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Press Release


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Releases
Giving Voice to Victims


For immediate release:
Monday, Feb. 23, 2004

For more information:
David Clohessy of St. Louis MO, National Director (314) 566-9790 cell
Mark Serrano of Leesburg VA, Board Member (703) 771 9606, 703 727 4940 cell
Barbara Blaine of Chicago IL, President (312) 399-4747 cell
Peter Isely of Milwaukee WI, Board Member (414) 963 8617, (414) 429 7259
David Cerulli of New York NY, Board Member (917) 757 1791
Mary Grant of Long Beach CA, Board Member (626) 419 2930
Terrie Light of San Francisco CA, Board Member (510) 517 3888

SNAP Blasts New Vatican Report On Defrocking Abusers

SNAP Says It's Too Early To Backtrack On Zero Tolerance

Leaders of the nation's largest support group for clergy abuse victims today blasted a new Vatican document that urges "re-thinking" the American bishops' 'zero tolerance' policy toward abusive clergy.

"This will provide cover and excuses for every backsliding bishop and manipulative perpetrator," said David Cerulli of New York, a board member of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests). "And it will deepen the disillusionment of many Catholics and already very pessimistic and wounded victims."

"The so-called 'zero tolerance policy' has been in effect less than a year and been enforced only sporadically. To even consider further gutting an already weak policy at this point is ludicrous," he said.

"For decades, the hierarchy's policy has been deny, stonewall, minimize, evade, deceive and transfer. For a few months, the policy has allegedly been 'zero tolerance.' Are we to go backwards now to those horrific old days already?" Cerulli asked.

"Sex offenders need to be behind bars. Once that happens and kids are safe, then let's figure out what to do about job titles," he suggested. "Of course, we also believe these men need treatment, but first and foremost we must protect children."

"To rob a bank, you need a weapon. And to molest a child, you need access. The title 'priest' and the power of the Roman collar give a sexual abuser that access," Cerulli said.

"This report misses the mark on so many levels," said SNAP national director David Clohessy of St. Louis. "First, only a tiny percentage of abusive clergy face being defrocked. Second, so-called experts chosen by the hierarchy have historically given disasterous advice about offending priests. And third, painful history has shown that the alleged supervision of abusive priests by fellow clerics has been virtually non-existent."

"We pray that victims and witnesses will still find the strength and courage to report these crimes to civil and criminal authorities, in spite of this depressing news," Clohessy said.

SNAP members plan to hand-deliver a letter to Belleville IL Bishop Wilton Gregory this afternoon urging him to fight any Vatican efforts to scuttle the zero tolerance policy. Gregory is the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Experts say Catholic priest abuse policy problematic

By Shasta Darlington Reuters
Feb. 23, 2004

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - The U.S. Catholic Church's "zero tolerance"
on sexual abuse by priests could pose a danger to society because it could
deter some clerics from seeking help, medical experts said in a study Monday.

The "zero tolerance" charter was adopted by the Catholic Church in the United States after a crisis sparked by revelations of sexual abuse by priests exploded in 2002.

The study, commissioned by the Vatican, said the U.S. policy, aimed at dealing with abuse allegations and preventing further cases, could deter sex offenders from seeking and receiving treatment and leave them without supervision.

"Zero tolerance" was too reactionary, the study concluded.

"The experts come from different perspectives and have different opinions, but on the topic (of 'zero tolerance') they were agreed that it was a problematic principle," said Manfred Luetz, a German psychiatrist and editor of the study, which was presented to journalists.

The scandal started with revelations about a cover-up of sexual abuse in the archdiocese of Boston that eventually led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law.

Law was accused of failing to act on evidence that priests were abusing children. The church covered up the facts and allowed offenders to be transferred to new parishes, where they continued to victimize children.

The experts said offenders and potential offenders needed to be treated rather than cast out of the Church and urged the Vatican to work more closely with scientific experts in areas like screening and therapy.

"Removing clergy sex offenders from ministry does not protect children from the risk of sexual abuse because the offender is now in society without supervision," wrote Jorg Fegert, a child psychiatrist.

The 220-page book also talks about the effects of abuse on children and how to use screening of clergy for sexual and personality disorders and substance abuse -- which can be characteristics of pedophiles -- to prevent abuse.

The study is a collection of essays by non-Catholic psychiatrists, therapists and psychologists from a symposium at the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life in April 2003.

The book was distributed days before a key study on the causes and costs of five decades of sexual abuse by priests was due to be released in the United States.

According to a report by CNN, a draft of the national report said that roughly four percent of U.S. clergy who have served since 1950 have been accused of abuse.
The book argues that offenders have to face the law, but that the Church could still help prevent abuse by providing therapy and supervision in jobs away from children for potential offenders and people released from prison.


Vatican to consider scientific assessment of sex abuse by clergy
By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press Writer

VATICAN CITY (AP) - The Vatican said Monday its guidelines to deal
with sex abuse by priests would take into account new scientific reports -
including criticism of the U.S. Church policy of permanently defrocking
guilty priests.

The new reports were commissioned by the Vatican's Pontifical Academy
for Life and presented to a Vatican conference last April. They were written
by non-Catholic psychiatrists, psychologists and other leading international
experts to give the Vatican scientific advice on dealing with a problem that
has scandalized the Roman Catholic Church.

The Vatican released a compendium of the reports and summaries of the
conference discussions on Monday, saying neither it nor any expert had drawn
final conclusions. The Church said, however, there were some areas of
general agreement, in particular the view that the "zero-tolerance" policy
adopted by U.S. bishops in 2002 is mistaken.

"This text, these scientific results, will be taken into consideration
by the Vatican offices, and will serve as a scientific base of information
for the guidelines," said the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, the deputy Vatican
spokesman. "It's a point of reference for the offices."

Many American dioceses say they are aggressively pursuing
"zero-tolerance" after being stung by charges that church hierarchy was
trying to protect abusive priests, often by shuffling them from parish to
parish. The policy says an offending priest can be permanently removed from
ministry - and possibly from the priesthood itself - for even a single act
of abuse.

However, as The Associated Press reported last week, many experts
criticized the program, saying it sends a message that the offenders can't
be rehabilitated. Several said that such a policy can in fact increase the
chances that offenders might abuse again by removing them from their jobs
and supervision. They said the offenders need treatment, as well as whatever
criminal penalties would be imposed by civil authorities.

Zero-tolerance "does not function to prevent these crimes," Dr.
Hans-Ludwig Kroeber, head of the Institute of Forensic Psychiatry in Berlin,
was quoted as telling the conference. "It is better to domesticate the
dragon; if all you do is cut off its head, it will grow another."

Dr. Karl Hanson, a Canadian psychologist, called for better screening
of candidates for the priesthood, such as in-depth interviews and reference
and criminal background checks. Hanson also supported taking complete
psycho-sexual histories of applicants, although others said that would be
too invasive.

"The structure of the formative process in Catholic seminaries would
seem to offer a good opportunity to identify risk factors among the
candidates, with its community life extended over several years, the contact
with various (superiors), the regular talks and the various opportunities
for supervised fieldwork," Hanson was quoted as saying.

The compendium, "Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: Scientific and
Legal Prospectives," will be sent to bishops' conferences around the world
as well as Vatican councils and congregations.

One Vatican participant at the conference, Monsignor Charles Scicluna,
a prosecutor in the department that deals with abuse cases, said the church
was looking for such scientific assessments.

In an introduction to the book, he acknowledged that the church's
responses to sex abuse in the past were now undergoing scrutiny in many
countries and may cause the church "untold embarrassment."

"It is however, a good opportunity to own up to past mistakes and
learn for the future," he wrote. "To this end, the screening of candidates
to the priesthood should ensure that persons who would pose a threat to
minors are never ordained to Holy Orders."

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests