed, experienced or suspected abuse by Brett should be prodded to come forward to criminal authorities.
It is crucial that you use every possible method to do this: notices on your web site, in your archdiocesan newspaper, in church bulletins, and personal visits to each place where he worked. Such notices should:
-- specifically mention Brett by name and describe him as a fugitive
from the law,
Sadly, some Catholics still apparently believe that speaking about such unspeakable crimes only brings shame on their parish or the church at large. At every opportunity, you should emphasize that the reverse is true: silence enables abuse, speaking up prevents it. Silence enables a terrible cancer, abusive clergy, to grow within the church. Disclosure enables that cancer to be rooted out so that wounds can heal and so that the vulnerable can be safeguarded.)
You are surely aware that several years ago, according to the Hartford Courant, Brett was found on a Caribbean island, but narrowly escaped. In his apartment, police found letters to and from two of Brett's brother priests in the Bridgeport Diocese. Two Catholic priests, who knew better, kept quiet and enabled Brett to continue eluding justice.
Under considerable public pressure, Bridgeport's bishop was forced to discipline those two clerics.
We fear that similarly, Brett's whereabouts may be known to some of his former co-workers and parishioners in Maryland. If so, assertive action on your part might prick those individuals' consciences, and prod them to do the right thing: contact law enforcement.
Cardinal, you and your brother bishops face a choice. You can make carefully crafted public relations moves, professing to care about victims. Or you can make public, tangible and effective moves to aggressively cut through a deeply rooted clerical culture of secrecy, and use your clout to really help victims break their silence and help criminals be prosecuted.
It appears to us that you have done the former. It's long past time to do the latter.
It's your choice, Cardinal. More of the minimal, discredited, half-hearted practices of the past - protecting clerics' reputations and church assets. Or a new, assertive, pro-active policy - genuinely reaching out to the wounded and protecting the vulnerable.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests