The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
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Clergy sex abuse victims slam Boston Cardinal
They are upset that archdiocese fails ‘audit’ again
22% of parishes refuse to teach abuse prevention to kids
It wants O’Malley to name and discipline dozens of church officials
A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is harshly criticizing Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley for “violating the national US bishops’ conference sex abuse policy” by “refusing to teach thousands of kids how to avoid being molested.” They want O’Malley to identify and discipline dozens of church officials.
Leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests are writing O’Malley about the determination made last week that the Boston Archdiocese is “not in compliance” with the USCCB’s Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. This is the second year in a row that O’Malley’s archdiocese has been cited.
“You have had five years to get on board, reform the Charter or devise alternative prevention programs,” said SNAP’s letter “It is stunning and irresponsible you have not. It is stunning and irresponsible that you try to blame some of your employees and parishioners, who are skeptical of one particular prevention program, for your recalcitrance.”
Apparently, some diocesan staff and church members consider the ‘Talking About Touching’ abuse prevention program too explicit for younger kids.
“But that’s no excuse for ignoring a national mandate for five or six years,” said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP’s outreach director. “There’s been ample time to devise alternatives. But O’Malley has instead sat passively back and tolerate widespread violations of a fundamental clear pledge he and his brother bishops made. It’s not just a complacent approach. It’s a dangerous one.”
A copy of SNAP’s letter, sent today by fax and e mail, is below.
March 11, 2008
Dear Cardinal O’Malley:
We are extremely disappointed that your archdiocese is again not complying with the simple, straightforward promises America's bishops made six years ago to better protect children.
Many of those promises, contained in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, are meaningless public relations (the requirement, for example, that each diocese have a ‘formal communications plan’ that pledges openness and a ‘code of conduct’ employees sign that states abuse is wrong. These are, in our view, worthless).
But your non-compliance doesn't center on some meaningless part of the Charter. It revolves around what many consider to be the most effective aspect of the Charter: the requirement that kids be taught how to prevent abuse from happening to them.
Even worse, your non-compliance is not due to some technicality or misunderstanding or oversight or emergency, but rather a simple, reckless refusal by dozens priests and parish officials to teach children about preventing child molestation.
Let's be clear. You have had five years to get on board, reform the Charter or devise alternative prevention programs. It is stunning and irresponsible you have not. It is stunning and irresponsible that you try to blame some of your employees and parishioners, who are skeptical of one particular prevention program, for your recalcitrance.
You are the head of the archdiocese. It’s your job to live up to your promises. For the second year in a row, you have not.
Worse, you and your public relations staff seem determined to shift blame to others. (We suspect that if dozens of priests and parish officials were withholding the Sunday collections, you would have acted more promptly and decisively.)
We challenge you to
--- publicly name and discipline these recalcitrant, reckless priests and parish officials. Thousands of kids were sexually abused by thousands of priests, in part, because bishops hid the identities of wrong-doers. That secretive, hurtful pattern must end.
--- discipline them in some way. Thousands of kids were sexually abused by thousands of priests, in part, because wrong-doers rarely experienced any consequences for their wrong-doing. That unhealthy, irresponsible pattern must end.
--- personally visit each one of these parishes, starting now, and move quickly to remedy this stubborn refusal to adopt a simple, long-overdue safety measure.
We are very troubled by the lame excuses about this disturbing failure offered by your public relations team last week to the Boston Globe.
Vague pledges that you are allegedly "turning (your) attention. . . to these parishes" mean nothing. You’ve had five years to ensure compliance. Action, not lip service, protects kids.
Vague assurances that you are beginning to focus on "these parishes" mean nothing. Specific individuals, not corporate entities, are refusing to teach abuse prevention to kids. Those individuals should be identified and disciplined.
Vague remarks that some non-compliant parishes are interested in “trying” an alternative program are pathetic, especially since these alternatives were provided to them apparently just last week.
Finally, vague comments about these parishes that are allegedly "struggling" are worse than nothing. They are disingenuous and deceptive. Church officials - lay and ordained, employees and volunteers - have had five years to get on board. Dozens of yours (almost 22%) have not. That's not "struggling." That's disobeying. That’s refusing. It’s reckless, stubborn and wrong. And you’re tolerating it.
We understand that you are essentially the CEO of a large and complex institution. But what on earth could possibly be more important than keeping your word and keeping children safe? Each parish that is failing or refusing to meet these simple requirements represents hundreds of potentially vulnerable kids and dozens of potentially dangerous adults.
You realize, of course, that the Charter also contains provisions relating to secrecy. You and your brother bishops have repeatedly pledged to be more open about child sex abuse matters. Yet you refuse to disclose which church officials are ignoring their obligation to prevent abuse through training children.
You realize too, of course, that the Charter also contains language relating to accountability. You and your brother bishops have repeatedly assured Catholics that the Charter is mandatory and that those who ignore it will be held accountable. Yet you aren’t doing this
Many believe the Charter is weak, vague and largely unenforced. That your archdiocese - the epicenter of this horrific, on-going crisis - refuses to honor these minimal commitments is very disturbing.
We hope to hear from you soon.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests