The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

Statement Regarding Papal Candidates


Statement by Mary Grant of Long Beach (626 429 2930)
Western Regional Director, SNAP

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

We are a support group, not a research organization. We don't claim to have any "inside information" about the papal candidates or selection process.

What we do have is a burning desire to safeguard innocent children and vulnerable adults in the church, and to do whatever we possibly can, however far-fetched it might seem, to protect others.

So in that spirit, we humbly offer the following thoughts:

What we seek in the next pope

-- a pontiff who will appoint compassionate shepherds, not bureaucratic CEOs

-- a pontiff who will appoint and promote brave, creative leaders, not timid, rigid followers

What we want from the next pope

- Defrocking of Fr. Macial

This is perhaps the most egregious international abuse case, involving the founder of a rapidly-growing, controversial religious order, the Legion of Christ. Macial, who was very close to Pope John Paul II, has been accused of sexual abuse by nine credible, mostly professional Spanish and Mexican ex-seminarians. For years, their case has languished in the Vatican's secretive, Byzantine internal court system.

- Disciplining of complicit bishops

Virtually no consequences can deter abusers. but serious consequences can deter their enablers.

Despite a growing, multi-national abuse crisis, we know of few cases in which a bishop has been reprimanded, suspended or even verbally scolded for moving predators, stonewalling prosecutors, shunning victims and deceiving the parishioners, public and press - even though these behaviors are commonplace.

- Adoption of a world wide zero tolerance policy.

Even though it is vague, weak and only sporadically followed, the American bishops' "one strike" policy needs to apply to the universal church.

(It's important to remember: while Vatican may set tone, and while buck stops here, no one can effectively supervise 4,900 employees, each whom essentially rules his own kingdom, scattered across the globe.

So preventing abuse and healing victims always has been and always is the responsibility of the bishops.

It's disingenuous for bishops to try and shift blame on to Vatican officials for scandals they largely created and they largely can fix.)

Who we feel would be unacceptable as the next pope

Pope John Paul II set one moral bottom line for the priesthood when, in the spring of 2002, he declared "There is not place in the priesthood for one who would harm the young." Similarly, there must be a moral bottom lines for papal candidates

no harsh, blaming, misguided public statements that discourage or deter victims and witnesses from reporting dangerous clerics, and

no harboring of known, admitted, or credibly accused abusive priests.

On this basis, we frankly cannot support any of the American cardinals.

(We know they are considered long shots, but so too was Karol Wojtyla of Poland.)

(One might ask: "Surely one of the American Cardinals, since they've all had experience dealing with abuse, is now in a better position to be considered? Our view, however, is that experience can be a good teacher, if one learns from it. Sadly, we've not seem much evidence though to suggest that American prelates have indeed learned much from their horrific mistakes.)

(Cardinal George allowed a convicted perpetrator to live with him and work in his archdiocese six months after the Dallas Charter was adopted. Just last week, Cardinal McCarrick and Cardinal Keeler again successfully blocked legislative abuse reform efforts - both on mandatory reporting and on statute of limitations. Cardinal Mahony and Cardinal Egan are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for defense lawyers to help keep hidden potentially damaging church documents and playing legal hardball instead of offering compassion to victims. We could go on and on. . . )

We cannot support any of these individuals, who have been cited as strong candidates:

Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, of Honduras

Cardinal Norberta Rivera Carrera, of Mexico

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, of Italy

Cardinal Dario Castrillon-Hoyos, of Colombia

Cardinal Francisco Javier Errazuriz Ossa, of Santiago, Chile

(see separate Fact Sheet for details about each candidate)

We're neither myopic nor grandiose.

We're not myopic because we know that America isn't the center of the universe and that there is more to the church and to papal selection than the abuse crisis.

At the same time, we think that only the most naieve would assume that the abuse crisis is somehow unique to the US, or the English-speaking world, or the Western nations, or the developed countries.

We realize that roughly 6% of the world's Catholics are in the US but it's reckless to assume that the problems facing American priests are somehow unique. On the contrary, we think it's prudent to assume that if 4 or 5 or 6 percent of US priests abuse, that roughly the same percentage of priests elsewhere abuse.

(The number of priests world wide is approximately. 450,000. By the US bishops very flawed self-survey, roughly 4% of US priests have been credibly accused of being sex offenders. If this low estimate holds true across national boundaries (and there is no real reason to suspect it does not), some 25,000 or so priests across the globe may have molested youngsters.)

So we're not myopic, nor are we grandiose.

We know the church is not a democracy. We rarely are able to talk face-to-face with church leaders. We often feel have little impact, if any, on their decisions. And we are often right.

But we feel obliged to at least point out, for whatever it's worth, what these men have said and done regarding sexual abuse by clergy, and to remind Catholics that this crisis isn't going away.

When victims speak up, kids are protected. When victims are silent, kids are not protected. Therefore, we must do everything we can to make victims more comfortable coming forward.

Harsh, blaming, misguided public remarks by bishops about this crisis do not serve that goal. In fact, such comments make it harder, not easier, for victims to come forward. So such comments are hurtful, not only to abuse victims and their families, but hurtful to the church as a whole, and impede progress toward safety.

SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a support group

In the US:

Mary Grant of Long Beach CA, SNAP western regional director (626) 419 2930
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP national director (314) 566 9790 cell
Mark Serrano of Washington DC, SNAP national board member (571) 223 0042 work
Peter Isely of Milwaukee, SNAP national board member (414) 429 7259 cell

In Rome:

Barbara Blaine of Chicago, SNAP founder and president (in Rome) 39 334 180 7425
Bill Gately of Boston, SNAP New England co-coordinator (in Rome) 508 524 5179
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP outreach director (in Rome) 39 334 180 7425
(All are staying at the Grand Hotel Tiberio at Via Lattanzio 51, 39 06 399 629)


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests