SNAP stands in solidarity with ECA: Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández must go

For immediate release: September 29, 2023

At a press conference yesterday, End Clergy Abuse (ECA) and clergy abuse survivors and advocates representing 25 countries from around the world called on Pope Francis to remove Archbishop Victor Manuel Fernández as head of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith (DDF) and to rescind his elevation to Cardinal. SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, joins our allies at ECA in their call for the Pope to rescind the appointment and elevation of Archbishop Fernández.

Among the responsibilities of the the DDF is the handling of sexual abuse accusations brought against clergy. In fact, this responsibility constitutes 80% of its work. Yet earlier this year, Archbishop  Fernández admitted that he made "mistakes" in handling a 2019 case of a priest accused of sexually abusing children. On this basis, we too urgently call for Pope Francis to replace the Archbishop on the DDF, and to reconsider his selection as Cardinal. 

To us, Pope Francis demonstrates not only poor judgment, but also gross disrespect to Catholic victims around the world, by these appointments. We share's belief that the Archbishop's response to the victims of Fr. Eduardo Lorenzo makes him a totally inappropriate fit for both positions. We also share Bishop-Accountability's scepticism that the Archbishop has seen the error of his ways and would not make similar decisions in the future. If the Church wants victims to report abuse to them, they need to be sensitive to survivor concerns. Trust is destroyed by clergy sexual abuse, and decisions like this do nothing to help restore it.

Appointments like these by the Pope only show victims that the Catholic Church is still tone-deaf on the issue of clergy sexual abuse. Sadly, we also suspect that finding a candidate that survivors would find acceptable among the current crop of Catholic bishops would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. That speaks volumes about the state of today’s Church and her leadership.

Secular investigations into abuse in the Church consistently show the same pattern of protecting abusive clergy, withholding information about serious offenses from individuals who should be informed, neglecting to provide adequate warnings and protections to parish communities, and failing to report criminal activities. We believe that these practices persist in the present, despite assertions made by Catholic officials, especially those in the United States, that they are confined to the past.

As we see it, the long and terrible history of clergy sexual abuse and its cover-up is still being written. By appointing Archbishop Fernández to the DDF and naming him a Cardinal, Pope Francis clearly demonstrates that it is business as usual in the Catholic Church. The concerns of clergy abuse victims, who have long borne the consequences of unconscionable decisions made at the highest levels, still have no place in the decision-making process. Until this changes, the clergy sex abuse scandal will continue, and more young lives will be forever blighted.

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