The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
For immediate release:
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Sex Abuse Victims Seek Discipline of San Bernardino
Groups Urges Bishop To Apologize And Reach Out To Victims And Witnesses
Leaders of a support group for clergy sex abuse victims are asking San Bernardino Bishop Gerald Barnes to discipline an accused abusive priest who is suing his alleged victim. They also want Barnes to apologize for the priest's legal maneuver.
SNAP, The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is writing to Barnes urging him to discipline Fr. Michael Bucaro, who has filed sa civil slander lawsut against his alleged victim for disclosing allegations that he was abused by Bucaro beginning at the age of 5 years old.
In the interest of public safety and keeping your pledge in the Dallas Charter to demonstrate a sincere commitment to the spiritual and emotional well-being of abuse survivors, we urge you to publicly denounce Bucaros vicious and unchristian legal hard ball tactics and discipline him, says SNAPs letter.
SNAP believes that accused priests can and should defend themselves without attacking their accusers in court. Bucaros lawsuit, they feel, contradicts the much-touted Dallas Charter and repeated pledges by Barnes and other church leaders have to treat alleged victims with compassion and sensitivity.
This hostile act will scare victims into continued shame, self-blame and silence, thus putting children needlessly at risk, says SNAPs letter.
Bishop Barnes wants to have his cake and eat it too, says Jaime Romo, SNAP San Diego Director. Barnes claims to care about the spiritual and emotionally well being of survivors and wants them to come forward. But he is silent and complicit in Bucaros intimidation tactics.
Now, more than ever, it is crucial that Bishop Barnes go to every parish where Bucaro has worked and publicly apologize for his silence and inaction to protect parishioners from such vicious tactics," said Mary Grant of Long Beach, SNAP's Western Regional Director. "He has a moral duty to urge anyone who experienced, witnessed or suspected abuse by Bucaro to report it immediately to police."
Similar lawsuits have been filed by priests in Oklahoma, Missouri, Ohio,
Wisconsin and California. One California priest, Monsignor Joseph Alzugaray,
is currently suing his victim, Erin Brady, for slander. Alzugaray failed
in his slander lawsuit against SNAP.
March 15 , 2005
San Bernardino Catholic Diocese
We, the members of SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), are very troubled that one of your priests, Fr. Michael Bucaro, is suing an alleged victim for slander who came forward and disclosed that he was molested by Bucaro. In the interest of public safety and keeping your pledge in the Dallas Charter to demonstrate a sincere commitment to the spiritual and emotional well-being of abuse survivors, we urge you to publicly denounce Bucaros vicious and un-Christian legal hard ball tactics and discipline him. We also implore you to go to every parish where he was assigned and apologize for the harmful impact of your inaction and silence in confronting Bucaros inexcusable behavior, and urge victims and witnesses to come forward.
This litigation, we believe, is intimidating and vengeful. Not only does it directly contradict the provisions of the much-touted Dallas Charter, it also directly contradicts what you and so many church leaders have repeatedly stressed: that you want victims to come forward and disclose their abuse. These hostile acts will scare victims into continued shame, self-blame and silence, thus putting children needlessly at risk.
Your silence and inaction to publicly denounce these vicious legal tactics and discipline Bucaro, only confirms our strong suspicions that some bishops continue to be complicit in intimidating victims. By your inaction, you are in effect encouraging parishioners to rally behind accused and known molesters. (Clearly, your refusal to turn over to prosecutors the files of Fr. Jesse Dominguez - an already convicted child molester charged with 58 counts of child molestation - is one more example why we believe that your pledges are little more than meaningless empty promises.)
No one denies the possibility of false or mistaken accusations. No one denies that priests should be able to mount a legal defense. But there are limits, of course. Not every legal strategy is a moral strategy. Can you imagine Jesus approving a cleric suing his former parishioner? Simply put, priests can and should defend themselves without attacking their accusers.
We can only hope, however, that vicious, un-Christian legal tactics like this will backfire. In our experience, they sometimes do. Instead of being frightened into submission by such hateful antics, abuse victims sometimes feel even more driven to come forward, expose their abusers and protect children.
Regardless of the impact of this inexcusable lawsuit on others, you should know that such hardball tactics only deepen SNAP's resolve to reach out to those who are suffering in silence, secrecy and shame because of sexual abuse by trusted clergy.
"Innocent victims and their families have suffered terribly," reads the bishops' charter. We couldn't agree more. This suffering, however, is deepened when once trusted and revered Catholic priests sue former members of their flock.
You can't have your cake and eat it too, Bishop Barnes. You can't claim to care about victims and say "We want you to come forward," while at the same time allowing your priests to sue them when they do.
Please live up to the promises you and your fellow bishops have made, protect children and abuse survivors, and stop this cruel litigation.
Mary Grant, SNAP Western Regional Director (626) 419-2930 or [email protected]
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests