The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statements
Statements Regarding Dissipation of Assets by
January 21, 2003
by Bill Crane of Portland,
"How many times will the Catholic Church turn its back on those who suffered abuse at the hands of its priests? The Diocese of Baker, Oregon is engaged in the revictimization of dozens of children who not only suffered sexual abuse, but who were the victims of an obvious cover-up by the hierarchy that lead to even more abuse. Now, they have started an illegal shell game that is nothing more than another pursuit by a Catholic bishop to sidestep accountability for the sexual abuse of children by priests.
SNAP Oregon has recently learned that the Diocese of Baker is in the process of dissipating assets and declaring each of it's parishes in effect its own corporation. It is our understanding that under Oregon law this could be considered a fraudulent transfer of assets while a lawsuit is pending. In fact, the church already faces legal action from more than 20 victims of a single priest who served in southern and eastern Oregon, in addition to other pending cases.
Baker Bishop Vasa's illegal actions appear to be an obvious attempt to avoid civil accountability and the potential of compensating clergy sexual abuse victims for the Church's involvement in covering up the abuse. Not only did they place a known pedophile priest in parishes throughout the Diocese, they compelled one young victim to swear an oath of secrecy.
Bishop Vasa was recently elected to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops AD-HOC committee on sexual abuse. So it is particularly disturbing that he is clearly violating the spirit of the Dallas Charter to promote healing and well-being for victims and their families. In addition, the Baker Diocese would be slamming the courthouse doors shut on all the victims that have yet to come forward.
We would expect a decision like this to come from the leaders of Enron and not from the spiritual leaders of the Catholic Church. Last year, US bishops repeatedly repented corporately and publicly for failing to keep children safe from serial child rapists. They vowed reform, pledging to promote healing, justice and outreach to victims and their families rather than continue in scandal.
But again, a bishop is putting his diocese's finances before its victims. We still have not gotten to the bottom of the seriousness of these crimes. Decisions like Bishop Vasa's are further examples of embracing scandal rather than reform.
As survivors of clergy sexual abuse we wish that Bishop Vasa put the same time, energy, and resources into reaching out to survivors as he has to dissipating the assets of his diocese and minimizing the seriousness of these crimes. Bishop Vasa's actions do not correspond with his commitment to the Dallas Charter. Bishop Vasa's role on the bishops' sexual abuse committee makes his underhanded and illegal actions that much more disappointing."
by David Clohessy of St. Louis, MO, National Director of SNAP:
"Instead of concentrating on protecting kids, Bishop Vasa is concentrating on protecting money. The promises and assurances every bishop has made to handle the sexual abuse crisis better ring hollow in the face of this deceptive legal move.
Our hearts ache for abuse victims in the Baker Diocese, whose courage in speaking out has been met with such an insensitive response.
The manipulation and abuse of bankruptcy laws like this will, sadly, increase the disillusionment of Catholic parents. We desperately hope that these strategies will not deter hurting men and women, victimized as children by sex offenders masquerading as priests, from coming forward and getting the help and healing they need and deserve.
This move, like premature talk of bankruptcy in Boston, will ultimately backfire, and further erode the trust devout Catholics once had in their bishops."
Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests