Letters List


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Letters

An Open Letter to New York Catholics from Milwaukee Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors concerning Archbishop Timothy Dolan

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whom many of us have worked and struggled with mightily over the years in St. Louis and Milwaukee, has been given an extraordinary gift. It is not the gift of leading your great and storied archdiocese. It is not the gift of now becoming the premier spokesperson for American Catholics. It is the precious gifts of joining with the good people of the New York Church who every day struggle to be faithful witnesses and stewards to what is true and what is best about the Catholic faith.

Virtually all of us, like you, were raised and formed in that faith, its sacraments and its sacred traditions. We were taught its catechism, received its sacraments, and deeply and profoundly respected and trusted its clergy and bishops.

But, sadly, many of us—too many, literally tens of thousands—like you, also the sons and daughters, wives and husbands, brothers and sisters of the church, were raped, sexually assaulted and abused by priests as youngsters.

That is why a specter continues haunts the archdiocese of New York , as it haunts every diocese across the United States .. It is the specter of childhood innocence betrayed. Betrayed not just be the clergy who molested us as children but by the cardinals and bishops who either passively allowed or actively aided in the commission of these terrible crimes.

Church officials now publically confess that nearly 6,000 Catholic clergy in the United States have been known to have sexually molested children or minors over the past decades in the United States.

This means that virtually every parish, every school and every rectory in every diocese, including New York , has been or is the site of these unspeakable acts against children.

Each one of these acts, each crime committed by priest or religious against a child, calls out for justice.

Archbishop Dolan will be installed in April almost to the day one year ago that Pope Benedict came to our country and decried the crime of clergy sex abuse. Not soon after that trip the Pope said about the crisis: “Every person responsible must be brought to justice.”

This is, as the Pope averred, an ongoing crisis because, as he correctly stated, it is a crisis of justice. We plead with each one of you to join us in insisting on justice. To do that we are asking you to begin by becoming informed and educated about Archbishop Dolan’s efforts in Milwaukee and St. Louis to address these crimes (see our fact sheet posted at our website,

In light of this, we urge you to look past the charming persona of your new archbishop. Judge him by his actions, not his words. Given his abysmal track record with abuse and cover up in Milwaukee, consider his promises with healthy skepticism. Educate yourselves about how he deals with wounded victims, vulnerable children, predator priests and complicit church officials. Read our fact sheet. Circulate it among your friends and neighbors. Learn about what he has and has not done to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.

And remember that no matter what he may achieve in fundraising, administration, public visibility, and improved morale, his first duty is to protect Catholic children in the archdiocese. Prod him to do that in New York, with genuine vigor and real reform, not with vague pledges and comforting reassurances.

The days ahead will be challenging and daunting if you and your new archbishop turn and face the terrible crimes which have occurred against children in your archdiocese.

And what are these literally thousands of crimes against scores of children over so many years, really, if not one single catastrophe, still unfolding, whose wreckage is piled at the feet of the angel of history?

Be encouraged, be bold, and be steadfast. Know that whatever suffering, sacrifice or trial you will have to endure by helping to shoulder the cross of our terrible history, it is being undertaken for the future, on this blessed angel’s behalf, who remembers every child harmed the guardian and champion of innocence.

Peter Isely
SNAP Midwest Director

Mary Guentner
SNAP Wisconsin Director

John Pilmaier
SNAP Milwaukee Director