The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
For Immediate Release:
For more information:
Sex Abuse Victims Seek Orange County Probe
Based on New Documents, They Want DA to Investigate
Prosecution of Some Church Officials' Cover Ups May Be Possible
Law Enforcement Should Urge Witnesses and Victims To Come Forward
Based on newly released documents leaders of a clergy sex abuse victims' support group are asking Orange County's district attorney to launch a thorough probe into whether local Catholic officials obstructed justice and violated any laws by refusing to report known and suspected abusive priests. They also want law enforcement officials to prod other witnesses and victims into coming forward.
Referring to thousands of pages of once secret church records, Joelle Casteix of Corona del Mar said "Surely all this new evidence deserves a closer look by law enforcement. That's all we're asking for - the police and prosecutor to see if any of these horrible crimes can be pursued." Casteix is the Orange County leader of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
In a letter sent today to District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, SNAP leaders say, " Who knows how many other children were molested and how many other molesters are still being shielded from prosecution today? Who knows what other crimes may be hidden in the remaining secret documents?"
The group sought such a probe back in October 2003, but the Orange County District Attorney's office claimed in a letter sent to SNAP in March 2004 that there was insufficient evidence to prove criminal culpability on the part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.
The release last week of the documents may make other witnesses and victims willing to step forward, according to SNAP Western Regional Director Mary Grant of Long Beach.
"Sometimes, victims and witnesses report crimes when it is clear that nothing will change unless they do, and when prodded by police and prosecutors" said Grant. "Instead of passively sitting back waiting for the phone to ring, we hope the DA will show some initiative and publicly urge others with knowledge of these crimes to come and make reports."
"Surely you can understand, in light of these documents, our disappointment with Orange County government officials who have thus refused to initiate a grand jury investigation into the alleged cover-ups by church employees that we requested on October 30, 2003," says SNAP's lastest letter to Rackauckas.
"By now it should be clear that Boston and Los Angeles are the norm, not the exception. Church officials in virtually every diocese routinely shunned victims, hid the truth, shielded the molesters, and did so even recently," said Lee Bashforth of Orange County, another SNAP leader. "But merely exposing this wrong doing doesn't protect kids. Kids are protected when predators and their enablers face consequences for their crimes."
May 27, 2005
We, the members of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) write to implore you to act to ensure justice and the protection of children in Orange County, by launching an investigation into the possible crimes committed by employees of the Catholic Diocese of Orange for potentially obstructing justice and
- aiding and abetting known and suspected molesters and
- failing to report child sex crimes to criminal authorities as mandated by California law.
As you are aware, a Los Angeles court ordered the release of thousands of pages of documents that have been kept secret by the Catholic Diocese of Orange for decades. This happened only because of the courage of clergy sex abuse victims in that diocese who found the strength and courage to report the crimes they suffered, and who persevered through an arduous legal process and insisted that the truth about the hierarchy's complicity be revealed.
As you may know, diocesan officials also admit to still keeping files on other known and alleged abusers secret and will not release these documents unless ordered to do so. Thus, who knows how many children remain at risk of abuse by diocesan employees and how many molesters the church leaders still continues to aid and abet.
It is no secret anymore that the Catholic Diocese of Orange has engaged in a long-standing conspiracy to harbor, protect, and cover up child molesters within and outside of the diocese. Church officials reportedly moved priests accused of molesting minors from parish to parish in Orange County, helped others relocate to other dioceses and countries to avoid prosecution, ignored or delayed acting on parentâ€s complaints, and accepted a convicted molester from Wisconsin into an Orange County parish (LA Times May 25, 2005).
We strongly suspect that some of those involved in the alleged aiding and abetting were also mandated reporters at the time the crimes were reported them, yet chose to hide the crimes rather than report them to criminal authorities. According to the LA Times, "Driscoll admitted in depositions taken in 1990 and 2002 that he never warned Orange County parishioners that a molesting priest was in their midst, at times didn't interview the alleged victims, didn't seek out additional victims and never reported the accusations to police."
Who knows how many other children were molested and how many other molesters are still being shielded from prosecution today? Who knows what other crimes may be hidden in the remaining secret documents?
As you are no doubt aware, Los Angeles archdiocesan officials (presumably including Cardinal Mahony himself) are currently being investigated by a grand jury for their potential role in aiding, abetting and covering up for predator priests.
Surely you can understand, in light of these documents, our disappointment with Orange County government officials who have thus refused to initiate a grand jury investigation into the alleged cover-ups by church employees that we requested on October 30, 2003.
Only about one-third of the documents on known and suspected molesters in the Orange diocese have been released. But even this partial set of records contains horrific evidence that some in the hierarchy knew much but did little to safeguard innocent families. Some of those individual church leaders are likely still on the diocesan payroll. Some of their failures to report are likely still able to be prosecuted.
For these reasons, with all due respect, we urge you again to launch an investigation into whether Orange Catholic diocesan employees failed to report child sex crimes in the church and aided and abetted known and suspected molesters. We ask that you thoroughly review the recently disclosed files soon for evidence of such crimes.
We ask you to protect kids by setting an example for those who would protect child molesters. This behavior has unfortunately been tolerated before, but if we value our children and the innocence of their youth, it must never be again.
We look forward to your assistance in this matter and welcome an opportunity to speak with you about it in greater detail.
Joelle Casteix, SNAP Orange County Director (949) 322-7434 or [email protected]
Lee Bashforth, SNAP Leader and Spokesperson (949) 735-8347 or [email protected]
Mary Grant, SNAP Western Regional Director (626) 419-2930 or [email protected]
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests