- 2003


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statements

"Don't parse words. Don't Split Hairs.
Just Protect Kids"


July 29, 2003

Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago (312 399 4747)
President of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

"We're here today presenting the National Review Board with a message and an
invitation. First, however, a message to Bishop Wilton Gregory: We're still waiting for a reply to our June 18 letter, which we hand delivered to USCCB staffer Mary Ann Walsh in St. Louis more than five weeks ago and which we also send via e mail. We repeat our request that Bishop Gregory appoint a respected individual with a law enforcement background to replace ousted Review Board chairman Frank Keating. This simple step
would go far to restore the faith many Catholics and some survivors initially had in the Review Board and in America's bishops.

Now, on to the Review Board. Our message is simple: Don't split hairs. Don't parse words. Don't make excuses. Do the right thing. Doing the right thing means using the right yardstick. Measuring the bishops how they should be measured, not on their own terms, but on commonly accepted and on common sense terms, on the same kind of yardstick the rest of society uses.

In essence, the bishops have made up the rules of the game and have chosen the umpires. There are two problems with this approach. First, it's obviously not fair. Second, the abuse if children is real life, not a game.

For the Review Board, then, their task is clear: Play fair. Play by the same rules as the rest of society. Judge the bishops' actions not by their own made-up rules, but by the rules of common sense and safety.

From day one, we believed the Dallas charter was flawed and inadequate. Then, at the insistence of Vatican bureaucrats, it got watered down. Then, thanks to many bishops, it began to be implemented slowly. reluctantly and sporadically. And that's where we are today. Yet it is against this flawed and inadequate document that bishops insist they be
judged. We respectfully disagree. The bishops' promises are, at best, less than the bare minimum. And less than the bare minimum is not what Catholics deserve. It's not what children need. It's not what keeps kids safe. Time and time again over the past year (and certainly before then), we've seen bishop after bishop split hairs, parse words, make
excuses, and keep known or abusive priests in active ministry, or fail to disclose their crimes to parishioners, or quietly reassign them, or other wise put kids at risk, even now.

(See Fact Sheet)
And these cases involve accused or admitted abusers still in ministry. That doesn't begin to scratch the surface on the other promises bishops made - promises to be open, transparent, and compassionate, for example. Remember, we're talking about the single most important pledge the bishops made - to remove abusers - and we're seeing dangerous backtracking here by some bishops.

So what does this mean for the National Review Board? It means they have to be different. They have to fight against and expose this hairsplitting, word parsing, and excuse making. They must judge bishops as lay Catholics, as parents, as responsible,
caring adults would judge them, by a reasonable common sense standard, not
as the bishops themselves insist on being judged. They must use a reasonable, common sense yardstick for judging the bishops They must look to the spirit, not the letter, of the Charter.

Nowhere does the charter explicitly say priests should not sue their accusers. But that's
wrong, and this board should condemn this. Nowhere does the charter explicitly say that "church-paid lawyers should not handle calls from survivors seeking counseling." But that's wrong, and this board should condemn this. Nowhere does the charter explicitly say "bishops should say at little as possible and refuse to reach out to parishioners where
known or suspected molesters served, asking if others may have been wounded too." But keeping silent is wrong, and this board should condemn this. Nowhere does the charter explicitly say "lay people who are convicted molesters are allowed to work in churches." But that's wrong, and this board should condemn this. Nowhere does the charter explicitly say "Church lawyers should not subpoena victims' therapy records." But that's
wrong, and this board should condemn this. Nowhere does the charter explicitly say "It's OK for bishops to quietly lobby against reforming laws to better protect kids." But that's wrong, and this board should condemn this. And this condemnation needs to come now, not months or years from now. Things are somewhat better. More is being done. But kids are still at risk.


Review Board members may say "Well, we just have to wait and see what the audits show." Forgive our skepticism. First, we're not sure "audit" is the correct term. Financial auditors, for example, have access to objective data, data from sources outside the
organization being audited, things like IRS and bank records. From what we understand, however, these church auditors have no such access. They are really "interviewers." We understand they may check courthouse records. But otherwise, they seem to rely solely or at least largely on interviews with church personnel. Second, we're the nation's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. Yet we don't know of a single one of our leaders who the so-called "auditors" have contacted. We're not sure if even any of our members have been contacted or invited to provide input. Third, we've never seen the audit instrument nor a schedule of when these visits are taking place.

It's hard to have a great deal of confidence in this system, since we know so little about it. Still, we try to remain hopeful. Still, we scurry to meet with Review Board members at every opportunity. But we can't help but be skeptical. We desperately hope we will be proven wrong.


Like our message, our invitation is simple. We're asking each member of this board to spend just two hours sometime in the next two months sitting in one of our support group meetings. It's a simple request, but a crucial one. Because without this experience, without directly listening to the pain and the experiences victims are going through right now, all this can easily become a dispassionate intellectual endeavor, a discussion of policies and procedures and canon law and psychological theories. . . Now more than ever, a year into the board's work, we think it's critical that the board members' see first hand what
survivors go through. This is especially vital since we aren't sure the so-called "auditors" are interviewing survivors on an extensive basis. Our self-help meetings are confidential. We almost never invite or allow "guests." But we will gladly make an exception for these
conscientious, caring Catholics. We will gladly make sure each board member has an
opportunity to see the healing that can go on when survivors get together, and One of our ground rules is "No one has to speak. Listening is a gift too." We don't want board members to come and give a speech. We just want them to hear us.

SNAP Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests

For more information:
David Clohessy 314 566 9790
Mark Serrano 703 771 9606


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests