- 2003


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statements

SNAP Statement on Bishops' Accountability

Washington D.C. - November 12, 2002

"We are here this morning to call our bishops to break their silence, not about sexual abuse, but about each other.

Bishop Gregory opened this week's conference with a quote from the Book of Isaiah. The Israelites, he explained, were "broken and afraid...dispirited and uncertain of their future. They needed a word of hope." Gregory quotes Isaiah, chapter 40: "Comfort, give comfort to my people says your God."

As survivors of sexual abuse by priests, we know the condition to which Isaiah speaks. We know brokenness and fear. We know what it is to lose our spirits. We know how it is to live in uncertainty.

We have come to Washington seeking the same thing we sought in Dallas. It is the same thing we have sought from the American bishops for well over a decade: comfort and hope.

Isaiah, later on in chapter 62, tells us what is required for true comfort. We must stand up for the weak. We must stand up for justice. We must stand up and speak the truth. "For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not keep quiet, until her righteousness goes forth like brightness and her salvation like a torch that is burning."

The time has come for the American bishops to learn, as victims of abuse everywhere have learned, to break their silence.

Catholics all over the United States, in survey after survey, are demanding that bishops be held accountable. They have told the bishops that without real accountability there will be no end to the discord, disagreements, and disunity that Bishop Gregory deplored and that he and his brother bishop created. But that accountability begins only when silence ends.

To Catholics, this is what accountability means:

  • Some should resign their offices or positions within the USCCB,
  • Some should be deemed ineligible to seek or hold offices in the USCCB,
  • Some should be forced out of their USCCB leadership posts,
  • Some should formally censure other bishops at the provincial or national levels,
  • Some, no indeed, many - should publicly speak out against one another's misbehavior,
  • Some should submit to voluntary disciplinary measures, and
  • And some certainly should resign as bishops.

There are already some promising signs. Some have begun to break ranks with their colleagues, and take tangible steps toward healing and prevention. They include:

Bishop Rodimer of Paterson NJ, who held the first open listening session with survivors.

Archbishop Dolan of Milwaukee, who held two listening sessions, planned with SNAP members and community leaders, including the district attorney.

Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore, who has listed abusive priests on his diocesan web site.

Bishop Mulvee of Providence, and his staff, who listened to several dozen survivors one-on-one, face-to-face during settlement talks.

Bishop Gregory of Belleville, who provided one of the most detailed accounting of costs associated with the sexual abuse scandal in his diocese.

Cardinal George of Chicago and Archbishop Rigali of St. Louis, who have expressed a willingness to help us lobby for extensions to the statutes of limitations.

Bishop Lori of Bridgeport, who disciplined two priests who hid the whereabouts of an abuser who were being sought by the police.

And a number of bishops have allowed Voice of the Faithful and other independent lay Catholic groups to meet on church property.

Admittedly, these are small steps. Some survivors would scoff at them and call such progress minimal. They would be correct. But these ever so slight measures give us some hope. They show that some church leaders can move beyond being "bare minimum bishops."

We call up on these bishops to keep moving forward in their own dioceses.

We call upon them to urge their colleagues to make these small steps as well.

We call upon these and other bishops to make these moves a part of the national abuse policy being revised this week.

We are grateful these few have take a positive step. But we call upon them to "not keep silent" as Isaiah said, but to go further. We call upon bishops to denounce their colleagues who do wrong.

Because, as Edmund Burke said, "The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing."

Some, we are told, have tentatively and privately begun to question the cover ups of their colleagues. These few bishops, however, need to speak publicly.

Can this happen? Who knows? It certainly should happen.

But ten years ago, we stood in this spot, and none of us would have dared dream that more than 325 abusive priests would have been removed from active ministry in one year.

In the next 24 hours, we will still do everything we can to improve the bishops policy.

We will still push for amendments that will keep kids safe, help victims heal, and give Catholic reassurance.

But we are also are looking ahead, not to tomorrow or next week, but to the next bishops conference. At that meeting, bishops will probably not talk about abusive priests. But clearly they will still need to talk about complicit bishops."

Contact: Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

David Clohessy 314 556 9790
Barbara Blaine 312 399 4747
Peter Isely 414 429 7259
Mark Serrano 703 727 4940


Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests