SNAP Praises Bishop Brennan and Calls for More Action in Fresno
For immediate Release: May 14, 2019
We are grateful to Bishop Robert Brennan for his public show of support for survivors of clergy abuse and for calling for civility and understanding in cases of clergy sex abuse. There is power in public statements from church leaders and we are glad that Bishop Brennan chose to use his in this way.
Now that Bishop Brennan has spoken out publicly, we hope that he will continue to use his power on behalf of survivors and take steps to show other priests and parishioners how best to publicly respond and react to allegations against one of their priests.
We have sent a letter to Bishop Brennan, thanking him for his efforts and laying out what further steps we believe he can take that will result in a more informed, civil, and safer environment for all. A copy of our letter is below:
May 13, 2019
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
PO Box 56539
Saint Louis MO, 63156
Re: Pastoral Response to Allegations of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Dear Bishop Brennan:
We wanted to thank you for your public words regarding the statements made by attorney Kyle Humphrey on behalf of your priest, Msgr. Craig Harrison. We truly appreciate your acknowledgement of the hurt that the lawyer’s remarks caused victims of Catholic sexual abuse.
Now that multiple victims have come forward, we ask you to go further. Since Mr. Humphrey is a parishioner and Msgr. Harrison is one of your clergymen, we urge you to use your power and authority to put an end to the “ugly, mean spirited, dismissive and unacceptable” language being used in the media.
Also, please stress to all the priests in your Diocese the need to also refrain from public support of an accused colleague. Some of them have already done so in the case of Msgr. Harrison.
Although the post has apparently been removed or made private, Msgr. Perry Kavookjian, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, said publicly on Facebook that Msgr. Harrison “has never, to my knowledge, done anything to bring harm to another person. ... To think that he would somehow take advantage of a minor is beyond credibility.”
Similarly, Monsignor Stephen A. Frost of Christ the King Church told KGET that Msgr. Harrison is "not one who uses people. I think he makes himself perhaps vulnerable to those who want to take advantage of that." We are especially troubled by the fact that Msgr. Frost not only defended Msgr. Harrison, but also reportedly admitted that he has also been accused of abuse. We have had confirmation of an allegation against Msgr. Frost from another source. We hope that your review of clergy files will not only look at all of the documentation, but also pledge to talk directly to each and every person who filed a complaint.
Both Msgr. Kavookjian and Msgr. Frost, and any others who commented publicly on this ongoing investigation, should be reprimanded and made to apologize. Such remarks in effect intimidate all victims, witnesses and whistle blowers in the Diocese from coming forward, not just those with knowledge about the Harrison case.
Finally, we urge you to tell your flock that those who wish to support Msgr. Harrison should do so privately. These are the guidelines SNAP has developed for such situations. They permit parishioners to take the actions they feel are needed while permitting investigations to occur unimpeded by emotion or political pressure. They also ensure that potential victims of a priest are shielded from unnecessary emotional harm. We hope that you will post these guidelines on the Fresno Diocese website and distribute them to your staff and your parishioners.
Again, we thank you again for your words of support for victims of sex abuse. Now we hope that you will follow those words up with concrete action.
CONTACT: Dan McNevin, SNAP Board Member (firstname.lastname@example.org, 415-341-6417), Joey Piscitelli, SNAP California (email@example.com, 925-262-3699) Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator, (firstname.lastname@example.org, 925-708-6175), Esther Hatfield Miller, SNAP Los Angeles (562-673-9442, email@example.com), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org, 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)