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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Letters

Letter to Father Fontana

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Father John Fontana, OSM
Order of the Friar Servants of Mary
Servite Provincial Center
3121 W. Jackson Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60612

Dear Father Fontana:

We are clergy sex abuse victims who belong to a self help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests ( Our mission is to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.

We have a simple but profound request: please don’t appeal the new Oregon ruling in the Ronan case. Please let this victim’s case against the Pope move forward. Please stop fighting like a cold-hearted CEO and act instead like a compassionate shepherd. Also, start aggressively reaching out to others who may have been hurt by this predator.

As you know, on Tuesday, a three judge appeals panel ruled that Fr. Ronan’s alleged sex abuse victim can sue the Vatican. Ronan apparently admitted that he molested three Chicago boys at St Philip's High School in the 1960s. He was then sent to a Portland where he abused again, according to at least two men from Oregon.

We know you have many legal options. But because you have a legal right, that doesn’t give you a moral right. (Men have the legal right to get married, lobby for the death penalty, visit strip clubs, and drive women to abortion clinics. But men give up those rights, morally, when they choose to become priests. And priests, we believe, voluntarily relinquish the right to act harshly in court when they hold themselves out as spiritual leaders who seek to emulate Christ.)

So we ask, in a spirit of charity and justice, that you voluntarily forego your legal options, and fight in court (if you must) on the merits, not the technicalities. If your colleagues and predecessors have done no wrong, trust that the truth will emerge in the time-tested US justice system. Please stop taking advantage of every legal scheme and theory your shrewd defense lawyers can devise. Please let this case proceed and help everyone involved move toward truth, closure and healing, especially the brave man who has already waited for nearly seven years for some comfort and relief.

As you know, a year ago next month, the Pope came to US. He spoke several times about the clergy sex abuse crisis. Among his most memorable lines: Catholics should "do everything possible" to help victims heal.

Now, you need to honor and abide by his admonition. You can help victims heal by ordering your lawyers to stop exploiting legal technicalities and let this victim have his 'day in court.'

Several years ago, speaking in Ireland, the pope also addresses the church's on-going child sex abuse and cover up scandal. "It is important," he said, "to establish the truth of what happened." Again, you need to honor and abide by his admonition. You can help "establish the truth of what happened "by ordering your lawyers to stop exploiting legal technicalities and let the truth be told.

It might be different if Fr. Ronan or his supervisors or colleagues argued he's innocent.

It might be different if church authorities didn't say they're concerned about deeply wounded victims.

It might be different if Catholic officials claimed that all their carefully controlled secrets had been exposed and that Catholics and citizens knew everything about predator priests and complicit colleagues.

It might be different if US courts had been proven to be consistently biased against the church.

But none of this is true. No one is making these claims.

So we have a Pope saying 'we have to help victims heal' and 'we have to establish the truth.' Then we have the Servites’ lawyers block healing and block the truth by hiding behind legal maneuvers and schemes and theories, instead of owning up to your responsibility, doing what's right, letting this victim expose corruption in court, and letting everyone move toward healing and closure.

So please:
-- let this alleged child sex abuse victim have his “day in court,”
-- don’t appeal the new ruling that lets his case move forward,
-- stop fighting the victim by exploiting legal technicalities and delay maneuvers, and
-- start using your considerable resources (websites, parish bulletins, mailing lists) to aggressively reach out to others who may have been hurt by Ronan (and other Servite clerics).
We look forward to hearing from you.

Barbara Blaine
SNAP President
312 399 4747
David Clohessy
SNAP National Director
314 566 9790
Kate Botche
Companions in Hope
630 768 1860

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests