The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
to Bishop of Patterson, NJ
October 28, 2004
Bishop Arthur Serratelli
Dear Bishop Serratelli:
Since early 2002, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), has had ample reason to regard the Paterson Diocese as being one of the worst dioceses in America when it comes to addressing the problem of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Based on your actions and inactions since becoming bishop nearly four months ago, we are concerned that nothing has changed. Among New Jersey's other dioceses, Camden, Newark, and Metuchen have found ways to start to promote healing by accepting legal settlements with child sex abuse victims. In Boston, a new bishop helped to promote reconciliation when replacing Cardinal Law by addressing more than 500 cases of child sexual abuse.
The brazen, serial child molesting acts of Father James T. Hanley in the Paterson Diocese are well known. There is no doubt that the crimes occurred and that many lives have been traumatized. Hanley himself and your predecessor both admitted Hanley's guilt and the widespread and severe harm he caused. Yet, through your attorney you are applying a "scorched earth" policy toward Hanley's victims and other victims of sexual abuse in the diocese.
SNAP asks you to take two actions to show that a new day has dawned in the Paterson Diocese. We first urge you to withdraw the motion to dismiss the case against the Diocese that will be heard on Wednesday, November 3. While Hanley's victims fully expect to prevail on this hearing, we still feel you should stop using legal technicalities to delay healing and prevent the truth about abusive priests and complicit church officials from surfacing in court. If you must fight abuse victims, even those who have clearly been harmed by a notorious molester, at least you can fight on the merits of the case, not on the legal loopholes. We simply ask that you fight fair, not fight dirty. Ultimately, such hardball tactics hurt your entire diocese. They undermine lay Catholics' faith in their leaders and may further force many victims to seek justice and closure through the courts.
Second, SNAP requests that you hold a public forum, where questions can be asked, in order to explain where the Paterson Diocese stands on preventing abuse and promoting healing among victims. SNAP will be glad to join you for this discussion. Remember that you and your brother bishops have emphatically and repeatedly promised greater "openness and transparency" regarding abuse. Such a forum would be a clear sign that you intend to live up to this pledge. Without such a forum, it is easy to assume that your actions, policies, and decisions will mirror the troubling record of your predecessor, Frank Rodimer.
Thank you for your attention to these matters. We welcome a direct reply from you before the court hearing in the Hanley civil case next Wednesday, November 3, 2004.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests