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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Letters

Letter to Pittsburgh, PA Distict Attorney


Sept. 27, 2005

District Attorney Stephen Zappalla, Jr.
436 Grant St. Room 303 Courthouse,
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Dear Mr. Zappalla:

The evidence is in, and it's damning: According to a three year investigation by an impartial grand jury, Philadelphia's Catholic officials, including former Pittsburgh Bishop Anthony Bevilaqua, have:
"clearly facilitated rapes,"
"behaved disgracefully,"
"tolerated sexual assaults,"
"concealed priest sexual abuse instead of exposing it,"
"engaged in a continuous, concerted cover up," and
"recklessly placed children in danger of sexual abuse."

Only the most naive would believe that abuse, deceit and cover up in Pittsburgh's Catholic hierarchy suddenly and magically ended with Bevilaqua's departure. If we have learned anything after years and years of such scandal, it is that virtually all of America's bishops and vicar generals and chancellors and top Catholic officials have engaged in duplicity and deceit with sex abuse victims and parishioners.

In fact, Catholic officials in Pennsylvania and across the nation have consistently minimized their complicity by claiming they "just didn't understand" child sexual abuse, but have since "learned" and "reformed." We find these assertions ludicrous. But if true, they suggest that Bevilaqua's efforts to ignore, silence and shame victims, stonewall law enforcement, and disregard children's safety were probably worse in Pittsburgh than in Philadelphia.

We urge you therefore, to convene a grand jury in Pittsburgh to investigate similar crimes here. Sadly, we strongly suspect that it would uncover similarly horrific evidence in this diocese.

In Philadelphia, 169 priests were accused. Grand jurors are convinced that many of them are guilty of abuse. Detailed accounts of molestation and cover up were provided about 63 of those priests. And as a result of their dedication and hard work, Philadelphia citizens - Catholic and non-Catholic - are better informed and safer than their counterparts across the state.

Philadelphia's grand jury deplored the fact that Pennsylvania's archaic and overly restrictive statutes of limitations prevented prosecution of dozens of abusive clergy. Still, they produced an important and eye-opening document that may lead to legal reforms and

If you feel you have insufficient evidence now to launch such an effort in Allegheny County, we urge you to

-- publicly, emphatically, repeatedly seek such evidence. . .
Time and time again, when prosecutors have publicly urged witnesses and victims of clergy sex crimes to come forward, they have responded with courage and cooperation. But they key is a firm yet compassionate invitation from civil authorities. (Unless they feel like their risk and pain might lead to a productive outcome, many victims will continue to suffer in silence, shame and self-blame. But when reassured that they will be treated with sensitivity and taken seriously, many overcome their trust issues and embarrassment, and do their civic and Christian duty to protect others.)

-- keep in mind the experiences of your colleagues across the country. . .
In every jurisdiction where such a panel has been convened - Westchester County NY, Manchester NH, Boston MA, Maricopa County AZ, Long Island NY - the results have been largely the same: shocking information about callousness at the highest levels of church hierarchy.

-- read the full Philadelphia grand jury report before making a decision. . .
If you haven't already done so, we believe you too will be shocked at the extent of the sex crimes and the "continuous, concerted cover up" of those crimes.

We also urge you to publicly endorse such long-overdue legislative reforms that will:
-- protect our children by temporarily suspending the civil statute of limitations.(This allows sex abuse victims to expose their perpetrators, men who still walk the streets and may be molesting now because they have successfully intimidated witnesses, threatened victims, destroyed evidence, and "run out the clock" on their criminal statute of limitations.)
-- protect our grandchildren by permanently removing the criminal and civil statute of limitations on sex crimes against kids in the future. (This allows future victims to have sufficient time to file charges.)

We look forward to hearing from you.

David Clohessy, 314 566 9790
National Director, SNAP

Juliann Bortz, 610 217 3118 cell

Tammy Lerner, 610 509 9568 cell

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests